The challenge of providing wireless network security to Black Hat USA -- a global gathering of IT security experts, hackers and computer researchers held annually in Las Vegas -- fell once again to Sunnyvale-based Aruba Networks this year. It was the fifth time Aruba has been tapped for Wi-Fi security services at the conference, now in its 17th year and held earlier this month at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
Aruba Networks' task throughout the conference was to ensure that the thousands of people in attendance could use their laptops and mobile devices safely and securely without having to worry about malicious attacks or other threats. While keeping networks of any kind secure nowadays is a constant challenge, providing wireless network security at an event that draws crowds of self-professed hackers raised the stakes to an entirely new level. Add to that the fact that this year's Black Hat conference ended on the day that another large hacker gathering -- Def Con 22 -- was starting in the same city, and the security stakes were higher still.
The networking company's wireless LAN also needed to deliver fast connection speeds for conference-goers. According to Aruba, it was able to provide Wi-Fi download speeds of more than 550 Mbps, "a speed that is more than 55 times greater than the average bandwidth speed in the United States."
'Guys with Crazy Headphones'
We asked Don Meyer, Aruba Networks' senior manager of product marketing, about the greatest network security challenges encountered at this year's Black Hat.
Having started with a security focus first and a wireless focus second, Aruba was able to "quite readily" identify and thwart most of the attacks it saw taking place during the event, Meyer said. That included threats launched during a Wi-Fi hacking training class that took place prior to the main conference.
Participants in that class would "try and flood the network with a lot of crazy traffic," Meyer told us. In some cases, detecting such threats meant walking around the conference site and looking for "guys with crazy headphones."
Because this year's Black Hat conference was held at a new venue, the Mandalay Bay, physical security also required a heightened level of attention, Meyer said. Mapping out the venue and ensuring adequate wireless coverage took time ahead of the event, and one device actually went missing during the conference.
Meyer said Aruba Networks will probably spend the next several "weeks or months" analyzing data from the conference to improve its security measures even further. Testing its network security in "one of the most hostile environments out there" also helps the company strengthen its services for more run-of-the-mill enterprise clients.
Top Threat: DoS Attacks
According to Aruba, the most common threat detected during the Black Hat USA conference, which ran Aug. 2-7, were Block acknowledgment (Block ACK) attacks, which are Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on wireless clients. The company said it detected a total of 2,376 such events.
Other common threats detected included access-point impersonation attacks (776 events), deauthentication attacks (522 events) and Power Save DoS attacks (372 events).
Aruba said it also logged 2,187 firewall rule violations, with 94 percent of those being attempts to block peer-to-peer traffic.
Other stats Aruba recorded during the event looked at the most visited Web sites (Google Docs, Facebook and Speedtest.net), the top social media sites used (Facebook and Twitter) and the most popular operating systems and mobile devices (Apple OS X, iPhone and Android).