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HackIT: a Hacker Conference that’s Once in a Lifetime


HackIT: a Hacker Conference that’s Once in a Lifetime

Jack Cable is 17 years old and unlike most high schoolers, he works as a white-hat hacker. He’s now in Ukraine, onboard the Antonov 225 Mriya, the heaviest aircraft ever built. Jack is in the company of hacking legends: the co-founder of Apple Steve Wozniak, the author of the legendary PGP email encryption app Phil Zimmermann, and dozens of other younger hackers. Why did they come to Kyiv? To participate in the international three-day private hackathon titled the HackIT Cup (the first of its kind in Eastern Europe) organized by a cybersecurity company Hacken

Steve Wozniak, winners of HackIT Cup 2017
Steve Wozniak, winners of HackIT Cup 2017 and leaders of Hacken Ecosystem during the awards ceremony

The Antonov 225 strategic airlifter, which was currently being used as a somewhat exotic convention center, was provided by a subsidiary of Ukroboronprom — a major Ukrainian military defense corporation. Ukroboronprom is interested in amping up the country’s cyberdefense capacity in the wake of the ongoing cyberwar, which started in 2014 as a follow up to the military conflict in Donbas.

Mazen Gamal from Egypt, Shahmeer Amir from Pakistan, Sandeep ‘Geekboy’ Singh and Parth Malhotra from India taking a selfie in front of Antonov 225 ‘Mriya’
Mazen Gamal from Egypt, Shahmeer Amir from Pakistan, Sandeep ‘Geekboy’ Singh and Parth Malhotra from India taking a selfie in front of Antonov 225 ‘Mriya’

Another interested party, supporting the event not only with their endorsements but with money as well, are the local blockchain leaders. Ukrainian blockchain community is currently blossoming despite the ambiguous regulatory framework. After numerous, notoriously successful, cyberattacks on cryptocurrency exchanges and infrastructure, the blockchain nouveau riche are eager to have their own cyber defense group with dedicated expertise.

< The heaviest strategic airlifter in the world opening its cargo door
The heaviest strategic airlifter in the world opening its cargo door

What is Your Superpower?

Coming back to Jack Cable, it turns out this gifted teenager is not new to air bases. Prior to arriving in Ukraine, Mr. Cable won the Hack the Air Force bug hunting competition sponsored by the Pentagon. In Ukraine, Jack became the winner yet again, sharing this prestigious award with 27-year-old Tanner Emek from San Francisco.

Tanner Emek and Jack Cable hacking in Kharkiv
Tanner Emek and Jack Cable hacking in Kharkiv

The two worked as a team during the HackIT Cup, looking for vulnerabilities in the IT systems of four major ecommerce clients, all of which are new to bug bounty programs and requested to remain anonymous.

Tanner Emek spent the majority of his efforts hunting for business logic issues in the targeted apps. These types of bugs get introduced with coding errors specific to the application’s core functionality, typically not discoverable by automated scanners. Like Jack, his friend Tanner is quiet and unassuming. You would never have guessed that both guys have already made a fortune from computer code vulnerabilities.

HackIT Cup 2017 participants together with Philip ZimmermannHackIT Cup 2017 participants together with Philip ZimmermannHackIT Cup 2017 participants together with Philip Zimmermann
HackIT Cup 2017 participants together with Philip Zimmermann, the rebel legend of cryptography and the founder of PGP

Among other great teams and solo hackers who participated in the HackIT Cup (in order of points scored):

Hacking with a Faint Hint of the Desert Sand

Yasser Ali, originally from Egypt, now residing in UAE, flew to Kyiv from Dubai with a crew of hacker friends. They then hopped aboard the high speed intercity train to Kharkiv.

Yasser Ali delivering keynote to participants of the pilot acceleration program at Hacken Accelerator
Yasser Ali delivering keynote to participants of the pilot acceleration program at Hacken Accelerator

Yasser looks exactly how you might imagine a Middle Eastern intellectual to look. He becomes really excited when flipping through paperbacks next to a barista at a local indie café in the Zoloti Vorota [En.: The Golden Gate] quarter of Kyiv.

Yasser frequently joked about his expectations to be kidnapped by the local security forces and forced into slavery, on guard of the national cybersecurity of Ukraine. Surprisingly, this didn’t happen, for better or worse. Instead, Yasser and his hacker-friend Mazen Gamal were almost kidnapped by a crowd of vendors at Vsi Svoi marketplace, which specializes in high quality clothing, plates and souvenirs — all of which are of local origin.

A Man That (Almost) Never Sleeps

Shahmeer Amir from Pakistan has a grueling habit of sleeping for only 2 hours a night. On Thursday, right after arriving to Kyiv from the HackIT Cup bug bounty session in Kharkiv, he bumped into Dmytro Budorin, the co-organizer of HackIT Cup and the CFO of the Hacken Ecosystem. It all occurred online, while the two were skimming through their messengers. It was 5 AM in the morning and Shahmeer told Dmitry of his plans to wander around Kyiv.

