AOH :: P46-19.TXT

Cyber Christ Meets Lady Luck Part I


                              ==Phrack Magazine==

                 Volume Five, Issue Forty-Six, File 19 of 28

****************************************************************************

                      DefCon II: Las Vegas

                  Cyber-Christ meets Lady Luck

                        July 22-24, 1994

                        by Winn Schwartau
              		   (C) 1994
         

Las  Vegas connotes radically different images to radically  dif
ferent  folks.   The Rat Pack of Sinatra, Dean Martin  and  Sammy 
Davis  Jr.  elicits up the glistening self-indulgent  imagery  of  
Vegas'   neon  organized  crime in the  '50's   (Ocean's  Eleven 
displayed only minor hacking skills.)

Then  there's the daily bus loads of elderly nickel  slot  gam
blers from Los Angeles and Palm Springs who have nothing  better 
to  do  for twenty out of twenty four hours each  day.   (Their 
dead  husbands were golf hacks.)   Midwesterners  now  throng to 
the Mississippi River for cheap gambling.

Recreational vehicles of semi-trailor length from East  Bullock, 
Montana  and  Euclid, Oklahoma and Benign, Ohio clog  routes  80 
and 40 and 10 to descend with a vengeance upon an asphalt  home 
away  from home in the parking lot of Circus Circus.  By  cul
tural demand, every Rv'er worth his salt must, at least once in 
his life,  indulge in the depravity of Glitter Gulch.  

And  so they come, compelled by the invisibly insidious  derelict 
attraction  of a desert Mecca whose only purpose in life  is  to 
suck  the  available  cash from  addicted  visitor's  electronic 
purses of ATM and VISA cards. (Hacker?  Nah . . .)

Vegas  also has the distinction of being home to the largest  of 
the largest conventions and exhibitions in the world.   Comdex 
is the world's largest computer convention where 150,000  techno-
dweebs  and  silk  suited glib  techno-marketers  display  their 
wares  to a public who is still paying off  the 20% per  annum 
debt  on last year's greatest new electronic gismo which  is 
now rendered thoroughly obsolete.  And the Vegas Consumer  Elec
tronic  Show does for consumer electronics what the First  Amend
ment does for pornography.  (Hackers, are we getting close?)

In between, hundreds upon hundreds of small conferences and 
conventions  and sales meetings and annual excuses  for  excess 
all  select Las Vegas as the ultimate host city.  Whatever  you 
want, no matter how decadent, blasphemous, illegal or immoral, at 
any  hour, is yours for the asking, if you have cash or a  clean 
piece of plastic.  

So, it comes as no surprise, that sooner or later, (and it turns 
out to be sooner) that the hackers of the world, the computer 
hackers, phone phreaks, cyber-spooks, Information Warriors, data 
bankers, Cyber-punks, Cypher-punks, eavesdroppers, chippers, 
virus  writers  and  perhaps the occasional  Cyber  Christ  again 
picked Las Vegas as the 1994 site for DefCon II. 

You see, hackers are like everyone else (sort of) and so they, 
too, decided that their community was also entitled to hold 
conferences and conventions.

DefCon  (as opposed to Xmas's HoHoCon), is the  premier  mid-year 
hacker extravaganza.  Indulgence gone wild, Vegas notwithstanding 
if  previous Cons are any example; but now put a  few  hundred 
techno-anarchists  together in sin city USA, stir  in  liberal 
doses  of  illicit controlled pharmaceutical substances, and  we 
have a party that Hunter Thompson would be proud to attend.

All  the while, as this anarchistic renegade regiment marches  to 
the tune of a 24 hour city, they are under complete  surveillance 
of  the authorities.  Authorities like the FBI, the Secret  Serv
ice,  telephone security . . . maybe even Interpol.  And how  did 
the  "man"  arrive in tow behind the techno-slovens  that  belong 
behind bars?

They were invited.

And so was I.  Invited to speak. (Loose translation for standing 
up  in front of hundreds of hackers and being verbally  skewered 
for having an opinion not in 100% accordance with their own.)   

"C'mon,  it'll be fun," I was assured by DefCon's organizer,  the 
Dark Tangent.

"Sure  fired way to become mutilated monkey meat,"  I  responded.  
Some  hackers just can't take a joke, especially after  a  prison 
sentence and no opposite-sex sex.

"No really, they want to talk to you . . ."

"I bet."

It's  not that I dislike hackers - on the contrary.  I have  even 
let a few into my home to play with my kids.  It's just that,  so 
many  of the antics that hackers have precipitated at  other Cons 
have  earned them a reputation of disdain by all, save those  who 
remember  their own non-technical adolescent shenanigans.  And  I 
guess I'm no different.  I've heard the tales of depraved  indif
ference,  hotel  hold-ups, government raids on folks  with  names 
similar to those who are wanted for pushing the wrong key on  the 
keyboard and getting caught for it.  I wanted to see teens and X-
generation types with their eyes so star sapphire glazed over that 
I could trade them for chips at the craps table.   

Does  the truth live up to the fiction?  God, I hope so. It'd  be 
downright  awful and unAmerican if 500 crazed hackers didn't  get 
into at least some serious trouble.  

So I go to Vegas because, because, well, it's gonna be fun.  And, 
if I'm lucky, I might even see an alien spaceship.  

For you see, the party has already begun.


