On Friday Rohit and I hopped in his new blue XLR, and with the roof raised we drove like Hunter S. Thompsen to Vegas (baby!) for DefCon 12. For those not familiar with DefCon, it's essentially the largest underground hacking event in the world.
First off, Rohit's car is hot. It looks beautiful, it handles amazingly well, the adaptive cruise control practically drives itself, and the XLR got us 580 miles in roughly 7 hours. In your face, Mercedes: "The XLR's saintly performance washes away most sins. As you'd expect from a Corvette-based model, the XLR carves turns like an Olympic downhiller, yet the Caddy also delivers a sleigh-smooth ride."
As for DefCon, what a great crowd. Hackers are really nice people who try to be helpful any way they can. Example: the highlight of the conference was the "Wall of
Shame Sheep", a huge projected wall in the hacking put where hundreds of people running packet sniffers on the open WiFi network could post the cracked passwords they discovered. Rohit made the Wall o' Sheep not once but twice for two poorly chosen email passwords (ChangeMe1 and foobar9, hello?!!). There's a lesson in here: far too many businesses have decided to place WiFi networks between point-of-sale machines that take credit card information, and the gateways or front-end-processors that do the credit card auth, so hackers discovering sensitive stuff on wireless networks is going to become an ever-more-common occurrence. It's not that WiFi is any less secure than a wire; rather, because accessing open wireless networks is a lot easier than cracking a physical line, these kinds of cracks become a lot easier. The fact that most Internet applications still don't use encryption on the wire makes such systems more vulnerable in the environment where anyone can access what gets sent over the air.
I also enjoyed Elonka Dunin's talk on Kryptos, "a sculpture located on the grounds of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Installed in 1990, its thousands of characters contain encrypted messages, of which three have been solved (so far). There is still a fourth section at the bottom consisting of 97 or 98 characters which remains uncracked."
Other highlights were Vegas highlights: the patio in front of Bellagio's Prime restaurant at twilight for cocktails and the exquisite fountain show; smoking Padron R-64 Anniversario cigars with Omar at the Venetian, not to mention the fabulous Lutèce restaurant; fresh mojitos at the Pink Taco restaurant in the Hard Rock; critiquing the differences between Samba at the Mirage and Rum Jungle at the Mandalay (Rum Jungle wins hands-down both for taste and for style); the cigar bar Napoleon's at Paris Las Vegas. Not to mention that Harris Ranch has a fine reserve Merlot that complements just about anything...