Shahmeer Amir during HackIT Cup final event
Shahmeer Amir during HackIT Cup final event

The morning transformed into a 10 kilometer walk that intrigued both Shahmeer and Dmitry. The resulting friendship ended up with Shahmeer’s close involvement in building HackenProof, the novell bug bounty platform by Hacken. Mr. Budorin is planning to continue building HackenProof after the token sale of HKN — the first dedicated cryptocurrency for white-hat hackers. The alpha version of the platform should be released days before the upcoming token sale, planned for October 31, 2017.

Shahmeer definitely has some biz acumen, running his own international application and penetration testing firm Veiliux back home in Pakistan.

Indian Adventures: to Kharkiv and Beyond!

Sandeep Singh wears love beads around his wrists, smiles with a magnetic Shantaram smile, pulls pranks and various jokes and takes on the appearance of a cyber-hippie. His online alias ‘Geekboy’ adds a dash of nerd chic to the whole shabang. While this is all true, Geekboy is also a hard working influencer in the global hacking community, currently in the Top-3 of HackerOne.

Sandeep Singh, Parth Malhotra, Patrik Fehrenbach, Julian Keller and Shahmeer Amir inside a compartment of the iconic Soviet ‘platskarta’ economy class railway car, temporary turned into a party train from Kharkiv to Kyiv
Sandeep Singh, Parth Malhotra, Patrik Fehrenbach, Julian Keller and Shahmeer Amir inside a compartment of the iconic Soviet ‘platskarta’ economy class railway car, temporary turned into a party train from Kharkiv to Kyiv

Together with Parth Malhotra, wingman and a fellow hacker from India, Geekboy scouts Kharkiv night clubs after hours for non-stop hacking in a hotel room. There all the gang hangs out. The duo comes across a true catharsis when travelling to Kyiv in a dedicated railway ‘whisky bar’, in reality — an economy class old railway car, booked by the organizers from the local state-owned railway operator.

During a city tour in Kyiv, the guide leads the entire HackIT Cup group towards Andriyivsky Uzviz, a sloped street connecting downtown Podil to the old city. The street houses dozens of stalls selling various exotic souvenirs. At one stall, Jack grabs a cossack sheepskin hat and Parth tries mazepynka, a symbol of Ukraine’s centuries old fight for freedom, which is now the official headwear of the Ukrainian Army. The photographer quickly snaps a photo which beautifully captures the main idea behind the HackIT Cup: uniting the world’s best computer minds to protect peace and security online.

The First Bug Bounty Hackathon in Eastern Europe

Originally introduced by HackerOne during H1–702 in Las Vegas back in 2016, the bug bounty hackathons are gathering momentum. In 2017, Europe hosted its first bug bounty hackathon in Amsterdam. However, in Eastern Europe things have been quiet, until now that is…

HackIT Cup participants together with the organizing party on Maidan Nezalezhnosty in Kyiv
HackIT Cup participants together with the organizing party on Maidan Nezalezhnosty in Kyiv

Bug bounty hackathons have proven to be super instrumental tools in building community and promoting white-hat hacker ethics. Until recently, Ukraine was home to numerous international online businesses of dubious reputation. If local hackers go white hat, the country might become a powerful international player in the bug bounty business. This isn’t merely a pipedream. The country already became one of the major IT outsourcing workhorses a decade ago. The goal of HackIT Cup is bolstering a nation’s hope for the betterment of the cyber community.

Rewards Paid in Dedicated Cryptocurrency for Hackers

The HackIT Сup is the birthplace of yet another remarkable phenomenon. For the first time ever, a bug bounty is paid not in US dollars or bitcoins, but rather in hackens — the new cryptocurrency, which will debut worldwide after a token sale on October 31, 2017.

Fiber models with the Hacken logo, waiting to be distributed to the winners of the HackIT Cup
Fiber models with the Hacken logo, waiting to be distributed to the winners of the HackIT Cup. Each winner took homea financial reward in HKNs and a crypto wallet to receive it. The distribution of tokens will occur after the initial token sale. Yegor Aushev, COO of Hacken, Steve Wozniak and Dmytro Budorin, CFO of Hacken, are sitting in the back.

All hackers, who had bug bounty contributions acknowledged by the clients, were awarded various amounts of HKN. If the upcoming token sale reaches the minimum milestone of 1.5M tokens being sold, HKN will become the only currency accepted by HackenProof bug bounty platform and other businesses comprising Hacken Ecosystem.

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Hacken Ecosystem

It’s a community-driven business organization, consisting of HackenHub, HackIT cybersecurity conference, HackenProof bug bounty platform, and Crypto Exchange Ranks.

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