I  go to about 30 conventions and conferences a year, but  rarely 
if ever am I so Tylonol and Aphrin dosed that I decide to go with 
a severe head cold.  Sympomatic relief notwithstanding I  debated 
and  debated, and since my entire family was down with  the  same 
ailment  I figured Vegas was as good a place to be as at home  in 
bed.   If  I could survive the four and half  hour  plane  flight 
without  my  Eustahian tubes rocketing through my ear  drums  and 
causing  irreparable damage, I had it made.

The  flight was made tolerable becuase I scuba dive.   Every  few 
minutes I drowned out the drone of the engines by honking  uncon
trollably  like  Felix  Ungerto without his  aspirator.   To  the 
chagrin of my outspoken counter surveillance expert and traveling 
mate,  Mike  Peros and the rest of the first  class  cabin,   the 
captain reluctantly allowed be to remain on the flight and not be 
expelled sans parachute somewhere over Southfork, Texas.   Snort, 
snort.  Due to extensive flirting with the two ladies across  the 
aisle, we made the two thousand mile trek in something less  than 
34  minutes . . . or so it seemed.  Time flies took on new  mean
ing. 

For  those who don't know, the Sahara Hotel is the dregs  of  the 
Strip.   We were not destined for Caesar's or the MGM or  any  of 
the  new multi-gazillion dollar hotel cum casinos  which  produce 
pedestrian  stopping  extravaganzas as an inducement to  suck  in 
little old ladies to pour endless rolls of Washington quarters in 
mechanical  bottomless pits. The Sahara was built some 200  years 
ago  by native slave labor whose idea of plumbing is  clean  sand 
and  decorators  more concerned with a mention in Mud  Hut  Daily 
than Architectural Digest.  It was just as depressingly dingy and 
solicitly low class as it was when I forced to spend eleven  days 
there (also with a killer case of the flu) for an extended Comdex 
computer show.  But, hey, for a hacker show, it was top flight.  

"What hackers?" The desk clerk said when I asked about the show.

I explained.  Computer hackers: the best from all over the  coun
try.  "I hear even Cyber Christ himself might appear."

Her  quizzical  look emphasized her pause.  Better  to  ignore  a 
question   not understood than to look stupid.  "Oh,  they'll  be 
fine,  We have excellent security."  The security people, I found 
out  shortly thereafter knew even less: "What's a  hacker?"   Too 
much  desert sun takes its toll.  Proof positive photons are  bad 
for neurons.  

Since it was still only 9PM Mike and I sucked down a couple of $1 
Heinekens in the casino and fought it out with Lineman's  Switch
ing  Union representatives who were also having their  convention 
at the Sahara.  Good taste in hotels goes a long way.  

"$70,000  a  year to turn a light from red to  green?"   we  com
plained.

"It's a tension filled job . . .and the overtime is murder."

"Why a union?"

"To protect our rights."

"What rights?"

"To make sure we don't get replaced by a computer . . ."

"Yeah,"   I  agreed.   "That  would  be  sad.   No  more   Amtrak 
disasters."  The crowd got ugly so we made a hasty retreat  under 
the scrutiny of casino security to our rooms. Saved.

Perhaps  if  I  noticed or had read the  original  propaganda  on 
DefCon, I might have known that nothing significant was going  to 
take  place  until the following (Friday) evening  I  might  have 
missed all the fun.

For  at around 8AM, my congestion filled cavities  and  throbbing 
head was awakened by the sound of an exploding toilet.  It's kind 
of  hard  to  explain what this sounds like.   Imagine  a  toilet 
flushing  through  a  three megawatt sound system  at  a  Rolling 
Stones concert. Add to that the sound of a hundred thousand   flu 
victims standing in an echo chamber cleansng their sinuses into a 
mountain  of  Kleenex while three dozen  football  referees  blow 
their foul whistles in unison, and you still won't come close  to 
the  sheer cacophonous volume that my Saharan toilet exuded  from 
within its bowels.  And all for my benefit.  

The  hotel  manager  thought I was kidding.  "What  do  you  mean 
exploded?"

"Which word do you not understand?" I growled in my early morning 
sub-sonic voice.  "If you don't care, I don't."  

My  bed was floating.  Three or maybe 12 inches of water  created 
the damnedest little tidal wave I'd ever seen, and the sight  and 
sound  of  Lake Meade in room 1487 only exascerbatd the  pressing 
need to relieve myself.  I dried my feet on the extra bed linens, 
worried  about electrocution and fell back asleep. It could  have 
been  3  minutes or three hours later - I have no way to  know  -  
but  my hypnogoic state was rudely interrupted by  hotel  mainte
nance pounding at the door with three fully operational  muffler-
less jack hammers.

"I  can't  open  it," I bellowed over the continual  roar  of  my 
personal  Vesuvius Waterfall.  "Just c'mon in."   The  fourteenth 
floor hallway had to resemble an underwater coral display becuase 
the door opened ever so slowly..

"Holy Christ!"  

Choking  back  what would have been a painful laugh,  I  somehow 
eeked out the words, with  a smirk, "Now you know what an explo-
ding  toilet  is like."

For,  I  swear, the next two hours three men  whose  English  was 
worse  than a dead Armadillo attempted to suck up the Nile  River 
from my room and the hallway.  Until that very moment in time,  I 
didn't  know  that  hotels were outfitted  with  vacuum  cleaners 
specifically designed to vacuum water.  Perhaps this is a regular 
event.


