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What to Expect at DEFCON 2016

What do hackers do at a conference like DEFCON?

By
Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #231

What Will DEFCON 2016 Be Like?

So now that the groundwork is set, let’s talk about what to expect from this year’s conference. Luckily for me, all of the presentation topics have been posted online ahead of time, which is a great way to see the trends.

First and foremost is mobile hacking. There are a number of presentations that attack mobile platforms such as tablets and phones in every conceivable way from hacking apps to listening to phone calls to messing with the cell phone towers themselves. Given how many people use mobile devices these days, it is absolutely no surprise that they are such prime targets.

The next topic I see gaining a ton of traction is the hacking of bio tracking devices and medical equipment. With the explosion of fitness tracking apps and devices out there, it is also no surprise that these devices are targets. Much of the issue has to do with how these devices communicate with the internet. There are more than a few presentations this year that will cover how easily data from these devices is to collect and what the implications are. For example, many people think, "What do I care if someone knows how many steps I walked?" However, you probably would care if they knew where you walked and when!

Many people think, "What do I care if someone knows how many steps I walked?" However, you probably would care if they knew where you walked and when!

It gets even scarier with new waves of medical equipment that are also internet connected. Now devices such as pace makers and insulin pumps are connected to the internet via Bluetooth, much like other fitness trackers. The implications for this are much larger than just someone watching you walk. One vulnerability in that a critical medical device could be the difference between life and death. After all, if your computer gets ransomware you can recover from a backup, but what do you do if your pacemaker gets a virus? Do you pay the ransom then? It’s crucial that questions like these are being asked.

I’ve done a full episode about car hacking in the past, so I won’t be covering that again, but you can believe it that this year car hacking will be back. My hope is that the car companies highlighted this year will be different from last year to bring more awareness.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Rise of the Machines,” which is really interesting because the main event this year will actually involve a computer hacking other computers. DARPA, or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is having their computer compete against human hackers. This will be the first time anything like this has happened at DEFCON and the stakes are high seeing as the winner will take home over $2 million dollars!

If you happen to be at DEFCON this year, I’d love to meet up! Feel free to shoot me an email if you are. One last thing, I’ll be presenting on how to detect and locate rogue cell towers!

Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.

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