back to article Las Vegas locks down ahead of DEF CON hacking conference

Businesses in Las Vegas are locking down their systems as hackers fly into the fetid hell of Sin City for a trio of security conferences. This week the BSides conference, Black Hat, and DEF CON are all in town and folks here are worried that their computers are going to be thoroughly subverted by visiting miscreants. Caesars …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps the person that took the picture wasn't thinking about how easy it was to subvert a computer using USB, and was thinking about the infosec email practices of the average small company, rather than a corp like UPS that might have virus and malware scanning for email...

    1. Andy Tunnah

      Virus scanners can only catch known threats or their derivatives (is that the right word ?), so if an enterprising hacker creates something knew, the scanners won't catch it.

      BTW if I'm wrong on this I'd love some education. I assume this is how it works; scanners only know what to look for because of a database and the way they act. If there's more to it than that, I'd love to learn

      1. Adam 1

        Virus scanners (pretty much all flavours) claim to use heuristic analysis of the binaries to detect likely threats. The main problem is that the bastards who write the malware can easily see if their code triggers some pattern and write some diversion to trick the heuristic pattern matching and then you get a game of cat and mouse.

        I would trust email over USB too. The USB interface was designed in a more trusting time*, so if it claims it is an Ethernet card then many OSes will immediately start sending it traffic. If it had a built in 4G then it could easily MitM. Or it could emulate a keyboard and send the shortcut keys to do whatever the logged in user can do. They might even be able to do some interesting trick pretending to be a sound card and sending voice commands as if it was a microphone input. And that is without physical damage. There is a USB stick that you can buy that basically has a capacitor inside. It takes charge for a short time, then unloads all that energy on a few chips expecting 5V 1A maximum.

        At least with email, they would have to embed a font in the PDF to pwn the machine.**

        *It is fort Knox compared to FireWire though.

        **And I wish that was a joke

        1. tlhonmey

          So... any malicious people just have to schedule their departure for the day after the end of the conference...

          Also note that not accepting jobs via USB doesn't do a lot of good unless you also block physical access to the ports...

  2. benderama
    Black Helicopters

    I would trust an email before trusting an unknown USB device from some smooth-talking fedora.

  3. regregular

    Maybe UPS has a smart tech guy who set up an machine with TAILS or a similar live read-only OS. Box is connected just to the Internet for fetching those mails with attachments and prints to a printer hooked up bia USB. No connection tomrest of machines / printers. If something b0rks salvation is just a reboot away.

    That would probably the smartest solution. Apart from just placing a cheap Staples printer on the counter and telling DefConites to install drivers and just connect to their own machine.

  4. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Temporary Security Measures

    To prevent unauthorized network usage during the DEF CON Hacking Conference, guests must follow our enhanced security protocol:

    1. Log into the public WiFi portal using your full name, email address, and Social Security Number.

    2. Check your email. We will send you a link to download a small authorization program.

    3. Download and run the attachment while logged in as an Administrator / root user.

    We apologize for any inconvenience.

    1. vir

      Re: Temporary Security Measures

      Yes, I wonder if the venue is going to try any of the various underhanded techniques to force attendees to use their slow, overloaded WiFi at exorbitant prices. I hope for the sake of all of us watching that they do.

      1. Josh 14

        Re: Temporary Security Measures

        The workarounds and/or reprisals should be amusing, at least!

    2. Field Commander A9

      Re: Temporary Security Measures

      This is actually happening everywhere in China esp. the gov hosted ones.

  5. Andy Tunnah

    Seems stupid to not accept USB

    A big company like UPS is bound to be using the best, virus-impervious computers anyway, macs.


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does DefCon livestream the talks? Like the CCC?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      I assume one just hacks the CCTV

    2. Mahhn

      Yes, but only in the contracted hotel.

  7. Haku

    Not accepting USB sticks? I don't blame 'em.

    This USB stick can destroy most computers in seconds - (url purposely non-clickable)

    There are several YouTube videos if you want to see how deadly those things are -

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Trust the hookers, don’t trust the Wi-Fi"

    If you feel you must use either service, use appropiate protection.

    1. David Roberts

      Or superglue the socket to.....

      ........oh, wait.......

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the fetid hell of Sin City

    Foetid, damnit, Foetid!

    Oe woe is me thate my native tongue be so sore beset by these barbarian neighbours, that it doth become but a shadowe of its former selfe.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ref UPS

    If you knew (or at least thought) that the security - people, process, tech - around your mail was more robust than your web or endpoint/USB then it'd be a fair statement to make. This isn't just about unknown malware and technical controls, it's about the nature of the interaction with 'front desk' personnel at that or other sites and the increased likelihood for 'gaming' with such a glut of security personnel in town.

  11. wayward4now

    Someone needs to bring a working copy of Clinton's email server and turn the crowd on it!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vegas, Baby, Vegas

    So, you have to not only be in the same city, but the same hotel, in order to mount a ransomware attack. Who knew?

  13. RudderLessIT


    I am sitting in my office and actually laughing out loud!

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