Paranoia Made Me a Better Computer User, at Defcon – a reporters perspective

Defcon hacked elevator image

Having awareness of fraud, scams, and mischief is generally enough to raise the bar of safety for all consumers of technology. Certainly there are attacks and actions that criminals can take against technology that an end consumer has little protection against, but this is the proverbial “higher hanging fruit”. These days all the hacks, breaches, and news headlines are basically the low hanging fruit – common error, poor development practices, and misconfiguration. Imagine when the consumer is armed the required effort for criminals to succeed.

An entertaining and honest article on Gizmodo (honest for all the feelings he shares, and if you have ever been in a hostile environment, you’ll be able to relate) on a reporter touring the best hacker convention in the world – DefCon.

He takes most things in stride until…

The hacked elevator bothered me quite a bit actually

Preparation had made the idea of having the phone and computer hacked beyond reasonable, but expected … the concept of hacking a physical machine, like an elevator, was not. Cars hacked don’t receive the same paranoia, while I bet if you were in that car when it was electronically shut down … the feeling of trappedness of an elevator will translate to the car quite easily.

There is a good takeaway in the article and I wanted to highlight it below … check out the top “hacks” of this reporter to really understand the challenge of being in such environments:

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.

via Paranoia Made Me a Better Computer User, Gizmodo

Good luck out there!

James

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