Tag Archives: Hacking

China Hacked a Navy Contractor and Stole 600GB of Data

Hackers working for the Chinese government compromised a US Navy contractor and stole a massive cache of highly sensitive data, including details about a planned supersonic anti-ship missile, American officials said Friday.

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Thieves Steal A Car In 20 Seconds By Remotely Cloning The Signal From A Keyless Fob

Here’s another reason why keyless fobs are terrible. Thieves in the United Kingdom managed to steal someone’s Mercedes-Benz in about 20 seconds by remotely boosting the car’s key signal to unlock the vehicle, according to Carscoops.

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Carefully Peel a 9V Battery to Find Smaller Batteries Inside

Carefully Peel a 9V Battery to Find Smaller Batteries Inside

If you’ve ever gotten into electronics hacking, you’ve probably had the illusion of most gadgets ruined for you. For example, 9V batteries are basically just six AAAA batteries taped together.

As reddit user usgiorgi points out, many larger store bought batteries contain a collection of smaller batteries. For manufacturing reasons this makes sense. It’s also handy if you’re building a project and need to tweak your power source.

The rest of the components are also handy. Reddit user CaptainKozmoBagel points out that you can salvage the top of a dead 9V battery to make a new 9V connecter with just a bit of wire. Keep in mind, that you shouldn’t tear into just any old battery. Lithium ion batteries (like the kind in your phone) can explode if you try to open them up. 9V batteries, though, are pretty safe to tear down.

if you need a new 9v connector, just solder an old 9v’s top up to the leads. | Reddit

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Like other powerful tools, technology can be used for great good or for great evil. Learn how people use technology for wrongdoing so you can protect yourself—or use their tricks to actually do good. Here are the top 10 “evil” ways you can use technology.

This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Sometimes evil is justified, and other times, knowing evil means knowing how to beat it. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.

http://lifehacker.com/welcome-to-lif…

10. Spoof Caller ID

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Pranksters and scammers use caller ID spoofing to take advantage of us—in common telephone scams, for example, where “Microsoft” calls to warn you your computer has a virus and they’ll help you fix it (for a fee). There are legitimate reasons why you might want to make your phone number show up differently on caller ID (e.g., place a call to a young kid as Santa or Cinderella), and there are lots of spoofing apps and services to help you do this.

9. Uncover Blurred Information in Photos

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

People blur out the information in photos to make sure sensitive information isn’t readable to others, but it turns out this strategy isn’t that secure—particularly when you’re trying to hide numbers. The takeaway: Don’t use simple mosaics to blur your image.

8. Create a USB Password Stealer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

It’s bad enough that major password leaks happen so often, hackers can steal our passwords with just a USB flash drive and a single script, grabbing our cache of passwords stored in our browser and elsewhere. You might want to test your vulnerability to this trick yourself, but either way, to protect yourself, remember the security basics: always have physical control over your computer, use a secure password manager (here’s how they compare, security-wise), and turn on two-factor authentication.

7. Get into a Private BitTorrent Tracker or Usenet Indexer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Private trackers and usenet indexers are great communities, but they take dedication and they’re hard to get into. While some of our strategies for getting into one aren’t necessarily “evil,” you’ll be working your way into exclusive private file sharing communities.

6. Spoof an Email Address

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Caller ID isn’t the only thing spammers spoof. If you’ve ever gotten a strange, spammy email from a friend—or, worse, your email account just spammed all of your contacts—you know how annoying spoofed emails can be. Here’s how data thieves spoof email addresses to phish for information or con us into sending money to Nigerian princes. If you think you’ve been impersonated, you’ll need to take some advanced steps to secure your account.

5. Snoop on Someone’s Phone or Computer Without Them Knowing

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Is your company monitoring you? Possibly. The NSA? Your ISP? Yeah. But it’s pretty easy too for a friend or family member to dig into your phone or computer without you knowing—whether by gaining physical access to your phone or computer or using remote monitoring tools. Parents might snoop on their kids, significant others might snoop on their partners out of insecurity or suspicion, whatever the reason, covering those snooping tracks isn’t that hard. If you think you might be the one being snooped on, look for signs any of those stealthy steps weren’t followed. If you share a computer with someone else, learn how you can still protect your privacy with this guide.

