• United States



by Dave Gradijan

Hackers Descend on Las Vegas

Aug 02, 20063 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

This week, two major computer security and hacker conferences will be taking place in Las Vegas, Nev., the Associated Press reports via

Black Hat, running from Wednesday to Thursday, and Defcon, from Friday to Sunday, will host representatives from major computer corporations such as Microsoft and Cisco, government agencies such as the FBI, and assorted bands of hackers, researchers, underground computer networkers and cyber hobbyists, the AP reports.

According to the AP, the Black Hat conference has more of a university feel, while Defcon thrives on chaos. Regardless, the insatiable curiosity of the participants never fails to keep attendees on their toes so that they don’t fall victim to hacks and pranks.

The article states that in past years, pay phones have disappeared, TV billing systems and hotel networks have been hacked, ATMs were shanghaied, pools were dyed unusual colors, a wall of shame listed those with unsecured computers, fake wireless networks masked official ones, and a general sense of security went out the window.

“I lost a real sense of security,” Bo Holland, the founder of several startups that work with large financial services companies, and who had long assumed ATM networks were invulnerable, told the AP. “I came away with a real appreciation for the powers these hackers had developed.”

The big news this year, according to the AP, is that two researchers will demonstrate ways to hijack some of the most popular brands of laptop computers by exploiting a flaw in their wireless connections. This is reported to possibly build on tensions between hacker activism and corporate interests that were fueled last year when Cisco Systems tried to stop researcher Michael Lynn from speaking about a vulnerability that he said could let hackers virtually shut down the Internet. The company managed to get the documented flaw torn out of all 2,000 conference binders, but they were unable to stop his presentation.

The article states that a third researcher plans to demonstrate software that can drop undetectable programs for snooping into computers running Windows Vista.

Yet companies are starting to embrace these cyber-upstarts, and Microsoft has scheduled a day of talks on new ways to secure its products and to embrace feedback, while a Cisco executive is going to sit on a panel that includes people who have criticized the company in the past.

Adam Laurie, chief security officer of, a United Kingdom-based site for storing sensitive information, told the AP that these conferences have opened the lines of communication between users and software and hardware manufacturers.

“We are having this stuff forced upon us, and you can’t choose not to have it,” Laurie, who goes by “Major Malfunction,” told the AP. “If they don’t do it properly, that puts me at risk.”

Compiled by Paul Kerstein

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