BlackHat: making the news while reporting it

DefCon attendees always knew that using the wireless network at the conference is living on the dangerous side– even on the rare occasions a few packets managed to route their way across the congested airwaves with thousands competing for the scarce bandwidth. (This blogger has been depending on his Novatel CDMA modem compliments of Sprint to continue writing.) If there is a real-life incarnation of the proverbial “untrusted network” this is it, and The Wall of Sheep has been the favored tradition for publicly embarassing those using weak protocols that transmit credentials in the clear.

This year the tradition expanded to Blackhat, putting attendees– a much different crowd than DefCon, it goes without saying– on notice that their name could be next on the hall of shame.

Journalists had a better deal: they got their own wired, private network in the press room, free from the shenanigans of creative researchers.

It did not work out. As reported by CNet, French journalists decided to step up to plate and impress their colleagues with their “l33t credentials.” Exact details are unclear but it appears that they managed to take control over the router and capture traffic from other journalists. For anyone not using VPN, that included the stories their they were filing. So much for good sportmanship– why bother attending the conference sessions or interviewing speakers when you can “rephrase” your colleagues’ dispatches instead? The French crew were so proud of their achievements that they wanted to get the spoils displayed on the Wall of Sheep. Conference organizers were not impressed by what they viewed as illegal wiretapping and interception. Neither were fellow members of press, when they were briefed on the incident. The proto-hackers were booted off the conference, which was not enough to appease the irate journalists. The reaction reportedly included at least one person from ZDNet going through the roof.


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