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    - Jul 20th, '01

    DEFCON 9

    DEFCON - Hackers, freakers, feds, geeks, nerds. More than ever I'm thinking that these folks are going to be the saviors of our freedom rather than the ravaging horde pounding down the city gates.

    With Microsoft (highly insecure, highly anti-privacy) found guilty but left to continue their plans for total world domination, and Adobe (don't question our software or we'll sic the FBI on you) helping government write laws that attack free speech, these are the folks that will protect us. The nerds, geeks and hackers who have been crucified by the media for years.

    Why do I say that? Because they are the only ones who are tracking down the truth and risking prison time to make sure you hear it.

    Microsoft doesn't care about security (if it's not secure, how come everybody keeps using it?) and they are actually planning on owning all of your personal information. Who is going to tell you the truth? The government that is now bought and paid for by big-business? Aging consumer advocates who can't tell telnet from NetBEUI? Lawyers who are trying to cling to old ways so dead they're no longer enforceable?

    Can twelve year old script kiddies access and take control of *your* computer? The one you're reading this on? If you don't know the answer then they probably can.

    Here's the group from the "Meet the Feds" panel. These are all federal agents, except for the guy on the left who is a congressman from Arizona.

    Last year these folks begged us to stop breaking into government computers. They said they couldn't stop us, security was almost non-existent, and they were spending all of their time tracking down nuisance attacks.

    Of course several people asked why we should just accept that government computers, which hold *our* private data, be wide open to script kiddies all over the world. What would be the incentive to spend the money to secure these machines if we didn't show them to be unprotected? And if they were going to tell us kids with canned scripts could break into government computer, how paranoid should we be about the privacy and integrity of our data?

    This year they did a complete 180. That guy second from the left is from the GAO. It's his job to do security audits on government computers by trying to break into them. He said we were right. The government wouldn't do the work to secure things unless security became such a problem that they had no choice. The congressman agreed.

    They didn't ask us to stop, they said we should stay the course and make sure our congressmen knew just how bad the problem was. They said our data was *not* secure, and that without the work of hackers to expose vulnerabilities, no one would know about that until it was to late.

    Okay. Whatever. I'm getting too preachy.

    Here's part of the "capture the flag" area. These folks are trying to break into computers that other participants have set up and hardened.

    More of this needs to happen. It's the only way computers will become more secure. One person sets up a secure box, hundreds of smart people try to break into it, and we all learn what works and what doesn't.

    Someone asked a while back if "hackers" had gotten a bad rap. Yes, they have. And it's unfortunate.

    Here's a good example of how low attendance was this year. Last year this room was packed with people standing all along the walls.

    All of the dot com trash that were packing the place the last two years had washed out and gone back to flipping burgers or marketing or whatever the hell they did before computers became a get-rich-quick scheme.

    All of the people here actually look like hackers and computer people. The NT crowd seems to be avoiding the place. Lots of black t-shirts with silly sayings. The guy in front of me at this panel was wearing a shirt covered with source code and the label "css_descramble.c". Cool. I like it better this way.

    This is Richard Thieme, one of my favorite speakers. He tends to spend too much time talking about space aliens, but other than that it's always great stuff.

    He has a website here where you can read his speech from last year.



    "All of the people here actually look like hackers and computer people." Yeah, I was just thinking "wow, they look like I all the guys I knew at MIT way back when." Nice that some things don't change.

    I really want to be able to make a thought provoking, intelegent comment on the last two days of your posts, but all I can come up with is: I want to bury my head in the sand. -Erik

    You lost me. Why do you want to hide your head in the sand?

    Adobe, Microsoft, Congress... All these very stupid, very powefull groups. Pretty soon my life will belong to microsoft, secured by adobe, and all this made law. Ok, so I'm dwelling, but it is scary. Ah though, it is a good day to be running Linux and using PGP ans SSH.

    No, you didn't need any more shit today.....I'm finding your posts on the Defcon thing very interesting. It's kind of like a game for me trying to figure out something that I think I might understand...You seem to be saying that maybe I should be concerned about using the Quicken tax program for security reasons. I was about to order next years. Should I go back to doing it by hand? I have learned to log out of secure sites AND close them when I'm finished. On another note--Your grandparents will be moving into an assisted living as soon as their house sells (within a couple of months I expect). If you can think of anything you want, you need to speak up now so it doesn't get thrown out or given away.....

