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Hacker's Conference in NYC (7/18 to 7/20)

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Hacker's Conference in NYC (7/18 to 7/20)

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The Last Hope

We are home from the HOPE (Hackers of Planet Earth) conference. It was very cool. The geeks and freaks weren't as geeky and freaky as I thought they would be. And there were a lot more girls there than I expected.

I had never been in New York City, except for one school trip to the typical tourist sites (Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, South Street Seaport.) This weekend there, for The Last Hope conference, was interesting. I never went beyond a two foot square radius, which included both the hotel for the conference (The Pennsylvania) and where we stayed (The New Yorker.) If you ever have to stay in New York City, stay at The New Yorker. Wonderful customer service. When Hubby checked in, there was some failure of the computers and problems with reservations, etc. We ended up with four free passes for breakfast at the diner attached to the hotel (which served massive portions) and a corner penthouse suite.

I never thought I’d be in a penthouse suite. We don’t usually splurge that way. It was nice. Air conditioning worked well (it was hot every where else in the hotel); two flatscreen TVs; an amazingly soft (which I don’t usually like) and comfortable bed; a fridge and bar sink; a pull out sofa (not that we needed it); and, last but not least, a MARBLE bathroom. The tile was white marble. Holy cow expensive!

I actually enjoyed most of the sessions I went to, too (I was worried it would be too technical, and wouldn't understand a thing.) There was one that had a lot of math, and that one made my head hurt.) And the safe cracking one involved three-dimensional thinking and diagrams, so I left that one early after the history bit. I took notes on everything, though, for reference. The guy who used to build spy equipment for the FBI/CIA was great, as was Adam Savage. And we got to meet him and get our picture taken.

I didn’t attend everything I want to, though- napping seemed more important at the time, especially after solo child duty on Friday, which is why I missed that day- and some talks were very late- midnight Saturday, 4 hours. But I was happy to see what I did, in the time that I was there. I also got to shop a little bit, although I found Macy’s at 8th and 34th a little too big and over whelming for the forty-five minutes I had to shop there. So I left and headed to Old Navy and some other little shops along the route back to the hotel (for my nap.)


MY SCHEDULE:

Saturday

Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) - A Brief Primer on the Arcane Art and Science of Electronics Surveillance and “Bug” Detection
Marty Kaiser

The spooky world of covert electronic surveillance and countermeasures by governments, corporations, and individuals is veiled in secrecy, intrigue, and myth. Few people are well qualified to speak authoritatively about it, and fewer still are willing to. Hear firsthand from one of the most legendary and respected wiretap and bugging experts in the United States about some of the methods and technologies used, some case studies, and the future of privacy and surveillance from an insider’s viewpoint.


This one was really interesting. Its scary what the intelligence community does and how it can turn on a member. And how hard it can be to fight against them.



RIAA Litigations: How the Tech Community Can Help


Ray Beckerman, Zi Mei

This talk will be an update on RIAA  ( Recording Industry Association of America) litigations against ordinary individuals based on allegations of p2p file sharing. It will focus on the RIAA's legal theories and how they threaten the Internet, the RIAA's reliance on "junk science" to make its case, and what the tech community can do to help.


The scary part of this presentation was that the RIAA is using the legal system and its massive bankroll to torment people of mostly lower socio-economic groups. The suits never actually get to trial; almost always, they are dropped when the defense asks for disclosure/to depose the investigative company the RIAA uses. Why? This company, Media Century, is charged in several states for investigating without a proper license. If a rep was to testify in a civil trial, it could be used against the company (proving the state’s case against it/them) in a criminal trial. So the defendants are just harassed and have to pay money for frivolous lawsuits. Big ass corporate bullies.

The Free Software Foundation has a fund to help the defendants find/pay for expert witnesses that they would otherwise not have access to.


Pseudonymization Methodologies: Personal Liberty vs. the Greater Good

Think of four facts that can separate you from the rest of the general populous: name, address, date of birth, or Social Security Number perhaps. They are all likely what's currently referred to as Personally Identifiable Information (PII). In the data privacy realm, PII disclosure is the CSI trace evidence that corporations are increasingly finding themselves as silhouettes within blood splatter patterns on the wall. These PII disclosures may be avoided through the use of anonymization, or more importantly, pseudonymization. This talk will focus on the history, methodology, benefits, risks and mitigations, and current players, as well as provide a demonstration of the technology.


This one sounded way cooler than it was. Hashing, RNG, etc., etc., I didn’t get much of it, and the math-ish stuff made my head hurt. The stuff I did get was what I could relate directly back to my days in cancer research as a data entry clerk. Mostly I was looking at the guy presenting- very easy on the eyes.



