Nation | Technology

What We're Watching As World's Big Hackers Meet In Las Vegas

NPR | Aug. 22, 2013 11:24 a.m.

Contributed By:

Steve Henn

None

This week the world of tech will turn its attention to Las Vegas, where two separate conferences dedicated to hacking and security are about to get under way. Each year in height of summer thousand of security researchers, hacktivists, black hats, white hats and feds descend on Vegas for BlackHat and Defcon. Here are a few stories and trends we’re keeping an eye on:

General Keith Alexander Speaks

The organizers of DefCon asked feds to consider staying away from the conference this year in aftermath of revelations of the NSA extensive phone and Data Surveillance option.

But the organizers of BlackHat asked Alexander to speak months before the details of the NSA surveillance programs where leaked by Edward Snowden. And that speech is going ahead.

<http://blogs-images.forbes.com/andygreenberg/files/2012/07/Screen-Shot-2012-07-30-at-1.06.12-AM2.png

If we can get right to picture of Alexander’s talk last year at Defcon - speaking out of uniform., that would be ideal.>>

There’s actually a long tradition of feds coming to both these events- both overtly and covertly. they not only try to keep tabs on what this community is up to – but these conferences have become a hotbed of recruiting for military intelligence, three letter agencies and other feds.

But this speech should particularly interesting. It will be the first chance for Gen. Alexander to publically respond to a growing chorus of voices in Washington DC that are calling for legislations to reign in the NSA surveillance programs and bring more transparence to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

And Alexander is going to have to deliver it skeptical – possibly hostile and technically sophisticated audience.

Barnaby Jack

Barnaby Jack was one of the good guys. he spent his professional life hacking products – not for personal gain – but instead to pressure companies to make them safer.

He became famous for hacking into ATMs and getting these machines to spew out pilescash. The hack became known as jackpotting.

<< video of Jack demonstrating the Hack for the first time at Black Hat 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwMuMSPW3bU>>

Jacks was reportedly he was found in his apartment and although foul play isn’t suspected …the cause if death is being investigated by the SF medical examiner.

The hacking community is tight knit. The announcements has been difficult for many of Jacks friends and colleagues. Jacks was well liked and widely considered to be a brilliant researcher.

He had been scheduled to deliver a talk on August 1st at Black Hat on newly discovered vulnerabilities in pacemakers. He had discovered a mobile attack that allowed him to alter their function from thirty yards away, in what he described as a potentially lethal attack. Last year Jacks demonstrated it was possible to remotely attack a insulin pump manufactured by Medtronic. That research led Medtronic to make changes in the product that made it more secure.

Hacking the ‘Internet of Things’

As more and more devices are connected to the net. More and more things can be hacked. This year at Defcon and Black Hat researchers will be showing off attacks that let them take over everything from cars to toys to smart TVs to imbedded control devices used on oil platforms.

Researchers and hackers say they worry that as non-tech industries start building embedded computers and internet connected technologies into their products – they are overlooking security. Hopefully, they say, some of the hacks unveiled this year will be a wakeup call.

Hacking Cars

In previous years researchers like Don Bailey and Mat Solnik and others demonstrated it was possible to hack into a car remotely. This year Charlie Miller and Chris Valsek hacked into a Toyota Pruis and Ford Escape. The two researchers received funding from DARPA to see if they could take control of the embedded computers that are now ubiquitous in modern cars. They did.

Here you can see them showing off what they were able to do to Forbes writer Andy Greenberg.

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