4. Crack a Wi-Fi Password

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

WEP passwords are too easy to crack with tools like BackTrack making it super simple to get into a WEP-”protected” router. That’s why everyone recommends using WPA—or really, WPA2, the latest encryption standard. WPA can be cracked too, though! That is, if your router has WPS turned on. So disable WPS if you can or try open-source router firmware like DD-WRT, which doesn’t support WPS.

3. Hack a Wi-Fi Network

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Why would someone want to steal your router’s password? Besides stealing your Wi-Fi bandwidth, to spy on everything going on over your network, of course. It’s amazing the DIY creations hackers can use to sniff out network packets. Fake routers and networks, created with the help of Kali Linux, for example, can be used to trick machines into connecting, and then eavesdrop on network communications. (Yes, there’s a lot of spoofing going on in this article!) This is a good time to remind you to check your router’s settings—especially these top security settings.

2. Sniff Out Passwords and Cookies

This is somewhat related to hacking a Wi-Fi network, but it’s more about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi. It’s really easy for hackers to steal your logins and snoop on your browsing session, when the network is not secure or you’re connecting to sites that don’t use HTTPS. To protect yourself, your best bet is to use a VPN whenever you’re using public Wi-Fi or follow some of these other safety precautions.

1. Break into a Computer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Finally, you might shudder to know it’s pretty easy to break into a computer, whether it’s a Windows PC or a Mac—even if your computer is password protected. If your computer is encrypted, however, such as with BitLocker (for Windows) or FileVault (on Mac), you’ll be protected from some of the more common methods hackers use to steal data from a computer. You’ll also want to make sure you have a very strong, unique password for your computer login. If you get locked out of your computer, however, and forgot your password, well, now you know how to get back in.

Illustration by Nick Criscuolo.


Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Like other powerful tools, technology can be used for great good or for great evil. Learn how people use technology for wrongdoing so you can protect yourself—or use their tricks to actually do good. Here are the top 10 “evil” ways you can use technology.

This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Sometimes evil is justified, and other times, knowing evil means knowing how to beat it. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.

http://lifehacker.com/welcome-to-lif…

10. Spoof Caller ID

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Pranksters and scammers use caller ID spoofing to take advantage of us—in common telephone scams, for example, where “Microsoft” calls to warn you your computer has a virus and they’ll help you fix it (for a fee). There are legitimate reasons why you might want to make your phone number show up differently on caller ID (e.g., place a call to a young kid as Santa or Cinderella), and there are lots of spoofing apps and services to help you do this.

9. Uncover Blurred Information in Photos

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

People blur out the information in photos to make sure sensitive information isn’t readable to others, but it turns out this strategy isn’t that secure—particularly when you’re trying to hide numbers. The takeaway: Don’t use simple mosaics to blur your image.

8. Create a USB Password Stealer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

It’s bad enough that major password leaks happen so often, hackers can steal our passwords with just a USB flash drive and a single script, grabbing our cache of passwords stored in our browser and elsewhere. You might want to test your vulnerability to this trick yourself, but either way, to protect yourself, remember the security basics: always have physical control over your computer, use a secure password manager (here’s how they compare, security-wise), and turn on two-factor authentication.

7. Get into a Private BitTorrent Tracker or Usenet Indexer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Private trackers and usenet indexers are great communities, but they take dedication and they’re hard to get into. While some of our strategies for getting into one aren’t necessarily “evil,” you’ll be working your way into exclusive private file sharing communities.

6. Spoof an Email Address

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Caller ID isn’t the only thing spammers spoof. If you’ve ever gotten a strange, spammy email from a friend—or, worse, your email account just spammed all of your contacts—you know how annoying spoofed emails can be. Here’s how data thieves spoof email addresses to phish for information or con us into sending money to Nigerian princes. If you think you’ve been impersonated, you’ll need to take some advanced steps to secure your account.

5. Snoop on Someone’s Phone or Computer Without Them Knowing

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Is your company monitoring you? Possibly. The NSA? Your ISP? Yeah. But it’s pretty easy too for a friend or family member to dig into your phone or computer without you knowing—whether by gaining physical access to your phone or computer or using remote monitoring tools. Parents might snoop on their kids, significant others might snoop on their partners out of insecurity or suspicion, whatever the reason, covering those snooping tracks isn’t that hard. If you think you might be the one being snooped on, look for signs any of those stealthy steps weren’t followed. If you share a computer with someone else, learn how you can still protect your privacy with this guide.

