David Sonntag
24 Nov 2014

The Dark Arts: What Happens at a Hacker Conference?

Hacker conferences aren’t your typical industry get-togethers. Here are some of the traditional and unique activities you might find at an underground technology meetup.

Spot the Fed

Maybe the longest running and most notorious hacker conference of all, DEFCON, held each year in the United States (usually Vegas), has traditionally included a segment called “Spot the Fed”, where attendees take turns throughout the conference trying to unmask the undercover federal agents who are inevitably there keeping tabs on the hacker community. Anyone who correctly spots a fed gets an “I spotted the Fed” t-shirt, and lots of cred. The Fed, we understand, gets a t-shirt too.

Social Engineering Panel

“Social Engineering” is a term used to describe basic con-man tactics to gain access to restricted information. A social engineer is skilled at, for example, calling a hosting company pretending to be the owner of a website account, saying they’ve forgotten their password, and trying to get the host to read someone else’s password to them over the phone. Social engineering often happens over the phone, but it can happen in person as well.

Wanna see it in action? Check out this video, whose description reads: “Since the very first HOPE conference in 1994, the social engineering panel has been a huge draw. We basically round up a bunch of people who like to play on the phone, tell some stories, and make live calls to strangers who wind up telling us things they really shouldn’t in front of a huge crowd of people who are trying very hard not to make any noise. It’s all a lesson on how insecure information really is, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes that some unsuspecting person someplace will inevitably make when this panel randomly calls them.”

Lock Picking

Physical security, for example in terms of keeping servers and other corporate computer hardware protected from breakins, requires knowledge of basic locks. That’s why most hacker conferences include a Lockpick Village, complete with lock-picking lessons and practice spaces.
Would you like to schedule a lockpicking lesson at your next event? Contact Toool.us! Check out this video for an overview:

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