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Date: Fri, 3 May 2019 07:35:43 +0000 (UTC)
From: InfoSec News <>
Subject: [Newsletter/Marketing] [ISN] Spot the not-Fed: A day at
 AvengerCon, the Army's answer to hacker conferences

By Sean Gallagher
Ars Technica

FORT MEADE, Maryland -- Late last year, I was invited to a relatively new 
hacker event in Maryland. Chris Eagle, a well-known researcher in the 
field of malware analysis and author of The IDA Pro Book, keynoted it. 
There were a number of really good talks at all levels of expertise, a 
couple of "Capture the Flag" (CTF) hacking challenges, and all the other 
typical hallmarks of a well-run hacker conference.

But this event, AvengerCon III, proved to be distinct in a number of ways from
the BSides conferences and other events I've attended. The first difference was
that keynote: Eagle, a senior lecturer at the Navy Postgraduate School, shared
some news about an upcoming release of an open reverse engineering tool by
referring to its "unclassified cover name." (The tool was Ghidra, a public
reverse-engineering tool developed by the National Security Agency.) There were
also a lot more people in camouflage than at most hacker events, and my CTF
teammates were military intelligence agents. Perhaps the biggest giveaway that
this wasn't any old hacker event? AvengerCon III was being held on Fort Meade
and hosted by the US Army's 781st Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber).

Part of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, the 781st was once known as the
Army Network Warfare Battalion. It was the first Army unit formed to create a
"cyberspace operations capability" within the Army—conducting offensive and
defensive operations and intelligence collection in support of US forces around
the world. So technically, AvengerCon is not a conference. It's a "training
event," in Army parlance, intended to bring the hacker learning culture to the
Army's cyber warriors.

Hacker insurgency

AvengerCon was the brainchild of Capt. Skyler Onken and Capt. Steve Rogacki.
Until recently, Onken was company commander for Alpha Company 781st Military
Intelligence Battalion, a component of the 780th MI Brigade. He has now moved on
to the US Army Cyber School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Rogacki is an officer from
a unit at Fort Gordon, Georgia. The two came up with the idea for AvengerCon
while attending DEF CON a few years ago. While sitting at a Johnny Rockets at
the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Onken said, the two were reveling in the
experience of DEF CON. "It's such great experience just being a part of the
[hacker] community, the things you learn, things you get to try, it gets you
excited," he recalled. "And we were like, 'We wish that the soldiers could get


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