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December 15, 2017

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Hacker summer camps crash Las Vegas this week


Steve Marcus

People arrive for the Black Hat USA 2014 hacker conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center Aug. 6, 2014.

It’s summer camp for hackers in Las Vegas this week. That’s how event organizers describe three tech conferences — Black Hat USA, DEF CON and B-Sides LV — that are scheduled concurrently each summer. When the hackers are in town, mischief is often close behind.

Last year at the Mandalay Bay, where Black Hat is held, rumors began circulating that hackers at the convention were responsible for the reservations system failing at the hotel around the same time that the conference began. (The error turned out to be unrelated.)

Attendees do not intend to be malicious, according to Meredith Corley, an event organizer. Rather, Corley describes the hackers as “white-hat hackers at heart.” In fact, the intent at the three conferences, which began this week, is for computer security experts to investigate security breaches — and how to prevent them.

Here are some of the hacks that presenters will demonstrate this week.

Cars: Two researchers will demonstrate the possibility of taking remote control of a car. The researchers, who will present at Black Hat on Wednesday, recently previewed their findings on a Jeep Cherokee.

Credit Cards: Presenters on Thursday will consider the vulnerabilities in the software and hardware of Square credit card readers.

Guns: Two IT professionals will demonstrate their findings on the security of a precision-guided firearm that can be fired using Linux.

Implants: At B-Sides LV on Wednesday, two security researchers will hack subdermal implants that can be used for employee identification, security access, and medical records.

Satellites: A presenter will demonstrate what he describes as “realistically unpatchable” hacks on satellite communications.

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