4. Crack a Wi-Fi Password

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

WEP passwords are too easy to crack with tools like BackTrack making it super simple to get into a WEP-”protected” router. That’s why everyone recommends using WPA—or really, WPA2, the latest encryption standard. WPA can be cracked too, though! That is, if your router has WPS turned on. So disable WPS if you can or try open-source router firmware like DD-WRT, which doesn’t support WPS.

3. Hack a Wi-Fi Network

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Why would someone want to steal your router’s password? Besides stealing your Wi-Fi bandwidth, to spy on everything going on over your network, of course. It’s amazing the DIY creations hackers can use to sniff out network packets. Fake routers and networks, created with the help of Kali Linux, for example, can be used to trick machines into connecting, and then eavesdrop on network communications. (Yes, there’s a lot of spoofing going on in this article!) This is a good time to remind you to check your router’s settings—especially these top security settings.

2. Sniff Out Passwords and Cookies

This is somewhat related to hacking a Wi-Fi network, but it’s more about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi. It’s really easy for hackers to steal your logins and snoop on your browsing session, when the network is not secure or you’re connecting to sites that don’t use HTTPS. To protect yourself, your best bet is to use a VPN whenever you’re using public Wi-Fi or follow some of these other safety precautions.

1. Break into a Computer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Finally, you might shudder to know it’s pretty easy to break into a computer, whether it’s a Windows PC or a Mac—even if your computer is password protected. If your computer is encrypted, however, such as with BitLocker (for Windows) or FileVault (on Mac), you’ll be protected from some of the more common methods hackers use to steal data from a computer. You’ll also want to make sure you have a very strong, unique password for your computer login. If you get locked out of your computer, however, and forgot your password, well, now you know how to get back in.

Illustration by Nick Criscuolo.


Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Like other powerful tools, technology can be used for great good or for great evil. Learn how people use technology for wrongdoing so you can protect yourself—or use their tricks to actually do good. Here are the top 10 “evil” ways you can use technology.

This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Sometimes evil is justified, and other times, knowing evil means knowing how to beat it. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.

http://lifehacker.com/welcome-to-lif…

10. Spoof Caller ID

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Pranksters and scammers use caller ID spoofing to take advantage of us—in common telephone scams, for example, where “Microsoft” calls to warn you your computer has a virus and they’ll help you fix it (for a fee). There are legitimate reasons why you might want to make your phone number show up differently on caller ID (e.g., place a call to a young kid as Santa or Cinderella), and there are lots of spoofing apps and services to help you do this.

9. Uncover Blurred Information in Photos

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

People blur out the information in photos to make sure sensitive information isn’t readable to others, but it turns out this strategy isn’t that secure—particularly when you’re trying to hide numbers. The takeaway: Don’t use simple mosaics to blur your image.

8. Create a USB Password Stealer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

It’s bad enough that major password leaks happen so often, hackers can steal our passwords with just a USB flash drive and a single script, grabbing our cache of passwords stored in our browser and elsewhere. You might want to test your vulnerability to this trick yourself, but either way, to protect yourself, remember the security basics: always have physical control over your computer, use a secure password manager (here’s how they compare, security-wise), and turn on two-factor authentication.

7. Get into a Private BitTorrent Tracker or Usenet Indexer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Private trackers and usenet indexers are great communities, but they take dedication and they’re hard to get into. While some of our strategies for getting into one aren’t necessarily “evil,” you’ll be working your way into exclusive private file sharing communities.

6. Spoof an Email Address

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Caller ID isn’t the only thing spammers spoof. If you’ve ever gotten a strange, spammy email from a friend—or, worse, your email account just spammed all of your contacts—you know how annoying spoofed emails can be. Here’s how data thieves spoof email addresses to phish for information or con us into sending money to Nigerian princes. If you think you’ve been impersonated, you’ll need to take some advanced steps to secure your account.

5. Snoop on Someone’s Phone or Computer Without Them Knowing

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Is your company monitoring you? Possibly. The NSA? Your ISP? Yeah. But it’s pretty easy too for a friend or family member to dig into your phone or computer without you knowing—whether by gaining physical access to your phone or computer or using remote monitoring tools. Parents might snoop on their kids, significant others might snoop on their partners out of insecurity or suspicion, whatever the reason, covering those snooping tracks isn’t that hard. If you think you might be the one being snooped on, look for signs any of those stealthy steps weren’t followed. If you share a computer with someone else, learn how you can still protect your privacy with this guide.

