Patterns In The Voidby certificate authority, patternsinthevoid.net
August 8th 2011
I’m sitting in McCarren Internation Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing the next two hours over a slow 3G connection. This was my first time going to Defcon. I remember watching videos of Defcon talks on my home-built computer when I was nine or so. In fifth grade, I had a crush on Zoz. I don’t remember why I thought they were the shit – maybe it was the skinny-nerdy-queerish-blond-mohawk-hacker-person-who-makes-fake-crop-circles-for-their-Ph.D.-thesis thing. I really wanted to go to MIT at that age, and Zoz was my hero. Hey, don’t make fun of me. I was nine, okay?
Hop in your blue telephone box and skip forward a decade or so, and I’m at my first Defcon. It was also my first time staying in Las Vegas. Fuck this town. It’s everything that went wrong with capitalism amplified and tarballed into a single sexism-infected package, wrapped in a sick slime of wealth, extreme classism, greed, extra sexism (for good measure), and a heaping sporkful of objectification of female-bodied folk on the side. Fuck. You. Las. Vegas.
And fuck everyone who assumes that I’m a girl because I currently live in a female-body. Fuck all the time burglars who think it’s okay to talk to me without asking if I feel social. Fuck the bro-”hacker”s who think it’s okay to buy me drinks – and then try to talk to me! – as if I desired either one. Fuck the goon who asked if my face tattoo was real, and then licked his finger and wiped my face…after I had declined his marriage proposition. Fuck the socially inept geek boys who think hugging/touching me without consent is okay, just because I can geek out on neural networks, exploit-dev, 0-days, and cryptography. Don’t any of you turd-gurglers realize that I have anxiety issues on top of neurological problems, and the former is caused by sexual and physical abuse at the hands of males? I don’t know, maybe something about my body language, the fact that I clench my fists and stand five feet away from whoever I’m talking to? Might be a hint, I don’t know. And fuck the people who indiscriminately referred to me as she, even after syntax correction. Fuck that fed that thought it was okay to ask me a bunch of sketchy questions, then not pick up on my disinclination towards communication, then ask me if I wanted to come to his hotel room and take E and huff nitrous. Sorry, dude. I don’t fucking talk to feds. I don’t talk to people who work for the Department of Homeland Security. I don’t give out any information to military, or military contractors. I don’t talk to cops. I piss on cop sympathizers. Fuck the sociopathic prison industry contractors. Fuck you all. Not my team. Not my fucking team.
So, the talks at defcon were highly informative, and it was incredibly refreshing to temporarily be part of a community where a laptop and a pile of tangled cords draped over your legs, a text-only screen with a terminal multiplexer and code editor open, a tethered cell phone, and output flying by on active port scans is completely expected and normal. No one thought it was crazy to carry multiple hard drives and wireless cards instead of business cards and lipstick. NOP-sled and buffer overflow jokes abounded. (My friend, Flatline, kept belting out with “Oh girl! You rode a NOP-sled into my heart! Your buffer overflows rewrite my emotional code! Then you injected a string, and now you’re in for good!” in the conference space hallways.) No one thought twice about lockpicks in my dreads, or the 32GB USB key earring in my ear. No one gave me puzzled looks if they saw me remove my credit cards or passport from their aluminum foil homemade-Faraday-cage enclosure…well, with the exception of that vendor selling RFID disabling wallets after I told all of their potential customers about the unbelievable magic of tin foil. Oopsies, sorry man. It’s what you get for ripping people off.
And I just want to say, before I get on to talking about the presentations, that my tech-positive and hacker anarchist friends are awesome. You are all cuter than robots, and I’m sorry if sometimes I call you broken robots for not answering my obscure and complicated queries on the fly. I also got a chance to hang out with my friend Moxie Marlinspike, a wonderful hacker and cryptographer who also has radical politics. (Check out his new project to replace the Certificate Authority verification system.) We went to some schmoozy fancy-pants restaurant and couldn’t really eat much because we both have Celiac’s Disease. Then we went to some douchey Black Hat Con VIP invite-only party on a rooftop, where there were white hats failing at being cool, smoking cigars and drinking cocktails. Well, I probably don’t need to say that the white hats fail at being cool, because they’re the definition of fail. Basically, for those who haven’t gathered this much yet, Black Hat Con is exactly the same as Defcon. Same presentations, same speakers, mostly the same workshops. The only difference is that Black Hat Con costs $2000 and is marketed as a “security conference”, whereas Defcon costs $150 cash, up front, and is called a “hacker conference”. So, the corporate drones pay for their white hat schmoes to go to the “security conference”. Black Hat Con paid for Moxie’s room, which inclued a “jacuzzi” in the bathroom, which ended up being a half-hour discussion with occasional googling and wikipeding to backup claims on the correct definition of a jacuzzi. And, Moxie: it might be made by Jacuzzi Inc., but it’s still a bathtub, yo. Just sayin’.
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