Author Archive: Heather Edell

Looking Back at the Grace Hopper Celebration

As someone new to the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), I was excited and overwhelmed on realizing there were around 8000 women from more than 60 countries. I had the opportunity to meet some really interesting people from within and outside of Adobe.

The keynote by Shafi Goldwasser (winner of the 2012 ACM Turing award) was especially interesting. She discussed cryptography and the varied, seemingly paradoxical solutions it can help us achieve. Highlighting the need to store data privately in the cloud with the ability to simultaneously harness that data to solve problems (e.g. research in medicine), she emphasized that the “magic of cryptography” as the key to this, and spoke at some length on looking at problems through the “cryptographic lens.”

Dr. Arati Prabhakar’s (Dir of DARPA) keynote during the award ceremonies was very inspiring. She talked about the benefits military research has provided to areas like the Internet, material sciences and safer warfare, and talked about further research into new areas, such as producing new materials and chemicals and rethinking complex military systems. She even showed the audience a video of a robotic arm being controlled by a quadriplegic woman hooked up to a computer.

The majority of presentations I attended were related to security, where I met smart and motivated women working in the security field, and a lot of students interested in security. The talks varied from Lorrie Cranor’s talk on analyzing and storing passwords safely, to a panel discussion integration of security in SDLC (panelists included Justine Osborne, Leigh Honeywell and Parisa Tabriz) to homomorphic encryption and its future uses (Mariana Raykova and Giselle Font). Other talks ranged from security fundamentals and cryptography aimed at college students to more “hot topics” like wearable technology, biometrics, cloud computing and HCI.

I also helped out at the career fair, and met a lot of undergraduates interested in working with Adobe. It was fun talking with them about what I do and learning about what they were interested in, including two students Adobe had sponsored to attend GHC this year. I met a number of industry professionals as well as students at talks and events who are working on including more girls and women in tech through outreach programs, hackathons and mentoring. It was refreshing to see a few men attending the GHC too.

The theme of the GHC this year was “Everyone, Everywhere.” It was a very inclusive environment, and apart from the talks there were events to make our evenings fun- ice breakers and dances. The long list of impressive speakers, motivating panelists and encouraging mentors/organizations were all very accessible and inspiring. I had a great time at GHC and I hope more people (men and women!) get to attend the conference in the future.

Devika Yeragudipati
ASSET Security Researcher

Observations From an OWASP Novice: OWASP AppSec Europe

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend OWASP AppSec Europe in Cambridge.

The conference was split into two parts. The first two days consisted of training courses and project summits, where the different OWASP project teams met to discuss problems and further proceedings, and the last two days were conference and research presentations.

Admittedly an OWASP novice, I was excited to learn what OWASP has to offer beyond the Top 10 Project most of us are familiar with. As it is commonly the case with conferences, there were a lot of interesting conversations that occurred over coffee (or cider). I had the opportunity to meet some truly fascinating individuals who gave some great insight to the “other” side of the security fence, including representatives from Information Security Group Royal Holloway, various OWASP chapters, and many more.

One of my favorite presentations was from Sebastian Lekies, PhD candidate at SAP and the University of Bochum, who demonstrated website byte-level flow analysis by using a modified Chrome browser to find DOM-based XSS attacks. Taint-tags were put on every byte of memory that comes from user-input and traced through the whole execution until it was displayed back to the user. This browser was used to automatically analyze the first two levels of all Alexa Top 5000 websites, finding that an astounding 9.6 percent carry at least one DOM-based XSS flaw.

Another interesting presentation was a third day keynote by Lorenzo Cavallaro from Royal Holloway University. He and his team are creating an automatic analysis system to reconstruct behaviors of Android malware called CopperDroid. It was a very technical, very interesting talk, and Lorenzo could have easily filled another 100 hours.

Rounding out the event were engaging activities that broke up the sessions – everything from the University Challenge to a game show to a (very Hogwarts-esque) conference dinner at Homerton College’s Great Hall.

All in all, it was an exciting opportunity for me to learn how OWASP has broadened its spectrum in the last few years beyond web application security and all the resources that are currently available. I learned a lot, met some great people, and had a great time. I highly recommend to anyone that has the opportunity to attend!

Lars Krapf
Security Researcher, Digital Marketing

Another Successful Adobe Hackfest!

ASSET, along with members of the Digital Marketing security team, recently organized an internal “capture the flag” event called Adobe Hackfest. Now in its third year, this 10-day event accommodates teams spread across various geographies. The objective is for participants to find and exploit vulnerable endpoints to reveal secrets. The lucky contestants that complete all hacks at each level are entered to win some awesome prizes.

This year, we challenged participants with two vulnerabilities to hack at two different difficulty levels, carefully chosen to create security awareness within the organization. Using the two hacks as teaching opportunities, we targeted three information security concepts under cross-site scripting, SQL injection and password storage categories. Our primary intention was to demonstrate consequences of using insecure coding practices via a simulated vulnerable production environment.

Contributing to the event’s success were logistics we’ve added from previous events to create a more seamless experience. The event was heavily promoted internally, and we had specific channels for participants to ask questions or request hints, including three hosted Adobe Connect sessions in different time zones.  The Digital Marketing security team also created a framework that generated unique secrets for every participant, and a leaderboard that would update automatically.

Participants worked very hard which generated stiff competition, with more than 50 percent unlocking at least one secret, and nearly 30 percent unlocking all four. Though our developers, quality engineers, and everyone else involved in shipping code undergo different information security trainings, this event helps bring theories into practice by emphasizing that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to security, and the importance of a layered approach.

Participation was at an all-time high, and given the tremendous interest within Adobe, we are now planning to have Hackfests more frequently. Looking forward to Hackfest Autumn!

Vaibhav Gupta
Security Researcher