4. Crack a Wi-Fi Password

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

WEP passwords are too easy to crack with tools like BackTrack making it super simple to get into a WEP-”protected” router. That’s why everyone recommends using WPA—or really, WPA2, the latest encryption standard. WPA can be cracked too, though! That is, if your router has WPS turned on. So disable WPS if you can or try open-source router firmware like DD-WRT, which doesn’t support WPS.

3. Hack a Wi-Fi Network

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Why would someone want to steal your router’s password? Besides stealing your Wi-Fi bandwidth, to spy on everything going on over your network, of course. It’s amazing the DIY creations hackers can use to sniff out network packets. Fake routers and networks, created with the help of Kali Linux, for example, can be used to trick machines into connecting, and then eavesdrop on network communications. (Yes, there’s a lot of spoofing going on in this article!) This is a good time to remind you to check your router’s settings—especially these top security settings.

2. Sniff Out Passwords and Cookies

This is somewhat related to hacking a Wi-Fi network, but it’s more about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi. It’s really easy for hackers to steal your logins and snoop on your browsing session, when the network is not secure or you’re connecting to sites that don’t use HTTPS. To protect yourself, your best bet is to use a VPN whenever you’re using public Wi-Fi or follow some of these other safety precautions.

1. Break into a Computer

Top 10 Evil Ways to Use Technology

Finally, you might shudder to know it’s pretty easy to break into a computer, whether it’s a Windows PC or a Mac—even if your computer is password protected. If your computer is encrypted, however, such as with BitLocker (for Windows) or FileVault (on Mac), you’ll be protected from some of the more common methods hackers use to steal data from a computer. You’ll also want to make sure you have a very strong, unique password for your computer login. If you get locked out of your computer, however, and forgot your password, well, now you know how to get back in.

Illustration by Nick Criscuolo.


Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

Intel Outlines The Ways Your Car Can Be Hacked

Intel, the manufacturer of the majority of chips and processors included in most personal computers on sale today, have now started investigating and developing new methods of hack-proofing automobiles.

Read more…

Paranoia Made Me a Better Computer User

Paranoia Made Me a Better Computer User

“You don’t want to end up on the Wall of Sheep.” That’s the last thing my editor told me before I flew to Las Vegas to hang out at the infamous hacker convention DEF CON. A week later, I found myself standing in front of the wall, looking frantically for my name and password. Despite my obsessive caution, I knew I’d been hacked.

One morning my phone didn’t work the way it used to, and then that afternoon, the TV in my hotel room was acting strange. I heard robotic voices barking into my wireless headphones, at one point. People waved antennas in my face, and I spotted Stingrays lurking under tables. I broke out into a cold sweat at one talk, suddenly and destructively anxious that I’d left my laptop open and connected to the hotel wifi. If I had, there was a good chance that my login credentials would end up on the Wall of Sheep, where DEF CON hackers proudly displayed the personal details of people who’d been pwned at the conference (a.k.a. sheep).

DEF CON is often regarded as the zany younger sibling of the Black Hat Briefings, an annual gathering of information security professionals. If Black Hat is the Super Bowl of hacker meet ups, however, DEF CON would be the scrappy, anything-goes tackle game without pads for the people who don’t want to buy the expensive tickets. Black Hat reminds you that hackers are out there; DEF CON insists that they’re coming to get you.

But by the time it was all over, I realized there was nothing to fear — at least, as long as I configured my machines correctly. The bright, nefarious minds that flock to Las Vegas at the end of summer are our guardians. Scary as they may seem, hackers are hellbent on helping everyone enjoy a safe and open internet. Security isn’t always easy, though.

Hack Number 1: Laptop

Anybody who’s ever been to a hacker conference will tell you never, ever use wifi, no matter what. The reasoning is simple. At a hacker conference, hackers want to hack, and creating fake wifi networks is an easy way to do it. Compromising an existing wifi network is another option, albeit slightly more involved. Inevitably, you’re safest if you simply stay offline at events like DEF CON.

This wasn’t really an option for me. I’m a blogger, and much as it pains me to admit it, I need the internet to do my job. Before going to DEF CON, I’d been using a secure network for journalists at Black Hat. At DEF CON, I was told to trust not a single network. I installed a VPN service on my laptop before going, just to be safe, but I was sure it wouldn’t do much good.

So what did I do? Naturally, I went to a neighboring hotel to find an open wifi network—not that any hacker would ever be there first. I saw some obvious fakes, like “DIY Phone Gadgets Community.” But the official hotel wifi, “MGMGrandWiFi,” looked real enough.

