Vegas Braces for the Hackers
By Michelle Delio

02:00 AM Aug. 01, 2002 PT LAS VEGAS -- Sin City is about to be packed with thousands of hackers, wannabe geeks and phreaks who envision the perfect world as the following:

Computer networks would welcome curious exploration, all information would be openly shared, a lot of public toilets would be filled with concrete and no swimming pool would go unfilled with several blocks of dry ice.

Welcome to Defcon 2002, billed as the "the largest Internet security gathering on the planet."

With plenty of booze, boasts and hard information on how to subvert systems and society, Defcon can't accurately be described as a polite or sober sort of event.

But the worst that usually happens to the unwary or witless are occasional hassles born of attendees' overindulgence in alcohol and ego, along with exposure to a lot of good-natured practical jokes like the eerily smoking pools and occasionally blocked restroom facilities.

Defcon ended on a surprisingly sour note last year with the arrest of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov, who gave a talk on electronic book security and was arrested by federal agents while on his way home.

Sklyarov was charged with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for programming software that removes user restrictions on encrypted Adobe e-books.

Perhaps in response to the Sklyarov arrest, Defcon's lineup of scheduled workshops and talks this year includes presentations on how to safely and effectively report security vulnerabilities, how to spot fellow members of the security industry with "evil motivations," and the legal ramifications of information-gathering and corporate espionage.

All the usual presentations on how to hack with ethics and how to defend networks against malicious hackers and ill-intentioned virus writers will also be offered.

In between presentations, the scheduled events include a cyber scavenger hunt, a "geeks with guns" shootout at the Boulder Nevada Rifle and Pistol Gun Club, and the ever-popular "Hacker Jeopardy" games which feature a multitude of drunken contestants who are gradually and publicly divested of their remaining sanity and clothing as the evening wears on.

Physically adventurous hackers can also jump out of planes, compete to see how much coffee they can drink, or join in a road race to Las Vegas from Redondo Beach, California.

Those who are too worn out to attend any of the instructional presentations after participating in the more festive events can have some down time in their hotel rooms without having to worry about missing anything crucial.

There will be three Defcon channels running over the hotel's in-house video system. One channel will feature cartoons and other culturally relevant entertainment fare; the other two will carry live broadcasts of all the speakers.

Defcon attendees will also have access to a hotel-wide high-speed wireless network, which they can hack or use to connect with the outside world or to swap data and pictures with each other.

Defcon will be held Friday through Sunday at The Alexis Park Hotel. Admission is $75, payable only in cash.

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