Everyone  who has ever suffered through one bitches  about  Vegas 
buffets,  and  even the hackers steered away  from  the  Sahara's  
$1.95  "all you can eat" room: "The Sahara's buffet is the  worst 
in  town;  worse than Circus Circus."  But since I  had  left  my 
taste  buds  at 37,000 feet along with schrapneled pieces  of  my 
inner ear, I sought out sustenance only to keep me alive  another 
24 hours.

By mid afternoon, I had convinced myself that outside was not the 
place  to be. After only eighteen minutes of  120  sidewalk  egg-
cooking  degrees, the hot desert winds took what was left  of  my 
breath  away  and with no functioning airways as it was,  I  knew 
this  was  a big mistake.  So, hacker convention, ready  or  not, 
here I come.

Now,  you  have to keep in mind that Las Vegas  floor  plans  are 
designed  with  a singular purpose in mind. No matter  where  you 
need to go, from Point A to Point B or Point C or D or  anywhere, 
the traffic control regulations mandated by the local police  and 
banks require that you walk by a minimum of 4,350 slot  machines, 
187  gaming  tables of various persuasions and no  less  than  17 
bars.  Have they no remorse?  Madison Avenue ad execs take heed! 

So, lest I spend the next 40 years of my life in circular pursuit 
of  a  sign-less hacker convention losing every last  farthing  I 
inherited from dead Englishmen, I asked for the well hidden loca-
tion at the hotel lobby.

"What  hackers?"  There goes that nasty photon  triggered  neuron 
depletion again.

"The computer hackers."

"What computer hackers.  We don't have no stinking hackers . . ."  
Desk clerk humor, my oxymoron for the week.
 
I tried the name: DefCon II.

"Are  we going to war?"  one ex-military Uzi-wielding guard  said 
recognizing the etymology of the term. 

"Yesh, it's true"  I used my most convincing tone. "The  Khasaks
tanis  are coming with nuclear tipped lances riding hundred  foot 
tall  horses.   Paris has already fallen.  Berlin  is  in  ruins.  
Aren't you on the list to defend this great land?"

"Sure as shit am!"   He scampered off to the nearest phone in  an 
effort  to  be the first on the front lines.   Neuron  deficiency 
beyong surgical repair..

I  slithered down umpteen hallways and casino aisles lost in  the 
jungle of jingling  change.   Where the  hell  are  the  hackers?   
"They must be there," another neuron-impoverished Saharan employ
ee said as he pointed towards a set of escalators at the very far 
end of the casino.  

All the way at the end of the almost 1/4 mile trek through  Sodom 
and Gonorrhea an 'up' escalator promised to take me to hackerdom.  
Saved  at last.  Upstairs.  A conference looking area.  No  signs 
anywhere,  save  one of those little black  Velcro-like  stick-em 
signs where you can press on white block letters.

	               No Mo Feds

I must be getting close. Aha, a maintenance person; I'll ask him.  
"What hackers?  What's DefCon."

Back  downstairs,  through the casino, to the  front  desk,  back 
through  the casino, up the same escalator again. Room One I  was 
told.   Room  One  was empty.  Figures.  But, at the  end  of   a 
hallway,  past the men's room and the phones, and  around  behind 
Room One I saw what I was looking for: a couple of dozen T-shirt
ed,  Seattle grunged out kids (read: under 30) sitting at  uncov
ered  six foot folding tables hawking their DefCon  II  clothing, 
sucking  on Heinekens and amusing themselves with  widely  strewn 
backpacks and computers and cell phones.

I had arrived!

			* * * *

You  know,  regular old suit and tie conferences  could  learn  a 
thing or two from Jeff Moss, the man behind DefCon II.  No  fancy 
badge making equipment; no $75 per hour union labor built  regis
tration  desks; no big signs proclaiming the wealth of  knowledge 
to  be gained by signing up early.  Just a couple of kids with  a 
sheet of paper and a laptop.  

It turned out I was expected.  They handed me my badge and what a 
badge it was.  I'm color blind, but this badge put any psychedel
ically induced spectral display to shame.  In fact it was a close  
match  to the Sahara's mid 60's tasteless casino carpeting  which 
is so chosen as to hide the most disgusting regurgative blessing.  
But better and classier.

The neat thing was, you could (in fact had to) fill out your  own 
badge  once  your name was crossed off the piece  of  paper  that 
represented the attendee list.  

Name:
Subject of Interest:
E-Mail:

Fill  it  out  any way you want.  Real name,  fake  name,  alias, 
handle  - it really doesn't matter cause the  hacker  underground 
ethic  encourages anonymity.  "We'd rather not know who  you  are 
anyway, unless you're a Fed.  Are you a Fed?"

A  couple of lucky hackers wore the ultimate badge of honor.   An 
"I  Spotted A Fed" T-shirt.  This elite group sat or lay  on  the 
ground watching and scouring the registration area for signs that 
someone,  anyone, was a Fed.  They really didn't care or  not  if 
you  were a Fed - they wanted the free T-shirt and the  peer  re
spect that it brought.

I'm over 30 (OK, over 35) and more than a few times (OK, a little 
over 40) I had to vehemently deny being a Fed.  Finally Jeff Moss 
came to the rescue.

"He's not a Fed.  He's a security guy and a writer."

"Ugh!  That's worse.  Can I get a T-shirt cause he's  a  writer?"  
No way hacker-breath.

