Patrick's Def Con X Report: Day One     
By Patrick Norton

How do you spot 'CyberCrime's' Alex Wellen at Def Con? He's the only guy wearing a T-shirt that isn't black or white. Looks good, but stands out like bait.

Instead of being in the cozy confines of "The Screen Savers" set today, I'm in Las Vegas. During the middle of summer. Yuck. I'm here for the annual gathering of hackers called Def Con. This year is the 10th year of the conference.

It's 100-something degrees and I just drank three quarts of water. I also just sat through a lecture on tracing anonymous email that left my head aching, except when the discussion simply went whoosh over my head. I have some homework to do on that topic.

I learned a lot

Def Con in a nutshell: The search for privacy, freedom, and all sorts of arcane knowledge that's of use to the 21st-century hacker.

My brain hurts and the late nights haven't even started yet. Def Con after-hours gatherings are as knowledge-saturated as the daytime lectures, and often on topics people don't want to be public about. This is where Dimitri Sklyarov's problems with Adobe and the US government started last year.

Some of the information you find isn't so useful. If you spot a TechTV personality, you earn points in the scavenger hunt. If you accurately spot a fed at the conference, you can earn a T-shirt. Somebody's doing a demo on lock picking. I can't imagine why folks want to learn that.

Serious work
Def Con isn't all fun and games. It's full of educational seminars. How can a seminar titled "Correlating Network Attacks Using Bayesian Multiple Hypothesis Tracking" be fun? Useful, I'm sure. The seminar was packed.

"Correlating Network Attacks" is part of today's seminar track on "Net Recon and IDS," which is running alongside "Hacking Phreaking 1.0.1" and "Privacy and Anonymity." Most folks bounce from area to area, depending on their interests. I'm spending most of my day in "Privacy and Anonymity," "Tracing Anon Email," "Patriot and You," and, what the heck, "Hacking Phreaking 1.0.1 for Windows Servers."

Along with the scavenger hunt, this year's game of capture the flag will feature a live, TV-friendly scoreboard that tracks the antics of hacker teams competing to own the CTF network and servers. There's also a WarDriving contest to see how many 802.11 networks can be found on a drive through Las Vegas.

Coming up
Tomorrow's going to be tough. There are tracks on "Wireless and Routing" and "Attacks/Tools," and spiels on "Consumer Media Protections," "Elcomsoft Update," and "Vulnerability Disclosure."

Posted August 2, 2002

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