Cryptography startup, Crown Sterling, is suing the organizers of the Black Hat USA cybersecurity conference after the firm was booed, heckled, and ridiculed by attendees during and after its presentation at the even held earlier this month in Las Vegas.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York’s Southern District, accuses the conference organizers of failing to prevent a “coordinated harassment” of Crown Sterling’s presentation at the conference (for which the firm allegedly paid $115,000 in sponsorship fees to deliver), and of making public statements and taking subsequent actions that “had the direct effect of validating the defamatory attacks on” Crown Sterling.
At Black Hat USA, Crown Sterling presented its new “TIME AI” encryption, which, the firm claimed, is based on quantum technology, music composed through the use of artificial intelligence, the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, and several other factors. In its presentation, Crown Sterling also dismissed currently accepted methods of encryption as effectively obsolete and insecure.
As one might expect, Crown Sterling’s claims – which it did not back up with sufficient evidence so as to convince various cryptography professionals present of their veracity – did not resonate well with portions of the audience, several of whom were ejected from the presentation by security after making detracting comments. One heckler said that the CEO of Crown Sterling should be ashamed of himself for delivering such a presentation, and several referred to the offering as “snake oil.”
I was not present at the event, but I did watch Crown Sterling’s video, Crown Sterling Presents: TIME AI. To be blunt, my initial impression was that I was watching a parody comprised of an over-the-top, exaggerated portrait of the marketing done by many cybersecurity startups, overusing buzzwords in an almost comical fashion, while providing little information about how the system actually works. While it is certainly possible that Crown Sterling has invented something amazing, the video did not install any confidence in me that such is the case; I am actually surprised that Black Hat allowed the firm to sponsor and receive a presentation slot. A review of the paper authored by Crown Sterling upon which it apparently based “Time AI” raised even more questions in my mind – questions that grew even stronger after I saw a paper written by Mark Carney from the University of Leeds. Feel free to review the two papers and draw your own conclusions.
According to a statement issued by the company, “Crown Sterling has announced a legitimate multi-dimensional encryption technology that challenges the paradigm of today’s encryption framework. We understand that the discovery completely transforms the way we secure data and that some members of the security industry are resistant to change or accepting of new technologies that do not conform to traditional approaches. We completely stand behind all content presented at Black Hat 2019 and we look forward to presenting further developments about the company and our quantum AI encryption technology.”
Of course, the value of Crown Sterling’s technology may have little bearing on the terms of the agreement between Crown Sterling and Black Hat’s organizer – that is something for courts to determine. In any case, Black Hat has removed the presentation from the conference archives.