Jeff.   Jeff Moss. Not what I expected.  I went to school with  a 
thousand Jeff Mosses.  While I had hair down to my waist, wearing 
paisley leather fringe jackets and striped bell bottoms so wide I 
appeared to be standing on two inverted ice cream cones, the Jeff 
Mosses  of  the world kept  their parents  proud.   Short,  short 
cropped  hair,  acceented by an ashen pall and  clothes  I  stlll 
wouldn't  wear  today.  They could get away with  anything  cause 
they  didn't look the part of radical chic.  Jeff, I really  like 
Jeff: he doesn't look like what he represents.  Bruce  Edelstein, 
(now of HP fame) used to work for me.  He was hipper than hip but 
looked squarer than square.  Now today that doesn't mean as  much 
as  it used to, but we ex-30-somethings have a hard time  forget
ting  what rebellion was about. (I was suspended 17 times in  the 
first semester of 10th grade for wearing jeans.)

Jeff  would  fit into a Corporate Board Meeting if  he  wore  the 
right suit and uttered the right eloquencies:  Yes, that's it:  A 
young  Tom Hanks.  Right.  I used to hate Tom Hanks (Splash,  how 
fucking stupid except for the TV-picture tube splitting  squeals) 
but  I've come to respect the hell out of him as an actor.   Jeff 
never  had to pass through that first phase.  I  instantly  liked 
him and certainly respect his ability to pull off a full  fledged 
conference for only $5000.  

You  read  right. Five grand and off to Vegas with  300  of  your 
closest personal friends, Feds in tow, for a weekend of electron
ic  debauchery.   "A few hundred for the brochure, a few  hundred 
hear, a ton in phone bills, yeah, about $5000 if no one does  any 
damage."   Big time security shows cost $200,000 and up.   I  can 
honestly  say  without meaning anything pejorative at any  of  my 
friends and busienss acquaintances, that I do not learn 40  times 
as  much  at the 'real' shows.  Something is definitely out of  
whack  here.  Suits want to see suits.  Suits want to see  fancy.  
Suits want to see form, substance be damned.  Suits should take a 
lesson from my friend Jeff.

			* * * * *

I again suffered through a tasteless Saharan buffer dinner  which 
cost me a whopping $7.95.  I hate grits - buttered sand is what I 
call  them  - but in this case might well have  been  preferable.  
Somehow  I  coerced a few hackers to join me in  the  ritualistic 
slaughter of our taste buds and torture of our intestines.   They 
were  not pleased with my choice of dining, but then who gives  a 
shit?  I couldn't taste anything anyway.  Tough. 

To keep our minds off of the food we talked about something much 
more pleasant: the recent round of attacks on Pentagon  computers 
and  networks.  "Are the same people involved as in the  sniffing 
attacks earlier this year?" I asked my triad of dinner mates. 

"Indubitably."

"And what's the reaction from the underground - other hackers?"

Coughs, sniffs.  Derisive visual feedback. Sneers. The finger.

"We can't stand 'em.  They're making it bad for everybody."   Two 
fingers.

By and large the DefCon II hackers are what I call 'good hackers' 
who hack, and maybe crack some systems upon occasion, but  aren't 
what  I refer to as Information Warriors in the bad sense of  the 
word.   This group claimed to extol the same position as most  of 
the  underground  would:   the Pentagon sniffing  crackers  -  or 
whoever  who  is assaulting thousands of computers on the  net  - 
must be stopped. 

"Scum bags, that what they are."  I asked that they not sugarcoat 
their feelings on my behalf.  I can take it.  "These fuckers  are 
beyond belief; they're mean and don't give a shit how much damage 
they  do."  We played with our food only to indulge in the single 
most  palatable edible on display: ice cream with gobs of  choco
late syrup with a side of coffee. . 

The big question was, what to do?  The authorities are  certainly 
looking  for a legal response; perhaps another Mitnick or  Phiber 
Optik.   Much  of  the underground cheered when  Mark  Abene  and 
others from the reknowned Masters of Destruction went to spend  a 
vacation  at the expense of the Feds.  The MoD was up to no  good 
and  despite  Abene's cries that there was no such thing  as  the 
MoD, he lost and was put away.  However many hackers believe as I 
do, that sending Phiber to jail for hacking was the wrong punish
ment.  Jail time won't solve anything nor cure a hacker from  his 
first  love.   One might as well try to cure a  hungry  man  from 
eating:   No, Mark did wrong, but sending him to jail was  wrong, 
too.   The  Feds and local computer cops and the courts have  to   
come  up with punishments appropriate to the crime.  Cyber-crimes 
(or cyber-errors) should not be rewarded by a trip to an all male 
hotel where the favorite toy is a phallically carved bar of soap.

On  the other hand, hackers in general are so incensed  over  the 
recent swell of headline grabbing break-ins, and law  enforcement 
has  thus far appeared to be impotent, ("These guys  are  good.") 
that many are searching for alternative means of retribution.

"An IRA style knee capping is in order," said one.

"That's  not  good enough, not enough pain," chimed  in  another.  
(Sip, sip. I can almost taste the coffee.)

"Are  you  guys serious?" I asked.  Violence?  You? I  thought  I 
knew them better than that. I know a lot of hackers, none that  I 
know  of  is  violent,  and this  extreme  Pensacola  retribution 
attitude seemed tottally out of character.  "You really  wouldn't 
do that, would you?"  My dinner companions were so upset and they 
claimed to echo the sentiment of all good-hackers in good  stand
ing, that yes, this was a viable consideration.

"The Feds aren't doing it, so what choice do we have?  I've heard 
talk  about  taking up a collection to pay for a hit man .  .  ."  
Laughter around, but nervous laughter. 

