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Dr Petar Radanliev attends prominent Cybersecurity convention DEF CON 31 with support from PETRAS National Centre of Excellence

DEF CON 31 Red Team Village

DEF CON is a major computer security convention for professionals, hackers, and enthusiasts from around the world, held annually in Las Vegas. Founded in 1993, it is regarded as one of the world’s most prominent and well-known computer security conferences.

DEF CON 31 took place in August 2023 and was an assembly ground for novel innovations in software, hardware, and hacking. The event saw talks, cybersecurity challenges, and a myriad of "wargames." With its origins in the cult film "WarGames," DEF CON emphasises hacker anonymity. Attendees often adopt aliases or "handles," a nod to the community's desire to operate anonymously.

The conference was dotted with villages, which are dedicated spaces centred around specific themes. The Red Team Village is a long-running community focused on sharpening skills in offensive security, with a special emphasis on critical thinking, strategy, and collaboration, enabling information security professionals to exchange novel tactics and techniques in their field.

Red Team Village at DEF CON 31 

The University of Oxford’s e-Research Centre was represented at DEF CON by Dr Petar Radanliev, a Post-Doctoral Research Associate who recently completed a postdoctoral project on cybersecurity funded by PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Cybersecurity and Cisco. With his foundational PhD from the University of Wales and subsequent postdoctoral positions at Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge, and MIT, Dr Radanliev’s expertise is in artificial intelligence, internet of things, cybersecurity, quantum cryptography, and blockchain. Prior to his academic career, he worked as a cybersecurity manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland and served as a lead penetration tester for the Ministry for Defence.

Petar Radanliev;

"In the intricate web of cybersecurity, hacking isn't just an act; it's a craft, honed through penetration testing. Within the corridors of DEF CON's Red Team Village, we embody the ethos of the 'red hat' – constantly challenging systems, always respecting the principles of anonymity. It's more than just breaking in; it's about safeguarding our digital future."

Dr Radanliev's participation and role in DEF CON 31 were facilitated by the PETRAS Event Support Grants (PESG), a flagship initiative of the PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Cybersecurity. PETRAS is at the forefront of ensuring the responsible, secure, and safe development of IoT technologies. With an extensive network connecting over 120 industrial and governmental partners, along with 24 research institutions, PETRAS is pioneering research in cybersecurity. Their partnerships, including a prominent one with global networking giant Cisco Systems, reflect their commitment to practical, industry-relevant research.

Petar Radanliev at DEF CON 31

Key contributions from the DEF CON conference and the Red Team Village

  1. Knowledge Sharing & Skill Development: DEF CON, and particularly the Red Team Village, has become an invaluable hub for cybersecurity professionals to exchange innovative tactics and techniques. Through hands-on sessions, experts and novices alike can refine their skills, from basic penetration testing to advanced hacking techniques, ensuring a constantly evolving understanding of the cyber landscape.
  2. Enhanced System Security: The activities at the Red Team Village, especially the Capture the Flag competitions, allow hackers to identify vulnerabilities in real-world systems. This 'ethical hacking' means that many software and hardware vulnerabilities can be discovered and fixed before they can be exploited maliciously, leading to more robust cyber defences.
  3. Community Building: DEF CON serves as a melting pot for the global hacker community, enabling them to foster relationships, collaborate on projects, and build a sense of camaraderie. The ethos of anonymity and the use of 'handles' allows for the uninhibited sharing of ideas, ensuring that knowledge is passed without reservations.
  4. Promotion of Ethical Hacking: By spotlighting the positive impact of hacking when used ethically, DEF CON and the Red Team Village actively work towards reshaping public perception. They emphasise that hacking, when used responsibly as a tool for good, can be an immense force in ensuring global cybersecurity.
  5. Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice: Academic researchers like Dr Petar Radanliev, benefit from the hands-on, real-world experiences offered at DEF CON. The insights gained from such practical exposures help steer academic research, ensuring that theoretical advances are in tune with the challenges faced on the front lines of cybersecurity.

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