[ISN] Hackers Give Back

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Fri Aug 5 01:04:30 EDT 2005


By Patty Walsh  
Aug. 4 - Aug. 10 2005 

The rain had somewhat subsided as Deviant, M and I pulled into the
parking lot of Sushi Factory at 21:00 hours. Indeed, we were somewhat
tardy for the events that were about to unfold inside a small, local
restaurant - for we were attending SushiCon - one of the unofficial
events of DefCon, the world's largest underground hackers convention.

Had I not known better, I may have fallen into the dark abyss of
stereotypes and sensationalism that is so prevalent from the
mainstream media and society in general. After all, I was surrounded
by roughly 20 hackers in an unassuming location, with an abundance of
raw fish and miso soup. The stakes were high, and the consequences
could have been brutal. They could have hacked into my soul, into my
cell phone, into my .... Unagi and California rolls! Yet, there is
always more lurking beneath the surface, and the reality of DefCon 13
and hackers in general would drive that point home as I embarked on a
weekend of dynamic proportions that would expand my horizons and leave
me with more than I ever thought possible.

For 13 years, DefCon has served as a gathering of computer hackers
worldwide for a weekend of exchanging ideas, socializing, intellectual
debate, partying and ruthless debauchery. All of these elements
combined at the Alexis Villas resort and a myriad of activities that
accompany it (lock-picking contest, beer cooling contest, QueerCon and
Spot the Fed, to name a few) leave much for the mind to ponder.

At any given moment, something completely fascinating or absolutely
ridiculous is occurring. There are different parties going on at the
pools of the resort, and speakers giving talks on many topics,
including how to hack into Google, gender differences in hacking,
legal issues in computer security, question-and-answer forum for "Meet
the Fed," asymmetrical digital warfare and cartography and hacking.

On Thursday, July 28, local hacker organization DC702 put on a
fundraising event called the DC702 Summit at the Ice House in order to
contribute to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit
organization dedicated to protecting and defending the digital rights
of the public. According to Robert Imhoff-Dursham, member of DC702 and
organizer of the Summit, "For DC702, the Summit was a serious role in
DefCon and the positive things that we can do for the computer
security industry and for digital rights and freedoms ... We wanted to
get all these great security minds together ... for people to learn
more about what they do," he said. The result was $4,200 raised that
evening at the Ice House, including $2,200 in online contributions,
$1,000 from a security network organization known as the Shmoo Group,
and the rest made at the door.

Another fundraising occasion was at DefCon called the Dunk Tank.

Basically, individuals would sign up for the tank, and attendees could
pay anywhere from $1 for a faraway shot to $25 to hit the button and
"dunk the geek." Frank Sanborn, organizer for the Dunk Tank and fellow
attendee since DefCon 2, said that the Tank accumulated about $5,500
for EFF.

Formerly affiliated with Microsoft, Sanborn discussed the aspects of
technological advances in developing countries that he traveled to,
where some of the villages had no running water but had a satellite in
the middle of the village. "The American westernized culture has
expanded worldwide in ways that most people never even comprehend. As
you start looking at what our digital freedoms mean here in the United
states, you really need to look at it as what it means for the entire
world," he said.

Although hackers generally receive a bad rap in more ways than one,
The Hacker Foundation is an example of hackers acting in a positive
manner and contributing to the community both nationally and
internationally, working on a project called Hackers For Humanity
(H4H). Treasurer of the Hacker Foundation Nick Farr, as well as
Regional East Africa Coordinator Jim Schuyler have collaborated with
others for H4H. The Hacker Foundation has done significant work with
projects, including the neighborhood Boys and Girls Club in Chicago
that barely had Internet access and possessed dilapidated and obsolete
software and hardware. The Hacker Foundation quickly went to work, and
managed to succeed beyond their expectations by even setting up Wi-Fi
Internet access outside for the kids to play. Also, if a parent and/or
guardian missed a game due to work, he/she could log onto the Internet
with a special password and watch the kids at the game live from their
computer. Recently, Schuyler has been on location in Uganda in a
project called Ugandan Computer Initiative (UCI). UCI is an umbrella
organization of the Hacker Foundation, and Schuyler has spent time in
Uganda with Internally Displaced Persons in villages, refugee camps
and schools, teaching children and adults how to type, how to use
Microsoft Excel, and how to use databases, among many other skills.

"We are trying to promote positive advocacy and public awareness for
the hacker community, and we are using every available independent way
to get funding. It is a struggling, uphill battle," said Schuyler.


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