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DC3 Domination: Winning Conference Challenges in July

By: Leah Pekofsky

September 6, 2017 -- “Winning isn’t everything,” said someone who clearly didn’t win. For Dan Dash and Chris Conklin, contractor teammates with the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3), in July 2017, winning seemed to come naturally.

Dan, from the DC3 Intrusions section, won first place in a Reverse Engineering Challenge. He accomplished this at the Malware Technical Exchange Meeting (MTEM) in McLean, VA, “an annual classified meeting that brings together practitioners and researchers from government, federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs), academia, and industry… to highlight new work and promote discussion on important problems in the malware arena,” according to its website. “There are 5 challenges,” explains Jeff Barefoot, Dash’s supervisor and another attendee at the MTEM. “The first to turn in their responses with the most challenges correct, wins the challenge. Dan was the only person to get all 5 challenges correct, and was identified as the first place winner of the challenge.”

“I was actually very surprised and humbled to win the challenge,” Dan said. “There were a lot of smart people in attendance, either who I knew or met, and I did not expect to complete all 5 challenges much less win overall.”

“This is a great accolade, it helps set apart both Dan's expertise and the experience we have at DC3,“ continued Barefoot.

Chris, part of DC3’s Analytical Group (AG), attended Black Hat USA, an information security event series that combines briefings and trainings driven by the needs of the security community. He attended a training event called Open Source Intelligence using Maltego, one of a number of training exercises during the conference. “Each training session held their own capture the flag (CTF) type exercise at the end of their class,” he clarified. Chris, one of 25 participants, won his class’s CTF challenge.

“The class was interesting since it showed how much could be done with open source, and not just the fancy tools that only certain teams get to use,” Chris continued. “Field agents are already using the software and we have access to it [at DC3], so I should be able to use my training to train others who may not have had a chance to get comfortable with it yet.”

Along with getting the DC3 name out in the public sphere, which Chris’s and Dan’s wins have done a great job of, conferences are a great way to gain knowledge that can be brought back and shared with the greater DC3 team. “The overall conference was valuable because it brings together tons of security professionals and companies to discuss the latest threats out there as well as the ways to mitigate them,” said Chris of his experience at Black Hat.

Of the MTEM, Dan shared: “I believe attending conferences displays DC3's dedication to the cyber community: not only that we, as an organization, are committed to enhancing the capabilities in the cyber defense domain but that we desire collaboration with the community as a whole. For any conference I have attended there are always takeaways regarding research to continue or new ideas for enhancing our capabilities as a whole.”

Sending the DC3 team to conferences is a great idea for idea-sharing and information transfer, but becomes even better when our top performers get to show their stuff. Congratulations to Dan and Chris —keep up the good work!