Google VP withdraws from the Black Hat 2020 virtual event igniting a fierce debate over infosec terminology.
What is the Black Hat conference?
Black Hat is a cyber security conference that takes place every year around the globe. For the past twenty years, the global event gathers security professionals and enthusiastic attendees in a friendly, vendor-neutral environment and dwells into security briefings, research, trends, and innovative developments.
Besides this, the high-profile conference ensues need-driven briefings where internationally acclaimed cyber security professionals share their latest plethora of findings and encourage discussions pertaining to infosec vulnerabilities that can impact critical international infrastructure and popular consumer demand devices.
To better disseminate information, Black Hat also hosts training wherein attendees can partake individual technical courses on a range of topics including web applications, penetration testing, and building supervisory control and data acquisition systems.
Black Hat goes completely virtual this year
However, this year the global event is completely virtual. After careful consideration, the conference in light of coronavirus will be hosted virtually with time zones and dates mentioned prior to the event. But holding the event on a digital platform does posit a challenge.
The conference invites high profile researchers and world-class experts together as a community which makes it a major target for corporate and even state-sponsored espionage. But decisions are still being made to ensure a more secure yet protected platform with top priority given to internal security.
Google VP withdraws from the conference igniting a fierce debate
But this is not the only issue plaguing the cyber security conference this year. Google’s VP for Android security and privacy, David Kleidermacher has ignited a fierce debate regarding the name ‘Black Hat’ specifically pointing out the word ‘black.’
The VP this time has chosen to withdraw from the event and has asked the information security community to stop using terms such as ‘black hat’ or ‘white hat.’
I’ve decided to withdraw from speaking at Black Hat USA 2020. I’m deeply grateful for the offer to speak, and for the great work the conference has done over the years to protect users through transparency, education, and community building.
— David Kleidermacher (@DaveKSecure) July 3, 2020
David’s stance being the color black and white correlates directly with harmful connotations, racial stereotyping, and unconscious bias.
However, he did garner a lot of attention in terms of support, there were others who argued profusely. They reiterated that the word black has nothing to with unconscious racial bias but the term is rather derived from old cowboy movies where villains wore black hats and heroes wore white hats.
Black people have struggled for lifetimes with negative imagery associated with blackness. The studies are clear that children see goodness and beauty in whiteness, ugliness and bad in black. MY children have to deal with this just like our parents did before us. That is harm. 9/
— Brian Anderson (@btanderson72) July 4, 2020
Others amid the fierce debate are describing David’s stance as a pejorative neologism (virtue signaling). But, the VP hasn’t bowed down and emphasizes that his stance has nothing to do with cyber security conference in general but with the fact that the differentiation between black/white perpetuates: black= bad and white= good. He has requested people not to lose focus.
The companies at the forefront of changing these tech terminologies hardly have black professionals at the decision table and their top leadership, that's the change we ask, not sidelining us by making a lingua change no reasonable person asked for.
— ɹǝʞlɐʍʎʞS (@0xSkywalker) July 4, 2020
His stance nevertheless, stems from the recent Black Lives Matter campaign that has taken the world by storm. But this isn’t the first time an issue on software terms has sparked debate.
A similar issue on software terms such as ‘master’ and slave’ led programming language, Python to completely remove the terminology from its documentation.