Facebook CTO blasts security industry for focusing on 'stunt hacks'

Alex Stamos' opening keynote at Black Hat skewers security industry

Hacking

Facebook CTO Alex Stamos has told the security industry it needs to spend more time focusing on real-world problems, rather than worrying about high-concept 'stunt hacks'.

During his opening keynote at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Stamos pointed out that while complex technical demonstrations of how to bypass security measures are interesting for security professionals, they don't really help anyone.

Advertisement - Article continues below

According to Neowin, he said: "Adversaries will do the simplest thing they need to get the results they want, but we focus on the really sexy difficult problems. It's cool to see someone bypass a hard problem, but that's not something you'll probably see in the real world."

In a similar vein, he noted that while data breaches, hacks and vulnerabilities are all front-page news, no-one takes the time to celebrate when companies successfully repel an attack. Facebook has set aside a $1 million fund, which will be awarded to this year's best USENIX paper on defense research.

He also claimed that the security industry has a tendency to focus on the mechanics of cyber security, such as patching and zero days, while ignoring less technical but more harmful behaviour like spam, doxxing and social media abuse.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Stamos skewered attendees, saying that the security industry lacks empathy with users and blames them when its own unreasonable expectations aren't met.

Advertisement - Article continues below

He called out common industry expressions and attitudes like "PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair", which occupies a similar space to the ID10T error, as being counterproductive and argued that security professionals shouldn't expect users to automatically follow security best practises if they don't have the technical expertise to know better.

The pessimism that's often common among cyber security professionals was also raised, which Stamos dubbed "Security nihilism". This concept, he said, "is an overlapping set of beliefs that include the assumption that all attackers are perfect, that everybody faces the worst possible threat scenario or that any compromise to make a security feature more widespread should be considered a bug."

Stamos also echoed the concerns of many within the industry about the growing skills gap. "Things are not getting better, they are getting worse," he said, according to the BBC. "That's because we do not have enough people and not the right people to make the difference."

Stamos' keynote can be watched in full here.

Featured Resources

Top 5 challenges of migrating applications to the cloud

Explore how VMware Cloud on AWS helps to address common cloud migration challenges

Download now

3 reasons why now is the time to rethink your network

Changing requirements call for new solutions

Download now

All-flash buyer’s guide

Tips for evaluating Solid-State Arrays

Download now

Enabling enterprise machine and deep learning with intelligent storage

The power of AI can only be realised through efficient and performant delivery of data

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/security/privacy/355155/zoom-kills-facebook-integration-after-data-transfer-backlash
privacy

Zoom kills Facebook integration after data transfer backlash

30 Mar 2020
Visit/security/355013/10-quick-tips-to-identifying-phishing-emails
Security

10 quick tips to identifying phishing emails

16 Mar 2020
Visit/business-strategy/mergers-and-acquisitions/354941/panda-security-to-be-acquired-by-watchguard
mergers and acquisitions

Panda Security to be acquired by WatchGuard

9 Mar 2020
Visit/security/internet-security/354484/facebook-exec-calls-cambridge-analytica-scandal-a-non-event
internet security

Facebook exec calls Cambridge Analytica scandal a "non event"

8 Jan 2020

Most Popular

Visit/security/privacy/355155/zoom-kills-facebook-integration-after-data-transfer-backlash
privacy

Zoom kills Facebook integration after data transfer backlash

30 Mar 2020
Visit/infrastructure/server-storage/355118/hpe-warns-of-critical-bug-that-destroys-ssds-after-40000-hours
Server & storage

HPE warns of 'critical' bug that destroys SSDs after 40,000 hours

26 Mar 2020
Visit/software/355113/companies-offering-free-software-to-fight-covid-19
Software

These are the companies offering free software during the coronavirus crisis

25 Mar 2020
Visit/cloud/355098/ibm-dedicates-supercomputing-power-to-coronavirus-researchers
high-performance computing (HPC)

IBM dedicates supercomputing power to coronavirus research

24 Mar 2020