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Company Sues Black Hat Conference Over Mocked Presentation

California-based cryptography firm Crown Sterling has filed a lawsuit against UBM, the organizer of the Black Hat cybersecurity conference, after the company’s talk at the latest event in the United States was disrupted by some attendees.

California-based cryptography firm Crown Sterling has filed a lawsuit against UBM, the organizer of the Black Hat cybersecurity conference, after the company’s talk at the latest event in the United States was disrupted by some attendees.

Crown Sterling advertises itself as “an emerging company in development of non-factor based dynamic encryption and innovative new developments in AI.” The company’s website does not provide any details about the company’s technology, TIME AI, but it has published a short presentation video and an 8-page paper.

The company paid $115,000 to be a gold sponsor at the 2019 Black Hat USA conference, which included an exhibition booth at the event and a sponsored talk. The presentation, titled “The 2019 Discovery of Quasi-Prime Numbers: What Does This Mean for Encryption?,” was held by Robert E. Grant, Crown Sterling founder and CEO.

Some of the individuals who attended the talk called out the company during its presentation over what has been described as “pseudoscience.” Trail of Bits CEO Dan Guido was the most vocal and he was removed from the room by Black Hat staff.

Many individuals, including reputable experts, have ridiculed Crown Sterling on social media and pointed out errors in its claims, with some calling the company “frauds” and “snake oil vendors.” Following the incident, Black Hat organizers decided to remove any mention of the presentation from the event’s official website.

On Friday, two weeks after the Black Hat presentation, Crown Sterling announced that it filed a lawsuit against UBM in the Southern District of New York claiming that the conference organizer breached the sponsorship agreement.

“As with any disruptive technology, we anticipated a degree of pushback from industry participants and competitors also attending the conference. We were assured by Black Hat and its public Code of Conduct that our presence would be treated openly and fairly. That did not happen,” said Joseph Hopkins, Chief Operating Officer at Crown Sterling. “The fact is, we relied upon these representations by Black Hat and we attended the conference in good faith, strictly adhering to the Black Hat stipulations for both exhibition and sponsored sessions.”

Crown Sterling’s complaint said the disruption was “orchestrated and planned by a small group of industry detractors.”

The company believes organizers should have ensured they are treated with dignity and respect, instead of removing the session from the Black Hat website and issuing statements to the press that disavowed Crown Sterling.

Crown Sterling has asked Black Hat to refund its sponsorship fee and issue a public statement to say that it has a neutral position on the company’s encryption technology and to denounce the “detractors’ abusive actions.” Conference organizers have refused to do so, which is why Crown Sterling has decided that it’s only choice is to file a lawsuit.

The complaint also targets 10 Does who the company believes are legally responsible at least in part. These individuals will be named at a later time, the complaint says.

Related: Keeper Sues Ars Technica Over Reporting on Critical Flaw

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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