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Alleged “snake oil” crypto company sues over boos at Black Hat [Updated]

Things got weird during a sponsored talk at this year's Black Hat USA conference. Now it's spawning a lawsuit.

Enlarge / Things got weird during a sponsored talk at this year’s Black Hat USA conference. Now it’s spawning a lawsuit. (credit: Getty Images)

One of the strangest moments at the Black Hat USA security conference in Las Vegas this month has now become the subject of a federal lawsuit against the conference.

In a filing to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (PDF), attorneys for the “emerging digital cryptography” firm Crown Sterling alleged that Black Hat USA had breached “its sponsorship agreement with Crown Sterling and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing arising therefrom.” Crown Sterling goes on to accuse the conference organizers of “other wrongful conduct” connected to events surrounding the presentation of a paper by Crown Sterling CEO and founder Robert E. Grant. In addition to legally targeting the conference, Crown Sterling has also filed suit against 10 “Doe” defendants, who it claims orchestrated a disruption of the company’s sponsored talk at Black Hat.

Grant’s presentation, entitled “Discovery of Quasi-Prime Numbers: What Does this Mean for Encryption,” was based on a paper called “Accurate and Infinite Prime Prediction from a Novel Quasi-PrimeAnalytical Methodology.” That work was published in March of 2019 through Cornell University’s arXiv.org by Grant’s co-author Talal Ghannam—a physicist who has self-published a book called The Mystery of Numbers: Revealed through their Digital Root as well as a comic book called The Chronicles of Maroof the Knight: The Byzantine. The paper, a slim five pages, focuses on the use of digital root analysis (a type of calculation that has been used in occult numerology) to rapidly identify prime numbers and a sort of multiplication table for factoring primes.

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