Black Hat and Def Con: Direct From Las Vegas
Mon, Jul 30, 2012 by Andrew Conway
I’ve just got back from the largest annual gatherings of computer security experts and hackers in the world. Running one after the other in Las Vegas are the Black Hat and Def Con conventions. Black Hat is a corporate event, with a vendor room featuring all the big names in computer security. Def Con is far more for hackers. In the vendor hall there you can pick up surplus hardware, a set of lock picks for fifty bucks, or about fifty different designs of black T-shirts. Personally I’ve reached the time in my life when I have enough black T-shirts, but I was tempted by the lock picks.
Actually, the coolest thing in the Def Con vendor room was the Enigma machine that the NSA brought along to let people play with.
The successful British attempts in World War II to break the Enigma code led to Alan Turing and others constructing one of the electronic computing machines. Most of the remaining Enigmas are in glass cases in museums, so it was a great thrill to have one sitting out on the counter and to be a able to press the keys and see the rotors turn and the letters light up. The NSA were there to recruit, and while I was prodding the Enigma (and wondering what would happen if I took a screwdriver out and started taking it to bits) a young man came over and said that he was really interested in joining the NSA but he didn’t think he would pass a security check because of some computer hacking history. “You never know,” said the guy behind the desk with a grin. “Send us an application, you never know.” I don’t think the NSA would be recruiting across the aisle from the lock picking booth unless they were flexible about background.
I’ll post more about the conventions and my thoughts on them in future posts, but I’d like to finish this post with a word to those (thankfully few) vendors at Black Hat who saw fit to employ booth babes… Really? If your product is good enough it does not need scantily clad women to promote it, especially in Las Vegas, where scantily clad women lurk by every craps table.