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LAS VEGAS—Rootkits. Zero-day exploits. Social engineering. Encryption cracking. Cryptography. File format fuzzing. Kernel exploitation.

These are just some of the buzzwords making the rounds at the Black Hat USA 2005 security conference here, where some of the sharpest minds in the research community will congregate to share information on computer and Internet security threats.

The powwow, organized by Black Hat Inc., promises 60 new security research presentations, 13 hacking tools, 15 new exploits, the first-ever example of exploit shellcode in Cisco IOS, and numerous debates on privacy, defense mechanisms and industry trends.

When the briefings start on Wednesday, all eyes—and ears—will be on David Litchfield’s presentation on new zero-day vulnerabilities. Litchfield, a founder of Next Generation Security Software Ltd., is best known for his work on finding gaping security holes in Oracle Corp. database products, and his discussion is expected to shine the spotlight on a new range of unpatched vulnerabilities in several Internet-facing applications.

At last year’s Black Hat, it was Litchfield who blew the lid off Oracle’s tardiness in patching highly critical Oracle database flaws. His research work prompted widespread criticism of Oracle’s response to known vulnerabilities and forced the company to implement a quarterly patching schedule.

Analyst Charles Garry says instead of racing to provide new features, database vendors should take the time to upgrade patch management tools. Click here to read more.

Oracle’s security will again fall under the microscope this week. Alexander Kornbrust, founder and chief executive of German research outfit Red-Database-Security GmbH, is expected to demonstrate a simple way of cracking the encryption used by Oracle to secure its database products.

Kornbrust, a former Oracle employee, told Ziff Davis Internet News that DBMS Crypto and DBMS Obfuscation, two encryption features that ship with Oracle database products, can be cracked to reveal sensitive corporate data.

Kornbrust, who recently warned that Oracle had failed to patch several critical flaws that had been reported for more than 600 days, said malicious hackers can combine exploits for other known flaws to take complete control of an Oracle database.

Michael Lynn, research analyst with Internet Security Systems Inc.’s X-Force group, is also on the Black Hat schedule, putting Cisco Systems Inc.’s IOS security architecture under the microscope. Lynn promises to demonstrate the first-ever example of exploit shellcode in the networking giant’s operating system.

The growing threats from stealth rootkits will also be part of the discussions here, with representatives from eEye Digital Security on tap to showcase eEye BootRoot, a rootkit detection prototype. Independent researcher Sherri Sparks and Jamie Butler, the director of engineering at HBGary Inc., also plan to display “Shadow Walker,” technology that promises to raise the bar for rootkit detection.

Click here to read how Microsoft plans to add rootkit detection into its anti-spyware application.

“Black Hat is a very important show on the security calendar,” said Thor Larholm, senior security researcher at PivX Solutions LLC. “One of the most exciting things about Black Hat is that everything there is supposed to be new.”

Black Hat typically requires each speaker to present new security research that has not yet been published, making it a must-attend event for computer security professionals, Larholm explained.

The two-day event will also mark a comeback of sorts for Phil Zimmermann, the cryptographer who created PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) in the mid-1980s as a human rights project and later sold the encryption software to Network Associates Inc. in the late 1990s. Zimmermann declined to discuss his “next big project” ahead of his presentation on Thursday but told Ziff Davis Internet News he is looking for funding for a product in the sphere of communication and encryption.

Also on the schedule: Rich Baich, CISO of Choicepoint Inc., will discuss the future of personal information; Dennis Bailey promises to defend national IDs; Ian Clarke and Oskar Sandberg will show how to save the free flow of digital information with private, searchable peer-to-peer theories; and Paul Vixie will discuss security issues around the Internet’s DNS (Domain Name System).

Check out’s for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer’s Weblog.