H.O.P.E Conference Tidbits

This past weekend I attended the Hackers of Planet Earth (HOPE) conference in New York City (http://hope.net/)

There were over 90 scheduled talks and most of them were pretty amazing. Here are some of my highlights.

Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg Keynote

The keynote was packed with people! I managed to get a seat near the back about 2 hours before the keynote and when I looked behind me a few minutes later there were a sea of people who were overflowing into the other room. They announced that people were piling out the doors on the first floor of the hotel so that they can see the feed on the first floor. Amazing. I was also amazed at just how little BO there was considering the audience.

Snowden and Ellsberg had a great conversation about where they see the whistleblowing going in the future. Ellsberg wanted to get the point across that more people in the government and corporate industries should take the risk and leak information. Snowden was more focused on enabling these people to leak information and stay anonymous at the same time so they don’t go into exile like himself. I personally don’t have an opinion on this since I tend to focus more on the technology and try to steer clear of the politics. However, I cannot imagine everyday people risking their families, lives, and friends to leak information that may not be nearly as earth-shattering as Snowden’s leaks.

Identifying Back Doors, Attack Points, and Surveillance Mechanisms in iOS Devices

This was one of the most interesting talks to me. The speaker did a great job of showing some real security concerns about the IOS security infrastructure. Apple has put in many back doors to exfiltrate data from devices that are locked and assumably encrypted. Most IOS users think their data is encrypted on their device with either their PIN or fingerprint if they have one of the newer IOS devices. But it’s not.

Apple puts this back door to get data out of a device in the event a company person is deceased which makes sense. If this is used by the wrong people, the feature can be very dangerous. I am definitely re-visiting my stance on IOS vs Android security after this talk. The Google Play Store may be full of malware but at least Google isn’t putting back doors into my device. How do I know this? Because Android is open source!

North Korea – Using Social Engineering and Concealed Electronic Devices to Gather Information in the World’s Most Restrictive Nation

I only have two words for this talk. Simply Amazing. The speaker did an absolutely amazing job presenting his findings that he gathered from his multiple trips to North Korea. I’ve been following the North Korea stories pretty closely so I wasn’t really expecting to learn anything new. Man, was I wrong. The DPRK is basically a country of 24 million people who are willing to die at a moment’s notice for some crazy guy. Every morning, propaganda is played as people wake up, go to work, as they work, and before they go to sleep. The only television is NK TV that’s on a couple hours a day. The radios in homes do not have dials for stations (they can never be entirely turned down either) and those that do, unapproved frequencies are jammed by the government.

I will continue to watch the fascinating events that unfold in North Korea. The shit in the country will eventually hit the fan and we’ll all watch in fascination as millions of brainwashed people have to adapt to the world around them. If they survive.

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