Hacker Interviews – Billy Rios

Pierluigi Paganini July 05, 2016

billy RiosBilly Rios is one of the most skilled hackers that revealed us how is vulnerable to hacking attacks our society.

Are you interested in the hacking of critical infrastructure? Are you worried about the security of medical devices? Billy Rios is one of the most skilled hackers that could provide you the answers to your questions.
He conducted numerous interesting studis that revealed us how is vulnerable to hacking attacks our society.

Enjoy the Interview!

Hi Billy, First of all thank you. You are one of the world’s most respected experts on emerging threats related to Industrial Control Systems (ICS), medical devices and Critical Infrastructure. Could you tell me which his your technical background and when you started hacking?

It’s been a great journey, one that has spanned multiple technologies.  I’ve had the privilege of working for some of the best companies, including Microsoft and Google.  I’ve learned from some really talented mentors and colleagues, all of which have helped me grow.

When I think about how I got started, all of this actually started when I was in middle school, trying to hack computer games so that I could get a better save game.  The first game I remember hacking was Champions of Krynn, a dungeons and dragons type game.  I made modifications to the save game files so that I would have these ultra powerful characters.  My friends would freak out when they would see my game characters.  It seems so crazy that hacking save games on 5-1/4 inch disks could set the foundation for a career in cybersecurity.

What was your greatest hacking challenge?

Oh man, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some really cool projects.  I had a chance to work on a security assessment of an intercontinental ballistic missile.  It was a fairly large team and we all worked really well together.  We climbed into the silos and looked at a huge number of systems.  It was an experience I’ll never forget!

What are the 4 tools that cannot be missed in the hacker’s arsenal and why?

I try not to be overly reliant on specific tools. I think one of the keys to security is to have a deep understanding of the foundations of the technologies you’re working on.  If you have deep understanding of the foundational technologies, you’ll be able to adapt to implementations.  With that said, tools can certainly help build your understanding of systems and software.  IDA Pro is definitely a must have.  If your working with web technologies, burp proxy is a must have.  If you’re working on an embedded device, a Segger J-Link can pay dividends.  Also, learning a scripting language and building a small library of useful functions can help breakdown complex problems into something more manageable.

Which are the most interesting hacking communities on the web today?

A lot has changed since I first started.  I remember getting a copy of David Litchfield’s paper on bypassing SEH protections when I was learning about memory corruption vulnerabilities.  I remember reading full blown, detailed technical details about bypassing browser memory protections by Alex Sotirov and Mark Dowd.  It’s hard to find documents like that now days.  Google’s Project Zero is great if you want to learn about the technical parts of finding security vulnerabilities.  I like the discussions on the SCADASEC mailing list, and I’ve seen some great discussion on Daily Dave run by Dave Aitel.

Which is the industry (healthcare, automotive, telecommunication, banking, and so on) most exposed to cyber attacks and why? What scares you more in the internet?

I think healthcare is really struggling with cybersecurity right now.  A modern hospital is extremely networked.  Not only are a large number of devices connected, most the personnel in hospitals make daily use of computer systems to manage patient information.  The information available in hospitals is valuable to cyber criminals and we’ve seen a wave of ransomware in hospitals over the last few years.

Medical devices are notoriously insecure, and many are connected directly to patients.  A few years as ago, I was in the hospital for a medical emergency.  My well being was dependent on the proper functioning of several medical devices.  Even without the threat of cyberattacks, the small staff of healthcare professionals working on my case had its hands full dealing with my medical emergency.  They did an excellent job and I’m thankful for their knowledge and expertise.  I wonder what would happen if they had to second guess the information from every medical device.  I wonder what efficiency would be lost if they were forced to disconnect or even forgo the use of medical devices.  My hospital room had over 10 different connected medical devices in it. I could see six different hospital wireless access points from my room.  I wonder level of care a modern hospital could provide if they had to turn all of this off.

We often hear about cyber weapons and cyber attacks against critical infrastructure. Do you believe concrete the risk of a major and letal cyber attack against a critical infrastructure? Why and which are the most exposed CI?

We’ve already seen attacks against critical infrastructure.  It seems various threat actors are becoming more and more comfortable with exercising options utilizing cyberattacks against critical infrastructure.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more “effects” caused by attacks against critical infrastructure in the future.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Hacker, Billy Rios)

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