[ISN] Tech Ed net locked down tight as a coffin

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Tue May 25 02:14:52 EDT 2004


[I have it under good authority from "The Unknown Hacker" that ports 
80, 110, and 143 are open, and the Inquirer writer needs to lay off 
the Vodka RedBull's being expensed. :)  - WK]

24 May 2004

TECHED 2004, San Diego -- From the belly of the Vole.

I ARRIVED this morning at the TechEd 2004 conference in San Diego. 
Within five minutes of registering I made my way to the Sail Pavilion, 
an impressive auditorium with about 600 computers, tables with ample 
amps and wep-less, wire-less web. So far, so good. I sat down, hooked 
up my trusty Compaq Battery Extender, and got to work. Or tried to.

It turns out that my first "breakout session" (the one where I try to 
break out to the external network and check my email) ended in 
frustration when I learned that the local network engineers have 
nearly everything except port 80 walled off. Apparently, even most 
normal email ports are off limits to conference attendees.

Anyone who runs any kind of webmail system can still check their mail, 
but I wonder how many in the crowd of developers and conference 
attendees shared in my initial frustration and will have to go without 
this week. In a brief discussion with one of the network technicians, 
I inadvertantly learned of a dark conspiracy. What any red blooded 
'Merican would describe as an evil, headless terr'ist group of l337 
h4x0r infidels has *allegedly* offered a bounty to anyone who can 
break into the conference network and run amok. I can't verify 
anything, but I'd be willing to bet Microsoft's got snipers perched 
strategically around the conference center to pick off local 

I have been unable to substantiate this rumour, but it makes sense. We 
live among bloodless heathens, and they must be dealt with.

I've since learned that my hotel room offers inexpensive high-speed 
internet connection, so I can still make my CVS commits and check my 
email normally. In this regard, I've managed to duck out of the Vole 
versus h4x0r dance (a good thing, since my feet are already sore from 
hoofing it around San Diego).

But, while considering the dance from waaaaaay up in my ivory tower 
hotel room, with my comfy high speed connection, a couple of 
unfortunate and ironic conditions crossed my mind. First of all, 
whether or not the hackers succeed in their mission, hundreds of folks 
here might have to live without email access for a week. That's just 
plain frustrating, and I can't imagine it will do much to improve the 
public image of the hacker as a benevolent, overly curious explorer of 
the digital frontier.

A second consideration is that Microsoft's solution might be a little 
extreme. Crippling the network for anyone who doesn't have webmail 
might be a bit like cutting off the toe to clip the nail. Or throwing 
the baby out with the bathwater. Or putting the fire ants in 
the--anyway, you get the drift. It might cause more trouble than it 
solves. Something tells me there'd be enough coffee and more than 
enough eager network admin types here willing to have a patch-a-thon 
if things got wiggly.

If I were an innocent bystander caught without email in the middle of 
this mess, I'd start looking for nearby wireless cafes. I'll let you 
know if I kick any up.

More interesting tidbits as they develop.

More information about the ISN mailing list