Monday, July 27, 2009

From iPhones to smart grids at Black Hat, Defcon

cnet: My favorite security show each year is one at which there are no sales pitches, the speakers favor black T-shirts and dyed hair over suits and ties, and the talks tend to be controversial enough to prompt legal threats and even arrests.

I'm talking about Defcon, which starts Thursday and runs through Sunday. The event turns part of the Las Vegas strip into a geek equivalent of "Animal House" for a three-day weekend every summer.

Started in 1993 by Jeff Moss, aka Dark Tangent, Defcon brings together some of the top security experts from around the world, along with thousands of hacker wannabes whose pranks in previous years--hacking the elevators and ATMs and cementing the toilets, to name a few--have led to bans at certain hotels.

"One good thing about the [economic] downturn is that the Riviera Hotel has been easier to deal with," said Moss, who was recently named to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. "They're letting us have access to the pool, so we'll have pool parties, and they've allowed us to do more social things that we wanted to do."

In addition to being a hacker playground and summer camp, Defcon is a semi-neutral ground where people who blur the lines of legality mingle with federal agents whose job it is to hunt them down.

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