"You wouldn't. . ." I insisted.

"Well,  probably  not  us, but that  doesn't  mean  someone  else 
doesn't won't do it." 

"So you know who's behind this whole thing."

"Fucking-A  we do," said yet another hacker chomping at the  bit. 
He was obviously envisioning himself  with a baseball bat in  his 
hand.

"So do the Feds."

So now I find myself in the dilemma of publishing the open secret 
of who's behind the Internet sniffing and Pentagon break ins, but 
after  talking  to people from both the underground and  law  en
forcement,  I think I'll hold off awhile  It serves no  immediate 
purpose other than to warn off the offenders, and none of us want 
that.

Obviously all is not well in hacker-dom.

			* * * * *

The  registration  area  was beyond  full;  computers,  backpacks 
everywhere,  hundreds  of what I have to refer to as kids  and  a 
fair number of above ground security people.  Padgett Peterson of 
Martin  Marietta was going to talk about viruses, Sara Gordon  on 
privacy, Mark Aldrich is a security guy from DC., and a  bunch of   
other  folks I see on the seemingly endless security  trade  show 
circuit. Jeff Moss had marketed himself and the show excellently.  
Los Angeles sent a TV crew, John Markoff from the New York  Times 
popped  in as did a writer from Business Week.  (And  of  course, 
yours truly.) 

Of  the  360 registrees ("Plus whoever snuck in," added  Jeff)  I 
guess about 20% were so-called legitimate security people. That's 
not to belittle the mid-20's folks who came not because they were 
hackers, but because they like computers.  Period.  They hack for 
themselves and not on other systems, but DefCon II offered  some
thing for everyone.  

I  remember 25 years ago how my parents hated the way  I  dressed 
for  school or concerts or just to hang out: God forbid! We  wore 
those damned jeans and T-shirts and sneakers or boots! "Why can't 
you dress like a human being," my mother admonished me day  after 
day,  year after year.  So I had to check myself because I  can't 
relate  to Seattle grunge-ware. I'm just too damned old  to  wear 
shirts that fit like kilts or sequin crusted S&M leather  straps.  
Other   than  the  visual  cacophony  of  dress,   every   single 
hacker/phreak that I met exceeded my expectations in the area  of 
deportment.

These  are not wild kids on a rampage.  The stories  of  drug-in
duced  frenzies  and peeing in the hallways  and  tossing  entire 
rooms  of  furniture  out of the window that  emanated  from  the 
HoHoCons  seemed  a million miles away.  This was  admittedly  an 
opportunity  to party, but not to excess.  There was work  to  be 
done, lessons to be learned and new friends to make.  So  getting 
snot  nosed drunk or ripped to the tits or Ecstatically high  was 
just not part of the equation.  Not here.

Now   Vegas  offers something quite distinct  from  other  cities 
which host security or other conventions.  At a Hyatt or a Hilton 
or  any other fancy-ass over priced hotel, beers run $4 or  $5  a 
crack  plus  you're expected to tip the black tied  minimum  wage 
worker  for  popping the top.  The Sahara (for all of  the  other 
indignities we had to suffer) somewhat redeemed  itself by offer
ing an infinite supply of $1 Heinekens. Despite hundreds of  beer 
bottle  spread  around the huge conference area  (the  hotel  was 
definitely  stingy in the garbage pail business) public  drunken
ness  was  totally absent.  Party yes.  Out of control?  No  way.  
Kudos!

Surprisingly, a fair number of women (girls) attended.  A handful 
were there 'for the ride' but others . . . whoa! they know  their 
shit. 

I hope that's not sexist; merely an observation.  I run across so 
few  technically fluent ladies it's just a gut reaction.  I  wish 
there  were more.  In a former life, I owned a TV/Record  produc
tion  company called Nashville North. We specialized  in  country 
rock taking advantage of the Urban Cowboy fad in the late 1970's. 
Our crew of producers and engineers consisted of the   "Nashville  
Angels."  And boy what a ruckus they would cause when we recorded 
Charlie  Daniels  or Hank Williams: they  were  stunning.   Susan 
produced and was a double for Jacqueline Smith; we  called  Sally 
"Sabrina"  because  of her boyish appearance and  resemblance  to 
Kate Jackson.  A super engineer.  And there was Rubia Bomba,  the 
Blond  Bombshell,  Sherra,  who I eventually  married:  she  knew 
country music inside and out - after all she came from  Nashville 
in the first place.  

When we would be scheduled to record an act for live radio,  some 
huge famous country act like Asleep at The Wheel of Merle Haggard 
or Johnny Paycheck or Vassar Clements, she would wince in  disbe
lief when we cried, "who's that?"  Needless to say, she knew  the 
songs, the cues and the words.  They all sounded alike.   Country 
Music?  Ecch.  (So I learned.)

At  any rate, ladies, we're equal opportunity  offenders.   C'mon 
down and let's get technical.

As  the  throngs pressed to register, I saw an old  friend,  Erik 
Bloodaxe.   I've  known him for several years now and  he's  even 
come  over to baby sit the kids when he's in town.   (Good  prac
tice.)    Erik  is about as famous as they come in the  world  of 
hackers.   Above ground the authorities investigated him for  his 
alleged  participation in cyber crimes: after all, he was one  of 
the  founders of the Legion of Doom, and so, by default, he  must 
have done something wrong.  Never prosecuted, Erik Bloodaxe lives 
in  infamy amongst his peers.  To belay any naysayers,  Erik  ap
peared on every single T-shirt there.