    I did some simple things to harden the computer I gave you. We could put a firewall on it to lock things down more, but I wouldn't worry about it. The firewall can be a pain if you don't know what it's doing. Keeping your anti virus up to date, and never, never, never opening attachments that you aren't expecting is probably all you need to do. Opening attachments, even from people you know, is very dangerous. With dial up accounts like yours, hackers would only go for the low hanging fruit. I turned off and deleted the insecure stuff. I don't think you should worry about it. However, I never have my computer connected to the net while I'm using tax software. And I certainly wouldn't put my account information into one. If you let Quicken store your information on *their* systems, you are trusting that their network will never get hacked. I suspect they have some of the best security around, but that's because they'd have to. All that consumer data is like a pile of gold to hackers. In real terms I suspect the risk is very, very small. But I like to err on the side of paranoia.

    I guess what I'm saying is that you should buy the tax software and be sure to follow the directions. I don't think it's really anything you need to worry about.

    Jon --- I hope your having a nice day and feeling well. Love

    Thanks. I love you folks too. I feel like total dog shit today. I want to break things. I want to crawl in a hole and pull the lid closed. I want pound on things until my hands are broken and bloody. I want to lie on the floor and cry. I wish I could stop shaking. I wish my insides would stop melting. I wish things were different. But they're not.

    Hand on screen.
    Posted by Amber Eden at 1:34 PM EST on Jul 20th, '01

    I wish there was something I could do to make you feel better. You are loved by a lot of people and have touched many people's lives in a positive way. Perhaps you should concentrate on that.
    Posted by priestess at 2:11 PM EST on Jul 20th, '01

    or I could send you my home computer and a baseball bat...
    Posted by Priestess at 2:13 PM EST on Jul 20th, '01

    "I wish there was something I could do to make you feel better." Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thanks. But look...... Clearly I'm wallowing in self pity. You don't need to encourage me. Tell me that I'm a big boy and I need to stop whining. I'm going to the Godsmack concert tonight. I'll get down in the pit and let people beat the crap out of me. Let's see me pull off this little pity party with a broken nose and an eye swelled shut. (and thanks)

    Jon, if it makes you feel any better, you've just described how I feel almost exactly.

    Jon-Have fun at the Godsmack concert tonight! Matt-I'm sorry you are feeling down
    Posted by Priestess at 4:08 PM EST on Jul 20th, '01

    Jon always puts up pictures of his dinner. I can't do that, but dad said that probably nobody in Montana was having what we had tonight. We bought 1 and 1/2 #'s of silver salmon fillet for $4 a # at Safeway yesterday. Today he dug out a few little red "new" potatoes from our numerous plants and harvested 2 nice zucchini. The menu was as follows: Salmon Fillets with orange/tomato/shallot sauce, Baked Zucchini stuffed with onion/porcini mushroom/bread crumbs and fresh herbs from the garden, Little Red Potatoes with dill/parsley/butter sauce, and a nice Chardonney...It was pretty on the plate, too!!! WE missed you, Jon. Hope you're having fun at the concert...

    "Opening attachments, even from people you know, is very dangerous. " Did you see that new one that just came out? Where it asks you for your advice about an attachment in either English or Spanish? It's the Sircam Worm, kiddies. I've gotten about six of them in the past 24 hours. (Not that anyone here is stupid enough to click on a .pif, .bat or .scr file, right?)

    "Clearly I'm wallowing in self pity. You don't need to encourage me. Tell me that I'm a big boy and I need to stop whining. " Everyone has a constitutional right to wallow in self pity. People that tell you to stop whining are just trying to turn the conversation back to themselves rather than listen to what you have to say. In my experience anyhow. Besides, if you don't wallow in it now it'll just come back and hit you later. Wish I had some sage advise, but there's no quick fix for pain. Depends on how you get rid of such emotion - I go for a pint of Bluebell ice cream and a sappy movie on AMC to cry over. Friends of mine go to the batting cage and beat the hell out of baseballs - or the driving range and do the same with golfballs. Or a rousing game of Doom on god mode. But some slamming in the mosh pit should help a little... And just keep repeating to yourself - it gets better...it gets easier... That's the only thing that keeps me crawling out of the depression hole...pit of despair, whatever you want to call it... You too Matt. Take care. Wish making people feel better was as easy as just posting a message here....

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