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Fear and Hacking in Las Vegas


Polly Sprenger| Also by this reporter Page 1 of 1

03:00 AM Jul. 10, 1999 PT

LAS VEGAS -- The sun rose Friday morning on the first day of Def Con, the annual hacker conference, with labor crews hosing down the parking lots and the highways.

Workers were dealing with the aftermath of an unexpected thunderstorm that shut down the airport Thursday and left the city sunk in a thick layer of mud.


Also:
Def Con: Bring in Da Noise
Lawyer: Hackers Have Rights, Too
Inside the Virus Writer's Mind

More than 600 of Def Con's 6,000 expected attendees were already in town for the Black Hat security conference.

The timing was unfortunate, however. Next door to the predominately male-attended Black Hat conference was a teenage dance competition, where, after spending the day listening to talks on security issues, attendees could watch adolescent dancers shaking their groove thang.

As a TV crew cruised the hall, an organizer asked everyone to be mature and not deface the camera.

"Be good, and next time Mom will let you wear the big pants," he said to the youthful, baggy-panted crowd.

Convention-goers were testing their competitive side in the sixth annual Spot the Fed contest (several agents were outed by early afternoon), and by donning inflatable sumo wrestling suits for a little all-in-fun mock violence.

"Always wanted to beat up some punk on the mailing list? You really hate the person who always argues with you?" Def Con organizers asked. "How about media vs. the underground? Or feds vs. hackers? We've rented giant inflatable sumo suits for you to do battle."

T-shirts like "I miss crime" and "I hate stupid people" caught approving glances from the crowd, while a photographer wandered around the room snapping shots of any available woman for the "Babes of Def Con" photo album.

Outside the smoky, crowded hall, a group of younger attendees was gleefully stringing cable from hotel room to hotel room, beefing up the paltry connection offered by the Alexis Park convention center and resort.

The "day in the sun" feeling was soured a bit as a group of security enthusiasts posted "wanted" signs accusing John P. Vranesevich, founder of AntiOnline, of criminal activities. They accuse the computer security pundit of paying crackers to hit sites in exchange the scoop.

Vranesevich and his supporter, Happy Hacker Carolyn Meinel, vocally deny that he has done anything wrong, and point the finger back at the accusers, who have posted material about Vranesevich on their Web site.

The controversy escalated last week, when a popular site for security information, PacketStorm, was removed from its host server at Harvard after university officials were told that the site had negative and allegedly libelous information about Vranesevich on it.

But according to Brian Fite of HSK, the tension only adds another dimension of excitement to the goings-on.

Also on the underground agenda is a party to announce the "launch" of Back Orifice 2000, a hacking tool for Microsoft Office 2000; a formal black-and-white ball where T-shirts will be traded in for tuxes; and assorted, sordid all-night raves.

Related Wired Links:

Inside the Virus Writer's Mind
10.Oct.97

Coming Soon: Back Orifice 2000
10.Oct.97

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