Looking back on BlackHoodie, a women’s-only reverse engineering conference

Malware reverse-engineer Luca Nagy reflects on her experiences attending a unique technical conference

At the end of last year, I attended the BlackHoodie18 conference as a speaker. It was the fourth time the conference had been run, and the first time I had attended a technical conference since joining SophosLabs.

I chose to attend this conference because it represents more to me than just a women-only reverse engineering workshop. It was a deep and professional conference, whose purpose is not only to give us a venue to share our knowledge, but to encourage women to advance their careers in this highly technical field.

You can read the report Sophos recently published that was based on my presentation about the Matrix ransomware, or just review the slides.

SophosLabs researcher Luca Nagy presenting her work on the Matrix ransomware

Gathered together with several women with the same interest, in one room, I really felt the effect – it worked! For women who work in the field of information security, it’s not an everyday experience to join a full room of women with an interest in such a low-level, technical topic as reverse engineering, let alone to enhance their skills in a supportive and welcoming environment.

As I was a first-time presenter, it was a perfect choice for me. I was a little bit nervous, but I got several positive comments afterwards – it was a hugely rewarding and satisfying experience. The other talks were deep and detailed — on such topics as malware analysis, forensic analysis, persistence methods, credential thefts, and bootloaders — and I found them fascinating. Since all of them were focused on reverse engineering, I really enjoyed them.

Participants in a workshop at BlackHoodie18

Although I enjoyed the talks, the workshops were the best of all. I studied so much cool stuff there, I can’t get enough of it! I participated in an all-day cryptography training, which was also very detailed. There were kernel debugging and return-oriented programming workshops, which involved problem-solving that also was really practical and relevant to my daily work.

Even the badges were cool! I am grateful I could participate in BlackHoodie, and would not hesitate to recommend it to any woman who works in this field.

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