Paranoia Made Me a Better Computer User

I joined the network and immediately regretted it. Maybe I was being paranoid, but everything looked slightly off. The landing page for the MGM Grand network could’ve been slapped together by anyone with a basic understanding of HTML. I checked the vendor for the network and found that it was sending me to a .net version of a .com domain. I slammed my computer closed and cursed myself for being such a chump.

This was my first run in with a DEF CON hacker—or at least I think it was—and the conference hadn’t even started yet. The fun was only just beginning.

Hack Number 2: Phone

The laptop was off limits for the rest of my trip, but I’d prepared for such a fate. Armed with a notebook and an iPhone, I approached the registration deck with confidence. I’d pulled up my confirmation email and felt excited to get one of the quirky DEF CON badges. This year, they were actual multi-colored vinyl records, laden with some sort of secret code pressed into the grooves, I imagined.

“We’re going to need the press person to come down and confirm that,” a surly-looking gentleman told me. His red T-shirt said “GOON” in all caps. I asked why, and his response was blunt, “Anybody can fake an email. She needs to make sure it’s really you, in person.”

The Goon left me standing there for 45 minutes, while we waited for the press person to appear. She did, and I hurried off to my first session. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I’d failed to switch my phone into airplane mode. This was the plan since it could easily connect to a fake cell phone access point set up by some identity-stealing hacker. Already nervous, I paused in the hallway of the conference center to make the switch. My phone wouldn’t unlock.

“Touch ID does not recognize your fingerprint,” said the lock screen, over and over again. That didn’t seem right. This had never happened before. I tried again.

“Your passcode is required to enable Touch ID,” said a new message. That really didn’t seem right. Why was my phone telling me to enable Touch ID when I’d just used it? Did I fiddle with it in my pocket while I was waiting? Was I locked out of my own phone?

I convinced myself that I’d been hacked, again. I walked out of the hotel, activated airplane mode, and unlocked my phone with a passcode that I was sure a hacker could read. I adjusted my security settings and picked a new, ultra-secure passcode with a dozen characters. This would keep me safe.

Hack Number 3: TV

It was towards the end of my first day at DEF CON that I felt my paranoia peaking. I retreated to my hotel room before dinner so that I could get some rest and catch my breath. Outside, the Las Vegas strip was starting to light up. There was a massive ferris wheel towering over a cheap casino right outside my window, and I wondered what the view looked like from the top.

Too frightened to try the hotel wifi, I decided to watch TV. It felt so old fashioned! I pulled up the channel guide thinking of hot summer nights in high school, when I was stuck out in the country with nothing but cable to entertain me. An uncanny sense of dread snapped me out of my nostalgia. The channels weren’t right. Everything was in Chinese.

Paranoia Made Me a Better Computer User

I kept cycling through the channels. Some were filled with static; others appeared to be game shows from Beijing. Then I landed on the DEF CON channels, a handful of them. This was unusual, because the channels only displayed garbled versions of the DEF CON logo. The whole scene seemed post-apocalyptic, like a space bomb had leveled all of the American satellites, leaving only signals from the hackers and the other side of the planet visible.

I convinced myself that it was a prank. Some cheeky DEF CON Goon had spliced his way into the hotel’s TV system and broadcast Chinese gameshows along with foreboding messages from hackers. A bead of cold sweat dripped down my temple. There was nowhere to hide.

Hack Number 4: Elevator

I had to get out. When I opened the door to the hallway, a scream ripped through the hallways. I looked both ways but didn’t see a soul. So naturally, I started running.

A small crowd had gathered by the elevators, each with a white record dangling around his neck. White meant they were regular DEF CON attendees (categorized as “human” by the DEF CON organizational scheme), and I was thrilled to be in the presence of hackers I could actually see. We waited in silence, only interrupted by the occasional slurping of a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. The elevator made a ding and swoosh sound as it opened. I zipped on and punched the button for the casino.

“That button look weird to anybody else?” asked one of the spiked lemonade connoisseurs. He pointed to floor 22. Though we were moving down, away from the 22nd floor, the button flickered on and off in an obvious rhythm.

Paranoia Made Me a Better Computer User

“That bother anybody else that they’re fucking with the elevators?” said his friend, chuckling. He pointed out that the display above the door had also been taken over. Instead of displaying whichever floor we were on, it just said “CE” and flickered, like the button for the 22nd floor.

