Defcon 16: Day 0
Every post in this series will have the tag “defcon,” so they can be found together easily.
Now that I’m back from Def Con, I’ll be posting a day-by-day overview of my experiences. While there, I did not dare get online at all. Jason Scott referred to the network there as “the most evil thing ever” and most recognize it as “the most hostile network on the planet.” Since I had a Vista laptop, the only smart thing to do was to keep the wireless off.
The trip in was a snap, beyond some plane scheduling snafus. Once at the McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, I was immediately assaulted by slot machines. Not just slot machines, but Wheel of Fortune-branded gambling boxes. I don’t know how they work, but they incessantly make the iconic chime sound of a new board appearing on the show. Very annoying, very bad.
I played “spot the hacker” while standing in line for a taxi. There’s a number of guys who fit the description. The “goth hacker” is easy to spot: long, dyed hair, piercings, lots of black. The typical “nerd hacker” is there: short, greasy, unkempt hair and lots of black clothing. There’s a few variations on the theme, but if you can see someone with a black T-shirt that has a Wolfenstein or Backtrack logo on it, you’ve got yourself a Defcon attendee there.
The Riviera hotel and casino was an assault on the senses and confirmed everything that I had heard about Las Vegas. It was Times Square with gambling: lights and noise and faux-gold inescapably everywhere. The layout of the casino was a maze of twisty little passage, all bringing me back to the gambling floor. I couldn’t go anywhere without passing a bar. There are, of course, no clocks and no windows; knowing how long you’ve been gambling is impossible.
After checking in, I registered for the Con. We all got a great package of stuff. Here’s what we got:
From 0 to 2pi radians, counterclockwise, here is what you are looking at:
0 rad: The Def Con CD that contains badge-hacking info, slides from the presentations, etc
pi/3 rad: The Def Con-themed room key. A nice touch.
5pi/6 rad: The Def Con book: schedules, maps and descriptions of the events, contests and parties
pi rad: The Def Con badge. Initially these were not available and we had to come back on Friday and Saturday to pick up the real badge. Later I’ll link to Joe Grand’s video of him building the badge, just to explain its awesomeness.
7pi/4 rad: The Def Con sticker sheet: large and small Def Con logos, including the rotary dial, smiley and crossbones, floppy disk. Also includes the ninja face, a fist with ROOT tattooed on the fingers. My favorite is the bottom right: the “Hello” sticker reads “Hello, my mother’s maiden name is.” Several people put these on their shirts with (ahem) colorful answers.
After getting settled, I headed upstairs to theSummit party. The party is for all Def Con attendees and serves as a benefit for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Hacker Foundation. The entrance is $40 and also wins you a year membership in the EFF.
The party is basically a mixer with free beer. I was there for over an hour, but didn’t stick around for the music that was promised to come. I met a few guys, mostly who were also new to the Con. They appreciated having the mixer the night before, as some of them had been to Black Hat or other conferences where there wasn’t a chance to do nothing but meet people.
I got to meet one of the speakers there, Weasel. Several people said (and I agree) that the mixer is a good way to meet the conference speakers in an informal setting without the demands of 800 other people trying to ask technical questions.
All in all, it was a fun first day, and I’m looking forward to what’s up ahead. More to come!