“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.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: gizmodo.com
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 ( …read on