Not Going to DEF CON? 5 Things to Watch From the Hacker Con

Hacking cities, companies, and ... sex toys?

Getty Images / Rob Kim

Hackers have descended on Las Vegas.

Hot on the heels of the Black Hat USA 2016 conference that kicked off last week, DEF CON 24 is set to run Thursday to Sunday.

For those of you who don’t want to head to Nevada in August for the hacker extravaganza, the good news is that DEF CON will make videos of its talks available on YouTube.

There will be a lot of presentations throughout the convention focused on security, privacy, and the places where those subjects intersect with the world. Here are five talks that promise to be worth streaming when they join this rather bizarre DEF CON trailer on the conference’s YouTube channel.

5. The video game-hacking robot

Allan Cecil, president of the North Bay Linux User Group, will show how TASBot “triggers glitches and exploits weaknesses to execute arbitrary opcodes and rewrite games.” In less-technical language, that means it tricks video game consoles into thinking it’s just a customized controller. He will then explain how devices like this can be “a fun way to learn the basics of discovering security vulnerabilities” by teaching simple game-related concepts.

4. The database that tracks cyber-related arrests

Jake Kouns of Risk Based Security will reveal data from the Arrest Tracker Project, which has tracked 93 billion cyber-related arrests between 2011 and April 2016. This data can show what day of the week people are most likely to be arrested, who is typically arrested for certain crimes, how many arrests have a domino effect that leads to other arrests, and so on.

3. The hackers who can reverse-engineer internet-connected sex toys

Hackers “follower” and “goldfisk” will present “Breaking the Internet of Vibrating Things: What We Learned Reverse Engineering Bluetooth- and Internet-Enabled Adult Toys.” In case that title wasn’t enough to convince you that talk will be worth looking for: The hackers promise viewers will “learn the unexpected political and legal implications of internet connected sex toys and, perhaps more importantly, how you can explore and gain more control over the intimate devices in your life.”

2. The researcher who studies the history of zero-day exploits

How have government agencies like the NSA and the CIA tracked zero-day exploits since the 1990s? Columbia University senior research scholar Jay Healey has used “open-source research and interviews with many of the principal participants” to learn the how and why of malware programs that start fucking shit up as soon as they hit their target, hence the term “zero day.” Given that zero-days enable many surveillance programs and are used during cyberwarfare — take the United States’ Stuxnet operation that was revealed — this is vital info. The future of war is now.

1. The problem with so-called “smart” cities

Opposing Force chief technology officer Matteo Beccaro and Politecnico di Torino student Matteo Collura have tested some of the systems behind so-called “smart” cities to examine the “dark age of modern mobility.” The idea was to find “the most plausible attack and fraud scenarios” for various systems and check the “presence of proper security measures.” As more cities start to connect systems like traffic lights, public transit, and others to the internet, the security of those systems will affect many people who happen to live in a city. The more weight that’s put on the system, the greater the crash will be if it fails.