Posts Tagged ‘Defcon after action report’

DEFCON ‘After Action Report’

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Well, another DEF CON hacker conference has ended without errant nuclear missile launches or national scale telecoms take downs. We can either breathe a sigh of relief, or try to understand what these types of hacker/ activist gathering are all about.

This year’s conference, DEF CON 19, was held in Las Vegas (as it is each year since 1993) August 4th to August 7th. While not able to personally attend, I did learn a great many things. Incidentally, learning and sharing are central themes at hacker gatherings, great quantities of information are disseminated and voraciously consumed.

This DEF CON there were over 170 speakers talking about everything from computer hacking to picking locks to social engineering. Many of these talks were of a highly technical nature which would have gone over my head during the introductions. But many other talks were in easy to understand terms and readily accessible to people with even just a brief interest of the subject.

Another great feature of DEF CON (and many other hacker gatherings) are the various hacker related contests. Perhaps the best know game is ‘Capture The Flag’, an epic hacking battle by teams of caffeinated enthusiasts. High scorer in these competitions get major bragging rights. This DEF CON there were over 40 contests of different types. Something for everyone!


Many lay persons might imagine that many federal officers from many diverse federal agencies might ‘sneak in’ under cover and try to snag wanted hackers. The truth how ever is always stranger than fiction. This DEF CON (and all others) was attended by agents from FBI, DoD, NSA and others. What the heck were they doing there if not arresting hackers? Trying very hard to hire them! Hackers are in great demand. Think of a large job fair. Surreal.

While people in general may frown down on ‘hackers’ or even feel they are all criminals (some are), hackers do serve a real purpose in our world, uncovering vulnerabilities and forcing patches and repairs to software and systems. Associating with the right people can give you insights on how to protect your self and customers, and help you prepare for attacks that seem to come from left field.

While I was in the military (a few years before the end of the cold war) we were made to learn soviet tactics. Knowing something about hacking is the same idea. It must be a good idea too. How do I know? Just ask the Fed’s.