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Def Con, Day One: Can I Use Your Wi-Fi Please?

When thousands of hackers descend on Vegas.
All photography by the authors

Most people go to Vegas to avoid the Internet and its endless reminding of real-life commitments. But once a year, thousands of people convene here in Sin City for a strange manifestation of the Internet, putting a face on the underbelly of a vulnerable, hyper-connected world. Vegas is famous for its the perfectly shaped breasts and biceps, but here at Def Con, it is the biggest brains that receive the praise and adoration.

It's also a great place to realize how much we underestimate computer security threats on a daily basis. We asked for the wi-fi password in the press room, only to be told, "No, I'm not giving that to you, you really shouldn't do that. You're going to regret it." Eventually, a gentleman with a secured hotspot got us online, but we're still uncertain as to how safe we're going to be.


Sucks to be the rest of Vegas, who has no idea that a crowd of 10,000 supergeeks are in town sucking up heaps of information, and infecting the strip with a lot more than STDs. (At least those are to be expected.)

When we first arrived in the Rio hotel (the convention's venue in its 21st year), we picked up our press badges and briefly perused the conference's grounds. Here are a few of our initial encounters:

Def Con gave us a CD with our badges. Yep, a CD. And luckily we had a rental car with the technology to play the thing. This song was too important for us to keep from you: It's like some Sesame Street rap for bitcoin.

Jordan: What do you think about this 'chill out' space?

Daniel: The graphics are great, is ICP playing a secret guest performance? The air conditioning is very 'chill,' but that line is too long, and I really need a coffee. Ooh, check out that awesome map!

Jordan: What the hell? "Real Time Attack Info"? Ok, cool.

Daniel: Jordan, what are these people doing? And where are their computers?

Jordan: They were smart, and didn't bring them. They're learning to manually hack locks. Picking is the proper term. It looks like they've been here for hours.

Could there be anything more zen than good ol' analog lock hacking? At least a masterlock can't be remotely compromised.

It's great for the kids too! Here's a group of future Snowdens that copped some free tools. Those pick sets are sure to get them into (and maybe, back out of) detention.


At Def Con, getting a mohawk is a rite of passage.

Daniel: Whoa, do you see what I see? Between those two mohawks.

Jordan: Yeah, he's the talk of the town. People can't get enough of him. He's been standing there like that all day, though. He's kind of a weird guy.

Daniel: Of all the shows you've ever gone to, which band's merch does this remind you of the most?

Jordan: It's a toss up between Megadeth, Alice Cooper and that Tim Burton retrospective a couple years ago at MoMA.