			"I Only Hack For Money,"
				 Erik Bloodaxe

proclaimed  dozens of shirts wandering through  the  surveillance 
laden casinos. His is a name that will live in infamy.  

So  I  yelled  out, "Hey Chris!"  He gave  his  net-name  to  the 
desk/table registrar. "Erik Bloodaxe."

"Erik  Bloodaxe?"  piped up an excited high pitched  male  voice.  
"Where?"  People pointed at Chris who was about to be  embarrass
ingly amused by sweet little tubby Novocain who practically bowed 
at Chris's feet in reverence.  "You're Erik Bloodaxe?"   Novocain 
said  with nervous awe - eyes gleaming up at Chris's  ruddy  skin 
and blond pony-tail.  

"Yeah,"  Chris  said in the most off handed  way  possible.   For 
people who don't know him this might be interpreted as  arrogance 
(and yes there is that) but he also has trouble publicly  accept
ing  the  fame  and respect that  his  endearing  next-generation 
teenage fans pour on him.

"Wow!"  Novocain  said with elegance and panache.   "You're  Erik 
Bloodaxe."  We'd just been through that said Chris's eyes.

"Yeah."

"Wow,  well,  um,  I  . . . ah . . . you're . . .  I  mean,  wow, 
you're  the best."  What does Sylvia Jane Miller from  Rumpsteer, 
Iowa  say to a movie star?  This about covered it.   The  Midwest 
meets  Madonna.   "Wow!"   Only here it's  Novocain  meets  Cyber 
Christ himself.



Like any other security show or conference or convention there is 
a kickoff, generally with a speech.  And DefCon II was no  excep
tion.  Except.

Most conventional conventions (ConCons) start at 7:30 or 8:00  AM 
because, well,  I don't know exactly why, except that's when  so-
called  suits are expected to show up in their cubicles.     Def
Con, on the other hand, was scheduled to start at 10PM on  Friday 
night  when  most  hakcers show up for work.  Most  everyone  had 
arrived  and we were anxiously awaiting the  opening  ceremonies.  
But, here is where Jeff's lack of experience came in.  The  kick-
off speaker was supposed to be Mark Ludwig of  virus writing fame 
and controversy.  But, he wasn't there!

He had jet lag.

"From Phoenix?" I exclaimed in mock horror to which nearby  hack
ers saw the absurdity of a 45 minute flight jet lag.  Mark has  a 
small  frame and looks, well, downright weak, so I figured  maybe 
flying  and  his constitution just didn't get along  and  he  was 
massaging his swollen adenoids in his room.  

"Oh,  no!  He's  just come in from Australia . .  ."   Well  that 
explains it, alright!  Sorry for the aspersions, Mark.

But Jeff didn't have a back up plan. He was screwed.  Almost four 
hundred people in the audience and nothing to tell them.  So, and 
I can't quite believe it, one human being who had obviously never 
stood  in front of a live audience before got up in an  impromptu 
attempt  at stand up comedy.  The audience was ready  for  almost 
anything  entertaining but this guy wasn't. Admittedly it  was  a 
tough spot, but . . .

"How do you turn a 486 into an 8088?"  

"Add Windows."  Groan. Groan.

"What's  this?"  Picture the middle three fingers of  your  right 
hand wiggling madly.

"An  encrypted  this!"   Now hold out  just  the  middle  finger.  
Groan.  Groan.

"What's  this?"   Spread your legs slightly  apart,  extend  both 
hands to the front and move them around quickly in small circles.

"Group Air Mouse."  Groan. 

The  evening  groaned on with no Mark nor any able  sharp  witted 
comedian in sight. 



Phil  Zimmerman wrote PGP and is a God, if not Cyber-Christ  him
self to much of the global electronic world.  Preferring to  call 
himself a folk hero (even the Wall Street Journal used that term) 
Phil's diminutive height combined with a few too many pounds  and 
a  sweet  as sweet can be smile earn him the title  of  Pillsbury 
Dough  Boy look alike.  Phil is simply too nice a guy to  be  em
broiled  in a Federal investigation to determine if he broke  the 
law  by  having PGP put on a net site.  You see, the  Feds  still 
think  they can control Cyberspace, and thereby maintain  antique 
export laws: "Thou shalt not export crypto without our  approval" 
sayeth the NSA using the Department of Commerce as a whipping boy 
mouth  piece.  So now Phil faces 41-51 months of  mandatory  jail 
time if prosecuted and convicted of these absurd laws.  

Flying  in from Colorado, his appearance was  anxiously  awaited. 
"He's really coming?"  " I wonder what he's like?"  (Like  every
one  else, fool, just different.)  When he did arrive, his  shit-
eating  grin  which really isn't a shit-eating  grin,  it's  just 
Phil's own patented grin, preceeded him down the hallway.  

"Here  he is!"  "It's Phil Zimmerman."  Get down and bow.   "Hey, 
Phil the PGP dude is here."

He  was  instantly surrounded by those who recognize him  and  by 
those  who  don't but  want  to  feel like part of the  in-crowd.  
Chat chat, shit-eating grin, good war stories and G-rated  pleas
antries.  Phil was doing what he does best: building up the  folk 
hero image of himself.  His engaging personality (even though  he 
can't  snorkel to save his ass) mesmerized the young-uns  of  the 
group.  "You're Phil?"  

