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Greetings from DefCon, fair readers, or rather, greetings from the Las Vegas airport, where my flight has been delayed but there's free wifi, so I'm not too upset. I'm at the end of the magical weekend where thousands of haxors converge on Las Vegas to learn, drink, and break into each other's computers. The result is a Riviera full of hands-on tutorials, exploit demonstrations, scholarly talks and gaming. In the main conference room sits the infamous Wall of Sheep, a list of unfortunate people and their (obscured) cracked passwords. Since the network is renown as the world's most hostile, I've gone dark for the weekend – I got on the internet for the first time in Vegas to post this article, well away from the convention hall.
I've spent most of the weekend at the EFF booth, meeting lots of EFF members and other geeks, talking law with a few. I even took a turn in the dunk tank to raise money for them, and there was a line of people waiting to dunk me. Since the machine was miscalibrated, that was exceptionally easy to do: any strong hit to the backstop would trip the switch. The Goons figured it out and fixed the problem, but only at the very end of my shift. Thanks, guys.
One of the most amazing things at the con was the Lockpicking Village, sponsored by (iirc) The Open Organization of Lockpickers and SSDev. Their skybox was full of wonderfully helpful, skillful people happy to explain the basics to a noob like me. Deviant's tutorial was especially informative – I can pick a three-pin lock without much trouble now, but the five-pins still elude me. The other best thing about DefCon was Lostboy's mystery box, a 25-lb inch-thick steel contraption which required crypto, coding, electronics, physical security skills, and even some scavenger hunting to figure out how to open. It's the best spirit of Defcon, a creative task that takes a multitude of skills, so various people have to bring their different expertise together to solve it. Plus it's just really cool.
You probably already heard about the best DefCon 15 story, the Dateline reporter who tried to come to Defcon undercover and solicit evil hackers to do illegal things, "To Catch A Predator" style. The Goons, however, had an informant and knew about her even before she got here. After giving her a chance to register as press, they turned a panel into an impromptu game of Spot the Reporter and a camera-wielding mob chased her out of the conference. They played the footage on a loop in the main room, and are working on a highlights reel. I <3 DefCon.