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Black Monday: The Monday after Defcon

Black Monday: The Monday after Defcon

It’s the Monday after DEFCON 17, the world’s* largest Hacker convention, and like many attendees I am writing just a little bit about my 4 days in Vegas.  For the most part this is going to be VERY edited, as what happens in Vegas tends to ‘Stay in Vegas’, so for the very best stuff you will just have to join us in Vegas next year for DEFCON 18 when we rehash stories of previous DEFCONs.

DEFCON is a bit different than you might think and although there are people there that are writing the next virus; 9,950 of the 10,000 (or 99.5%) people that show up are probably there to figure out how to help you secure your computer, or just enjoy technology and have some fun.  So it’s really a lot like any other geek conventions with people sharing ideas; wearing t-shirts, dawning costumes and hacker fashionable apparel, or just partying.   This year I had the chance to participate in some of the better after hours parties of DEFCON (let me tell you there are plenty of parties that go from 9am to 6am with talks starting at 10am.  ) and so I spent less time in sessions and more time socializing.  DEFCON is a whole lot more playful than its brother convention, Black Hat (another security convention), which usually deals with the more corporate and work related issues of Network and Computer Security.

DEFCON’s attendees include everyone from hackers, crackers, artists, activists, Feds, Spies, bands, DJs, fashion designers, writers, and journalists.  It’s really a diverse and well established subculture of geekdom and technology elitism.  When DEFCON happens the dreams and fantasies of technology subcultures come out to play, and you get to live for 4 days in its subconscious alliterating technology and the Internet.  Some of the more interesting talks range from World of Warcraft, UFOs, HackerSpaces, OpenSource, Iran, hacktivism and pre-purposed innovation ( ie innovation without a defined purpose ).  One such talk actually demoed how one might establish a hidden network of command signals through the power lines in your house and have that communicate with your hard drive or bios directly without the operating system detecting it.  The ‘World of Warcraft’ talk exposed an API extention that allowed for the creation of ‘decision making helpers’ that would allow 2 humans to run a raid and control 12 characters.

Other things I noticed was the pending red hair singularity, as many people are seemingly converging on vivid magenta, maroon, red, and pink hair highlights; where as in previous years hair color was a mixed as a box of Crayola Crayons are.

This year DEFCON kept up a many of its other traditions, like a micro controller based badge, and competitions like Capture The Flag ( aka, root fu, kenshoto, etc.. ) and other competitions that if won get you a ‘Black-Badge’ which says you are elite, and you get to come to DEFCON forever for free.

I love hackers, hackers in the true sense of the word.  They are the painters and artists of technology, where they play and sculpt technology from its parts.  They are a playful, free, and inquisitive group that is more than comfortable with having a few questions pop into their mind.  I like DEFCON because where many of the other conventions in the field are either small like barcamps, or very ‘White Hat’ and deal mainly with corporate and overtly legal concept, DEFCON asks questions of technology even if the answer is a little bit scary at times with 10k similarly minded people.  It’s for this reason that the FBI is actually in support of the slightly skeptical, and often slightly Anarchist groups that meet there.  It’s the worlds chance to get the twitter like ‘pulse’ of technology and what is going on.  And after getting back from DEFCON 17 I definitely feel like I have a better read on how the internet will work in 2009/2010.  I hope to see you there next year.

‘Hack the Planet’



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