[ISN] Shock! Maturity rules at hack fest

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Aug 15 2002 - 23:22:08 PDT

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    By Kim Zetter
    August 13 2002
    South African computer security consultants Roelof Temmingh and Charl
    van der Walt were 30 minutes into their presentation at the DefCon
    hacker conference last week when a streaker - naked but for a paper
    bag over his head - sped up a side aisle and out of the front door.
    The audience barely acknowledged the interruption; van der Walt made a
    small joke and then resumed his PowerPoint presentation on Trojan
    The mellow response was indicative of the laid-back atmosphere
    permeating this year's conference at one of the few Las Vegas hotels
    that still opens its doors to the hackers.
    Conference organiser Jeff Moss (aka Dark Tangent) says they have been
    kicked out of every other establishment for past high jinks that have
    included putting cement in hotel plumbing.
    But the casino-free Alexis Park Hotel has proved the perfect match for
    the conference, now in its tenth year. The hotel's bar earnings for
    the weekend equalled what is usually taken over eight months and in
    appreciation the hotel staff sported cheery "DefCon X" T-shirts.
    While hacker notables such as Rain Forest Puppy were present, Deth
    Veggie seemed to be the only one from the hacking group Cult of the
    Dead Cow, which last year staged a rowdy presentation that included
    raw beef thrown at the audience.
    A highlight this year was a war-drive through the Las Vegas Strip in
    search of insecure wireless networks. As the hacker caravan cruised
    the street, a driver who deduced their motives shouted that they would
    never find an open connection on the highly secure strip. Instead, he
    helpfully pointed them north to a string of office complexes and an
    array of open networks.
    There were fewer US federal agents attending this year. Undercover
    Feds often sit on panel discussions or attend the conference to learn
    the community's latest tactics and trends. But this year, most federal
    agencies were too preoccupied with anti-terrorist activities to show
    Rumours of foreign feds proved to be true, though, when two Frenchmen
    posing as a reporter and cameramen for the TV channel Canal Plus were
    exposed during the Spot-the-Fed contest, an annual event that awards
    prizes for outing undercover agents.
    The more subdued tone probably reflected the increased maturity of
    attendees, who on average were slightly older than in the past. But it
    is also likely that the spectre of September 11 played a role.
    Talk about legislation related to September 11, such as the Patriot
    Act and a proposed law that will give a life sentence to anyone
    convicted of a computer crime that results in a death, permeated the
    Richard Thieme, a writer and former Episcopalian minister who speaks
    annually at DefCon and has become an unofficial father figure to the
    hacking community, pointed out that "the stakes are different" now.
    "The game has changed. And therefore, you have to be more careful," he
    said. Hackers should still fight for freedom and guard against
    government propaganda campaigns, but they need to be cognisant of the
    context of their battles. In the new environment, he said, motives and
    methods could be easily misconstrued.
    After the arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov at last year's DefCon, there were
    fewer exploits on open display. Sklyarov was arrested by the FBI for
    violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act after demonstrating a
    program for cracking Adobe's eBook encryption.
    The only talk that promised to rival Sklyarov's this year was a
    demonstration on turning off the protective Macro Vision in videos to
    make digitally pure copies.
    Any underground nature of the talk was spoiled by the attendance of
    the speaker's mother, grandparents and girlfriend, proudly videotaping
    his appearance. His mother, however - just to be on the safe side -
    turned out to be a copyright lawyer.
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