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Brand Thinking Blog
Posted on August 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm
For the last 20 years, a conference called DefCon has lured some of the world’s greatest hackers, security specialists, penetration testers, programmers, con-artists and hardware engineers to the sweltering heat that is Las Vegas, Nevada in summer. Both speakers and attendees range from criminal hackers to some of the most influential minds in information security and privacy. This year’s speakers included the director of the National Security Agency, who explained government involvement in cyber security and several Twitter employees, who showed how enterprise wireless encryption can be broken in half a day.
Being fortunate enough to attend DefCon this year, I came prepared with a cell phone turned off, a clean laptop (to be wiped clean on my flight back), cash (because fake ATM’s are a known risk at DefCon) and a mind willing to receive some terrifying knowledge.
There are two very important lessons that I hope to convey from what I learned swimming with the sharks for a weekend.
1) Securing technology is difficult.There is a game of cat-and-mouse being played between security professionals, and hackers. For every piece of software patched, a new exploit is found, then the exploit is patched and then it is found, etc, etc, forever… There are no silver bullets, there are no magic firewalls, there is no flawless systems administrator. Because this game changes so quickly, just like the technology it rests on, one way to protect ourselves from the botnets, script kiddies and trojan horses is by following lesson number two.
2) Keep technology simple. Which is easier to break into, a shopping mall or a concrete room with one door? Which is more vulnerable, a web server with some feature-rich control panel or a simple command line-based control panel? Simple tends to be more reliable, easier to repair and easier to understand. If a car from 1965 breaks down, you could pop the hood and get an idea of how it works and what is broken. If a Prius breaks down, I hope you brought a laptop, two engineers from Toyota and that computer science friend of yours, because that vehicle is more computer than engine.
Stairs do not break down. Elevators do.
Use advancements when necessary, not when convenient. Sure, you might need someone who knows how to use a command line interface to fix your stripped-down and simple web server, but I would bet they know a lot more on how it works then the IT employee who can only use software with icons.
All in all, the trip was worth every moment. The more I learn about technology and how fragile it is, the more I want to become a goat farmer. Going off the grid isn’t about hiding from Big Brother, it’s about not having your world come crashing down when the power goes out.
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