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Pranks, Parties and Personalities

LAS VEGAS, July 28 -- The Michael Lynn Cisco-gate controversy has somewhat overshadowed everything else going on here at Black Hat, and I've been spending so much time getting to the bottom of the whole ordeal that I haven't had time to give readers a sense of just how fascinating this gathering is.

Of course, the real interesting stuff is the people here. The other night I attended a party for Black Hat speakers and selected guests at a penthouse suite that was nothing short of breathtaking for its decor and views of the entire Strip. Inside the glass-enclosed room where all the smokers were holed up, I found a bearded, Pall Mall-chain-puffing, disheveled gentleman who looked older than God. Since 80 to 90 percent of the people here appear to be security professionals in the under 30-set, I was immediately intrigued by his presence.

Photo by Brian Krebs--washingtonpost.comTurns out the guy was none other than Robert Morris, former chief scientist at the National Security Agency. (There are more people attending this conference from 3-letter agencies that you can shake a stick at. The guy I sat next to on the plane was a "telecommunications expert" with the CIA.)  Morris seemed like he'd had a few drinks and kept going on about how companies who fail to encrypt their customer data should be taken out and shot.

This guy has probably has forgotten more about Internet security and uber-secret computer stuff than most of the conference attendees combined have ever learned, and I would've sat there all night and listened to his field stories of 25 years in the world's most secretive spy agency had his handlers not abruptly pulled him away to talk with someone more important. (By the way, Morris's son, Robert Jr., was the guy responsible for writing and releasing in 1988 what later became known as the Morris Worm, widely considered the first computer worm to grip the Web. Morris released the worm from networks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is now an associate professor.)

Sure, people learn stuff at Black Hat, but anyone who's honest will tell you the real reason they return each year is for the insanely lavish parties. Last night's rager, sponsored by 3Com's Tipping Point, was at a club at the Hard Rock hotel; despite what you may have heard, hackers really can cut a rug when pumped with enough thumping bass and alcohol and obscured enough by fog machines. The buzz today is all about Microsoft's party being held at Pure, one of those velvet-rope clubs that brags of having the most expensive drinks in Vegas. Pure was recently
listed as No. 1 on E! Entertainment's "20 Hippest Hotspots." But hey, if anyone can afford a bar tab like that, it's Microsoft.

Yesterday, some prankster pulled the Caesar's Palace fire alarm, but nobody so much as flinched even though the hotel intercom was urging people to immediately flee to the nearest exits. Apparently this happens at least once every year at Black Hat, and several times a day at DefCon. I sincerely hope that there isn't a real fire emergency because every one of us would surely perish in the smoke and flames.

When I first arrived at Caesar's, I kept wondering why so many people were lurking by the windows and staring down upon the plaza. I soon discovered that the topless swimming pool is situated directly below the conference level.

Overall, I have been tremendously impressed with the professionalism and integrity of the conference organizers and attendees. You would be hard-pressed to find a group of individuals who care more about Internet and computer security. And the hotel staff here is the most helpful and jovial bunch I've seen since staying at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Fla. The waiters and waitresses serving lunch in the staggeringly massive and hectic dining hall here seem straight out of a vaudeville sketch, popping in at either side of me every few minutes and threatening to withhold my caffeine fix until I eat my veggies.

I've been told several times that the real colorful stuff happens at DefCon, which starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday evening. It seems that each year some miscreants manage to hack one of the Microsoft Windows computers that operate the towering electronic billboards here in Vegas, replacing ads with either a "Blue Screen of Death" or just a shout-out to their buddies. I'm secretly hoping something like that happens, if for no other reason that to give me another excuse to use this camera I've brought with me and add some more color to this blog.

By Brian Krebs  |  July 28, 2005; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker  
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Next: Black Hat Day 2: Peace Breaks Out

Comments

>_>

Posted by: >_> | July 28, 2005 4:31 PM | Report abuse

It is very irresponsible of Internet companies to restrain their employees from talking about the security flaws in their products. It undermines the confidence in the Company.

I believe this shows that the time has come to junk the present system of delivering the client based internet service and to develop the server based Internet service as discuused at

NEW ERA WISP

In any case it's upto the people to write to the CEO of CISCO, John Chambers at Cisco, 170 West Tasman Dr. San Jose, CA 95134-1706 protesting about the CISCO policy of hiding the security flaws and other defects in CISCO products and the software that powers CISCO products and asking him to voluntarily vacate the temporary restraining order against Michael Lynn the Cisco Researcher.

Posted by: SATISH BHARDWAJ | July 28, 2005 5:43 PM | Report abuse

The link in the above message is defective. The Url of NEW ERA WISP is http://www.newerawisp.blogspot.com

Posted by: Satish Bhardwaj | July 28, 2005 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Not like he was doing independent research and released his work. He did it on company time and company resources.

Posted by: geided rocket | July 30, 2005 12:38 PM | Report abuse

"By the way, Morris's son, Robert Jr., was the guy responsible for writing and releasing in 1988 what later became known as the Morris Worm, widely considered the first computer worm to grip the Web."

When was the Web invented? I'll give you a clue... 1989 or later. I guess RTM was waaaay ahead of his time.

Posted by: pwned | August 6, 2005 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Your site is realy very interesting.
http://dublinhotels.blogsource.com/

Posted by: Dublin Hotel | March 20, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

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