"Yeah."   No  arrogance,  just a warm  country  shit-eating  grin 
that's  not really shit-eating.  Just Phil being Phil.  He  plays 
the part perfectly.

Despite the attention, the fame, the glory (money? nah . . .) the 
notoriety and the displeased eyes of onlooking Computer Cops  who 
really  do  believe he belongs in jail for 4 years,  Phil  had  a 
problem tonight.  A real problem.

"I  don't have a room!" he quietly told Jeff at the desk.   "They 
say  I'm  not registered."  No panic.  Just  a  shit-eating  grin 
that's not a shit-eating grin and hand the  problem  over  to the 
experts:  in  this case Jeff Moss.  Back to his  endearing  fans.  
Phil is so damned kind I actually saw him giving Cryptography 101 
lessons  on  the corner of a T-shirt encrusted table.  "This  is   
plaintext and this is crypto.  A key is like a key to your  hotel 
room . . . "   If only Phil had a hotel room.

Someone  had screwed up. Damn computers.  So the search  was  on.  
What had happened to Phil's room?  Jeff is scrambling and  trying 
to  get the hotel to rectify the situation. Everyone  was  abuzz.  
Phil,  the  crypto-God himself was left out in  the  cold.   What 
would he do?

When  suddenly, out of the din in the halls, we heard  one  voice 
above all the rest:

"Phil can sleep with me!"  

Silence.   Dead stone cold silence.  Haunting silence like  right 
after  an  earthquake and even the grubs and  millipedes  are  so 
shaken they have nothing to say.  Silence. 

The  poor kid who had somehow instructed his brain to  utter  the 
words  and permitted them to rise through his esophagus  and  out 
over  his  lips stood the object of awe, incredulity  and  mental 
question marks.  He must have thought to himself, "what's  every
one  staring  at?  What's going on?  Let me in on it."   For  the 
longest  10 seconds in the history of civilization he  had  abso
lutely no clue that he was the target of attention.  A handful of 
people even took two or three steps back, just in case.  Just  in 
case of what was never openly discussed, but nonetheless, just in 
case.

And  then the brain kicked in and a weak sheepish smile of  guilt 
overcame  this cute acne-free baby-butt smooth-faced  hacker  who 
had  certainly  never had a shave, and was barely old  enough  to 
steer his own pram. 

"Ohhhhhh . . . . noooooo," he said barely louder than a  whisper.  
"That' not what I mean!"

I nearly peed laughing so hard in unison with a score of  hackers 
who agreed that these misspoken words put this guy in the unenvi
able  position  of being the recipient of a  weekend  of  eternal 
politically incorrect ridicule.  

"Yeah, right.  We know what you mean . . "

"No  really . . ." he pleaded as the verbal assaults on  his  al
leged sexual preferences were slung one after the other.  

This  poor kid never read Shakespeare: "He who doth  protest  too 
much . . ."  

If  we  couldn't have a great kickoff speech, or  comedian,  this 
would have to do.  

The majority of the evening was spent making acquaintances:

"Hi, I'm Jim.  Oops, I mean 'Septic Tank," was greeted with  "Oh, 
you're Septic. I'm Sour Milk."  (Vive la difference!) People  who 
know  each  other electronically are as surprised to  meet  their 
counterparts  as are first daters who are in love with the  voice 
at  the other end of the phone.  "Giving good phone" implies  one 
thing while "Having a great keystroke" just might mean another.  

The din of the crowd was generally penetrated by the sounds of  a 
quasi-pornographic  Japanese high tech toon of  questionable  so
cially redeeming value which a majority of the crowd appeared  to 
both  enjoy and understand.  I am guilty of neither by reason  of 
antiquity.

And so it goes.

			* * * * * 

Phil Zimmerman must have gotten a room and some sleep because  at 
10AM  (or closely thereafter) he gave a rousing (some  might  say 
incendiary)  speech  strongly attacking the  government's  nearly 
indefensible position on export control  

I was really impressed.  Knowing Phil for some time, this was the 
first  time I ever heard him speak and he did quite an  admirable 
job.  He ad libs, talks about what he want to talk about and does 
so in a compelling and emotional way. His ass is on the line  and 
he  should be emotional about it.  The audience, indeed  much  of 
counter culture Cyberspace loves Phil and just about anything  he 
has  to  say.  His affable 40-something attorney  from  Colorado, 
Phil  DuBois  was there to both enjoy the  festivities  and,  I'm 
sure,  to keep tabs on Phil's vocalizations.  Phil is almost  too 
honest  and open for his own good.  Rounds and rounds of  sincere 
appreciation.



Hey  kids,  now  it's time for another round  of  Spot  The  Fed.  
Here's  your  chance to win one of these wonderful "I  Spotted  A 
Fed" T-shirts. And all you have to do is ID a fed and it's yours.  
Look  around you?  Is he a Fed?  Is she under cover or under  the 
covers? Heh, heh.  Spot the Fed and win a prize.  This  one-size-
fits-all  XXX Large T-shirt is yours if you Spot the Fed.  I  had 
to  keep silent.  That would have been cheating.  I hang  out  on 
both sides and have a reputation to maintain.

"Hey,  I  see one" screeched a female voice (or  parhaps  it  was 
Phil's  young admirer) from the left side of the 400+ seat  ball
room.   Chaos!  Where? Where?  Where's the fed?  Like  when  Jose 
Consenko  hits  one  towards the center field  fence  and  70,000 
screaming  fans  stand on their seats to get a better view  of  a 
three inch ball 1/4 mile away flying at 150 miles per  hour, this 
crowd stood like  Lemmings  in view of Valhalla the Cliff to espy  
the  Fed.  Where's the Fed?