Bagcam - How Did TSA and/or the Airlines Manage to Do That to Your Luggage?

Ever wonder exactly how TSA or the airlines managed to destroy your luggage or what security measures are actually in place once your checked luggage disappears from view? After having yet another bag destroyed while flying several months ago, algormor decided to build Bagcam to find out what happens once the airlines have control of your luggage. Bagcam is a small suitcase containing a mini-DVR and pinhole camera. This presentation will cover the construction of Bagcam, potential future enhancements to Bagcam, and issues to consider should you decide to build your own Bagcam. In addition, various security measures currently in place for commercial passenger flights and the efficacy of these measures will be discussed. Finally, select footage will be presented from flights through Washington DC's Reagan National Airport (DCA); Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage, AK (ANC); Sky Harbor in Phoenix, AZ (PHX); Chicago’s O'Hare (ORD); and other airports.


This wasn’t as good as I had hoped- not much incriminating searches, just x-rays and lazy TSA workers. But the idea was neat.



Safecracking

Despite many appearances in film and television, fairly little is widely known about how safes can be opened without the proper combination or key. This talk will attempt to address some of the questions commonly asked about the craft, such as is it really possible to have a safe open in a minute or two using just a stethoscope and some clever fingerwork? (Yes, but it will take a bit more time than a few minutes.) Are the gadgets used by secret agents in the movies ever based on reality? (Some of them.) The talk will cover several different ways that safes are opened without damage, as well as the design of one lock that is considered completely secure.



Spy Improv: Everything You Ever Wanted to Ask and Did Not Know Who to Ask
Robert Steele

The recovering spy and ass-kicking critic of everything stupid will range wild, interspersing comments on 9/11, Dick Cheney, Rudy Guliani, and other misfits, with straight-up, no bullshit answers to any question.


I was tired, so he was hard to follow. Hubby assures me he's not as crazy as my impression of him was.



Sunday:

Escaping High Security Handcuffs

Everybody knows normal police handcuffs are no real challenge for lockpickers, even though it helps to know the inner workings and tiny differences of the various models in use today. Less publicly known is that there's also a variety of "high security" handcuffs on the market, used mainly for high risk prisoners and during transfers. But those also have their weaknesses... This talk will give an overview of the products in use today and their different attack vectors - not only focusing on picking but also bypassing some of the most advanced locking mechanisms used in this field.

A site recommended: http://www.handcuffs.org/


Grand Theft Lazlow - Hacking the Media by Laughing at Them


A talk by Grand Theft Auto IV cowriter and coproducer Lazlow focusing on that phenomenal project as well as what’s been going on in media in the last decade. Beginning in 1996, corporations began gobbling up every newspaper, billboard, radio and TV station in the United States. Ironically, since then, readership and ratings have plummeted, resulting in entertainment executives and editors programming even more sensationalist and desperate content. Lazlow discusses how parody of the media in video games, on TV, and online can often garner a larger audience reaction than the media establishment itself. He will describe why the mainstream media invents crises, and the reaction by the media and Hollywood establishment to the growing popularity of interactive worlds where players are celebrities rather than smug starlets tittering for TMZ. How can you hack the media? In this interactive talk Lazlow talks about his work in radio, video games, and the future of the media, democracy, and the role of comedy in it.


I didn’t really want to see this one, but I wanted to make sure I had a seat for Adam Savage, who was the next presenter in the room. (I’m glad I did, because damn, it was full.) I was actually impressed with this one. And I think that I might get some points with students for saying I ‘met’ (stretching it, I know, but hey) the GTA creator.



Featured Speaker
Adam Savage
 

The esteemed co-host of the popular TV show Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel and "a maker of things" will give a captivating talk on the nature of his particular obsessions.


This was quite amusing and interesting, although it was packed and damn hot. I was sweating as if AC didn’t exist. Adam seems just like he does on TV, and the Q&A was quite interesting. The things that A&E won’t let Jamie and Adam do on the show, because of advertisers and lawyers and such- and cost prohibitive myths- and why he doesn’t want to do things that you can do at home on TV. Plus, how much he likes to blow shit up.

I got to meet him afterwards, get an autograph and picture. Hubby was the ultimate geek, though- in a good, creative way. I had Adam sign my Hope pass; Hubby had him sign the roll of duct tape that is always in his bag. I have made mad fun of Hubby for carrying it all the time, but it has come in handy on multiple occasions. It’s a geek element I accept. Plus, it was really handy here!
 
At some point, I will have our pictures posted, once Hubby (it was his camera) finally gets them to me....



I had a lot of fun, and would really consider going again, if they have another one. In the meantime, my next geek trip will be Comicon in NYC in February, hopefully.
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