The End of Innocence (Global Hacking Conferences)

By Goldfinger and Simon Worthington, 10 September 2001

Global Hacking Conferences

LIFESTYLE HACKING - Defcon 9, Las Vegas, USA

Defcon is not what it used to be. Nine years on, it has lost most of its former glory. Perhaps this is more symptomatic of the general shift within the global computer scene: as it becomes more open, it gets more diluted. The feel of the event is more like a pool party with the real hacking happening in hotel rooms, the hackers armed with laptops, away from the crowds.

It bills itself as the ‘largest underground security gathering on the planet’, but now its underground status is in question. San Francisco hacker Gweeds made a statement about the commercial exploitation of Defcon by passing out leaflets urging attendees to refuse the $50 door fee, to find himself escorted off the premises.

Events such as HAL and HIP pull in smaller crowds, but have a more hard-core following. What Defcon lacks in intensity it makes up for with the bizarre. Pete Shipley delivered his talk on ‘war driving’ – hacking wireless networks remotely at 40mph in a van – only to appear later at the bar in a cocktail dress.

Other notable events included the Social Engineering Contest, in which participants take turns to stand in an open phone booth on the stage and ‘engineer’ information or passwords from the ‘victim’ on the other end of the phone.


DOWN TO THE METAL - Hackers At Large 2001, Enschede, NL

The word in the weeks building up to the HAL2001 conference was that this was going to be ‘the last one’, because hackers share the belief that the future will involve further intimidation, harsh jail sentences and Gov/Corp disinformation.

At the opening address of the conference, Emmanuel Goldstein, editor in chief of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, described the predicament of a hacker community demonised by state/corporate controlled media. Over the next few days these ‘old people’ – a term from the HAL guide – presented an agenda of how to reshape the future of the Hacker movement accordingly.

With freedom of speech and information acting as the two ethical cornerstones of the Hacker Code, hackers share common ground with the anti-corporate-globalisation campaign groups and Indymedia producers. An organisation like ASCII, the Amsterdam based internet workspace running the Netherlands IMC tent, were actively pursuing this goal and looking for recruits. In some respects these two groups were made for each other: both enjoy unpicking secretive technocratic global systems, dark spaces illuminated only by monitor glow, and can only sustain a very low Away From Keyboard (AFK) time.

This year's HAL felt like ‘the last one’ in a very real way. Since we are no longer in the 'innocent' era in which knowledge of technical systems was acquired for its own sake, the Hacker Ethic must now be updated. The hackers need to acquire knowledge of the cultural and political kind, to compile some log filez of Guy Debord or Deleuze & Guattari, and then synthesise a new kind of access key – one that opens up the Global Order Inc. by the back and front doors.

Simon Worthington

Simon Worthington <simon AT>

Defcon [], 13-15 July 2001, Las Vegas, USADis.Org Crew []Wired News [,1284,45248,00.html]

Hacking at Large [], 10-12 August, Enschede, NLASCII []2600 The Hacker Quarterly []

>> Photostop - from []bottom - by Simon Worthington