Jeff jumped off the stage in anxious anticipation that yet anoth
er anti-freedom-repressive law enforcement person had blown   his  
cover.   Where's the Fed?  Jeff is searching for the accuser  and 
the  accused.  Where's the Fed?  Craned necks as far as  the  eye 
can see; no better than rubber neckers on Highway 95 looking  for 
steams of blood and misplaced body parts they half expected a Fed 
to  be  as  distinctly obvious as Quasimoto  skulking  under  the 
Gorgoyled parapits of Notre Dame.  No such luck.  They look  like 
you and me. (Not me.)  Where's the Fed?

He's getting closer, closer to the Fed.  Is it a Fed?  Are you  a 
Fed?  C'mon, fess up.  You're a a fed. Nailed.  Busted.  Psyche!

Here's  your  T-shirt.   More fun than Monty  Hall  bringing  out 
aliens  from behind Door #3 on the X-Files.  Good clean fun.  But 
they didn't get 'em all.  A couple of them were real good.   Must 
have  been  dressed  like an Hawaiian surf bum  or  banshee  from 
Hellfire, Oregon.  Kudos to those Feds I know never got  spotted.  
Next year, guys.  There's always next year.

Phil's notoriety and the presence of the Phoenix, Arizona prosecu
tor   who was largely responsible for the dubiously effective  or 
righteous  Operation  Sun Devil, Gail Thackeray  ("I  change  job 
every 4 years or so - right after an election")  brought out  the 
media.  The LA TV station thought they might have the makings  of 
a story and sent a film crew for the event.  

"They're Feds. The ones with the cameras are Feds.  I know it. Go 
ask 'em."  No need. Not. 

"Put away that camera."  At hacking events it's proper  etiquette 
to ask if people are camera shy before shooting.   The guy that I 
was  sitting next to buried his face in his hands to avoid  being 
captured on video tape. 

"What are you; a Fed or a felon?" I had to ask.

"What's the difference," his said.  "They're the same thing."  So 
which  was it, I wondered.  For the truly paranoid by  the  truly 
paranoid.   

"Get  that  thing outta here," he motioned to the film  crew  who 
willingly  obliged  by turning off the lights.   "They're  really 
Feds,"  he whispered to me loud enough for the row in  front  and 
behind us to hear.  

I moved on.  Can't take chances with personal safety when I  have 
kids to feed.  Fed or felon, he scared me.

Gail Thackeray  was the next act on stage. She was less in agree
ment about Phil Zimmerman than probably anyone (except the  unde
tected Feds) in the audience.  She, as expected, endorsed much of 
the  law  enforcement programs that revolve  around  various  key 
management  (escrow) schemes.  Phil recalls a letter  from  Burma 
that  describe how the freedom fighters use PGP to  defend  them
selves against repression.  He cites the letter from Latvia  that 
says  electronic  freedom as offered by PGP is one of  the  only   
hopes for the future of a free Russia.  Gail empathizes but  sees 
trouble  closer  to home. Terrorism a la World Trade  Center,  or 
rocket launchers at O'Hare Airport, or little girl snuff films in 
Richmond,  Virginia,  or the attempt to poison the  water  supply 
outside of Boston.  These are the real threats to America in  the 
post Cold War era.

"What about our personal privacy!" cries a voice.  "We don't want 
the  government listening in.  It's Big Brother 10  years  behind 
schedule." 

Gail  is amused.  She knew it would be a tough audience  and  has 
been through it before.  She is not shaken in the least.  

"I've read your mail," she responds.  "Its not all that interest
ing."   The audience appreciates a good repartee. "You gotta  pay 
me  to  do this, and frankly most of it is pretty  boring."   She 
successful made her point and kept the audience laughing all  the 
way.

She then proceeded to tell that as she sees it, "The  expectation 
of  privacy isn't real."  I really don't like hearing this for  I 
believe  in the need for an Electronic Bill of Rights.  I  simply 
think she's wrong.  "History is clear," she said  "the ability to 
listen in used to be limited to the very few.  The telegraph  was 
essentially  a  party line and still today in  some  rural  areas 
communications aren't private.  Why should we change  it now?"

"Gail,  you're so full of shit!" A loud voice bellowed from  next 
to me again. Boy can I pick seats. "You know perfectly well  that 
cops  abuse the laws and this will just make their  jobs  easier. 
Once people find a way to escape tyranny you all want to bring it 
right  back again.  This is revolution and you're scared of  los
ing.  This kind of puke scum you're vomiting disgusts me.  I just 
can't  take it any more. " Yeah, right on.   Scattered  applause.  
While  this  'gent' may have stated what was on many  minds,  his 
manner was most unbefitting a conference and indeed, even  DefCon 
II.   This was too rude even for a hacker get-together.  The  man 
with  the  overbearing comments sat down apologizing.  "She  just 
gets  me going, she really does.  Really pisses me off  when  she 
goes on like about how clean the Feds are.  She knows better than 
to run diarrhea of the mouth like that."

"You  know,"  she continued.  "Right across the street is  a  Spy 
Shop.  One of those retail stores where you can buy bugs and taps 
and eavesdropping equipment?"  The audience silently nodded.  "We 
as law enforcement are prohibited by law from shopping there  and 
buying  those same things anyone else can.  We're losing on  that 
front."  Cheers. Screw the Feds.

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