It bothered me. The hacked elevator bothered me quite a bit actually, since it was a necessary piece of physical infrastructure that could ostensibly malfunction and cause a terrible accident. I could get over not being able to use my phone or laptop. But I couldn’t fathom the thought of fearing for my life every time I went up to my hotel room.

My paranoia was evolving into panic when the elevator opened out into the casino. There was a small scrum of people, some unwelcome commotion. I saw a security guard tugging on a young woman with an expensive-looking camera. I looked around, confused, and saw why. John McAfee, the infamous anti-virus software magnate, was strolling through the lobby clutching a tall boy and smirking like a smug rock star. He must’ve just gotten out of jail.

Hack Number 5: Bluetooth

I couldn’t take it any more. I had to call home and speak to a familiar voice, so I ventured up the strip, this time several hotels away from Bally’s. This was far enough away that I’d be safe from the reach of any data-munching antennas or signal jammers. This was safe.

Like any frightened 31-year-old man in an unfamiliar town, my first thought was to call my mother. I dug my wireless headphones out of my bag and hit the speed dial. I heard “Hello” on the other end of the line, and then a screeching noise, one I’d never heard before. That was it. I was fully compromised. Even my phone’s Bluetooth had been hacked, and I had no way to contact my loved ones. I might as well just give in. I might as well let myself become part of DEF CON if DEF CON was going to take me over. I might as well let the fear surround me and devour me, like Batman does.

I turned off my phone, turned back to Bally’s, and towards my terror.

The Hackers’ Ball

Inside was a giant party. The casino had filled up with record-toting computer nerds, each exhibiting his or her own variation of cyberpunk extravagance. Some held displays high up above the crowd, shouting inaudible chants. One group dressed in lab coats with the phrase “DEF CON LABS” printed on the back. Another wore backpacks filled with pulsating LED lights and glowing goggles. One pack was passing a handle of vodka around a circle and drinking straight from the bottle.

I floated through the crowd with a distant sense of wonderment. This was a young and rowdy group, but they weren’t out to get anyone. They were fucking with me because I let them, and I let them because I, like much of the world, am often oblivious to how much I’m exposing myself on the internet and on computers in general.

Paranoia Made Me a Better Computer User

The rest of that night in Las Vegas is a bit of a blur. I slammed some Mike’s Hard Lemonade with some hackers and played some video games. I talked to security experts who’d traveled from all corners of the globe, from Idaho to China. Everyone seemed thrilled to be there, and the most I thought about the weird glitches that had defined my day at DEF CON — the fake wifi network, the iPhone error, the weird TV channels, the scary elevator, the garbled headphones — weren’t as bizarre and terrifying as they’d seemed.

In fact, on any other day and in any other place, I’d take the glitches in stride. I’ve joined fake wifi networks before. My iPhone does weird stuff pretty often. Hotel TV is weird in general. All elevators are scary. And Bluetooth sucks on most headphones.

A realization flooded over me in the hot Las Vegas night. Despite my mounting paranoia and in spite of my own faults, I probably hadn’t been hacked at all. If anything I was a little bit safer at DEF CON, because I was paying closer attention to my security. Much more so than in my daily life in New York City, I was aware that I could be hacked at any moment at DEF CON. At that moment I saw these wily hackers as optimists, knights in nerd armor who believe that we can be safer — if only we truly understand the dangers out there, inside our machines. They’re the ones paying attention when you’re not.

At the end of the night, I gazed up at the Wall of Sheep. Even if I had been hacked, I didn’t care any more. I almost wanted to see my name pop up. I was going to change all my passwords regardless. At least this way I’d get a little bit of recognition for being a part of the process.

Illustration by Jim Cooke / Photos by Adam Clark Estes


Contact the author at adam@gizmodo.com.
Public PGP key
PGP fingerprint: 91CF B387 7B38 148C DDD6 38D2 6CBC 1E46 1DBF 22

Small Wireless Car Devices Allow Hackers to Take Control of a Vehicle’s Brakes 

Last month, security researchers showed the world that a car can be hijacked from thousands of miles away using its internet-connected entertainment system. As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, there may be an even simpler way to take remote control of somebody else’s car: By hacking into small, internet-enabled device people plug directly into the dashboard to save money on car insurance.

Read more…

Russians Blamed for Cyberattack on Pentagon Email Systems 

Russia is the leading suspect behind a cyberattack that prompted the Pentagon to take an unclassified email system offline last month. According to NBC News, that the email system has been offline ever since.

Read more…