Security Fix Is Heading to Vegas
I'll be heading into the soul-crushing heat of Las Vegas for six days next week to cover Black Hat and Defcon, two of the largest hacker conventions in the country. I'm planning to blog like a madman at the conferences, and hopefully trying out some interesting audio, video and other multimedia firsts for the blog.
The two conferences have changed considerably over the past few years. But on a very general level, Black Hat is geared toward security professionals (training sessions cost $2,000 and the conference part $1,600), while DefCon ($80 cash-only entrance fee) attracts a far larger crowd, including security professionals as well as thousands of established, budding and wannabe hackers.
The gatherings are an opportunity for everyone involved in Internet and computer security -- including the defenders (white hats), the attackers (black hats), "gray hats" (those who straddle the ethical boundaries), as well as members of the law enforcement and the US intelligence community -- to meet and greet, to size each other up, and to share ideas and new hacking tricks and tools. Quite a few researchers wait until Black Hat and Defcon to present their latest findings and security software, and many attendees demonstrate techniques or tools that exploit previously unknown security flaws in the Internet infrastructure or in widely used software.
The venue being Vegas, there will also be plenty of lavish, tech-industry sponsored parties, games and hacker pranks. Among the games played annually at Defcon are "Spot the Fed" (this one needs no explanation), "Hacker Jeopardy," and "Capture the Flag," where hackers show off their 733t h@X0r skillz by competing to be the first to break into a series of test computer networks.
Some of the more interesting briefing tracks at Black Hat include "Owning Anti-virus: Critical Weakness in a Critical Security Component"; "Legal Aspects of Computer Network Defense"; and "Hacking in a Foreign Language." The conference will get started with a keynote address by Gilman Louie, president and chief executive officer of In-Q-Tel, the CIA's very own venture capital firm.
At Defcon, I plan to attend these presentations: "Bypassing Authenticated Wireless Networks"; "Asymmetric Digital Warfare"; "Hacking Google Adwords"; "ATM Network Vulnerabilities"; "Hackers and the Media- Misconceptions and Critical Tools to Combat Them"; "Introduction to Lockpicking and Physical Security" (I recently picked up a book and some tools for this just to check it out...turns out lockpicking isn't all that hard).
There's also a track entitled "The Legal and Ethical Aspects of WarDriving" that looks interesting. Wardriving, if you don't know, is the practice of driving around with a laptop and powerful antenna (and maybe a global positioning system device) and eavesdropping on or merely using wireless networks that don't belong to you. After the recent news of a Florida man arrested for wardriving, this is likely to be a packed session. I may also tag along on Sunday with a group of hackers as they engage in one of several scheduled wardriving competitions.
So, stick with me next week and we'll have some interesting geeks-n-freaks stuff to look at, in addition to some actual security "news" that may get announced at the conferences. We may even try to do at least one Web chat from Vegas, so don't be shy about posting questions.
Are you planning to be out at Defcon or Black Hat or both? Got any tips for me on people to meet or sessions to attend? Use the comments section below to tell me all about it.
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