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Just Another Day at Defcon by Lizzz
05-26-2010, 06:56 PM
Just Another Day at Defcon

Chasm (not his real name, of course) stepped up to the podium and waited for the buzz to die down. A calm descended, a video goon gave the thumbs up, and Chasm began his first ever talk at the Riv.

“Thank you for inviting me to speak. The things I am going to say will come as a shock to most of you. It certainly was a shock to me.”

He twisted a mechanical pencil between his thumb and forefinger, slipped it into his pocket and continued.

“Most of us don’t think very highly of a certain operating system vendor – heck, most of us don’t think very highly of anyone but ourselves.”

He paused for the inevitable obligatory laugh. Hackers like to consider themselves strange and wonderful beasts, but these guys were like any other attentive audience he’d played, tense and ripe for release. They just smelled a little funkier, he thought. Then he put his very serious face on, and leaned earnestly into the podium like AgentX had showed him.

. . .

A mere two miles away in the penthouse of the newest hotel on the strip, Reminy Wassell flipped channels mercilessly. Her suite at the top of the ultra-modern Crossed Stars Complex looked out over the glittering splendor of the Las Vegas skyline, but Reminy was not interested in the view. She’d already finished texting directions to the Ninja party list she’d been assembling for two weeks, and that was the last thing on her to-do list.

God she was tired! She jammed the suite door open with a black Converse sneaker so she wouldn’t have to get up when the guys came back from their booze run. This would be the best Ninja party ever, and just about all the work was done. Once she put the pink highlights in her bleached hair, sprayed on her tattoos and glued in her piercings, she’d be the coolest scene whore of all time – for a fed, anyway.

. . .

Across the gridlocked boulevard from the Crossed Stars, things were much different. A dingy white van idled in a green-striped delivery zone. In the back of the van, a blond man typed furiously on the keyboard of his laptop. He was a cracker, the very worst sort; smart, determined, and most of all, angry. He’d been planning and scheming since last year’s Defcon when he’d had a sudden realization that the very best time to get away with a majorly nasty hack was when the town was filled with hackers attending Black Hat and Defcon.

The man, who went by the moniker “Scrub”, was angry with everyone, but primarily, his focus was on entrepreneur Jerry Cross, who had fired him from his all-access position as Chief of Internet Security at Crossed Stars International. Scrub was convinced he’d been fired for no good reason, and just to show Jerry what an unforgiving bitch he could be, Scrub was about to begin an unprecedented attack on the hotel complex, the biggest jewel in the Crossed Stars corporate crown.

. . .

At the tables, Trix and Dogten felt like they were getting lucky. Not the Riviera’s gaming tables, of course, the two hackers never gambled. They were in the largest of the Defcon events room, seated at a round table, elbow-to-elbow with eight other amateur Open CTF players.

The tension at the table was palpable. An asshat in a yellow EFF jersey had just spilled an entire cup of coffee. The Open CTF area was across the room from the table where the Coffee Wars contest was being held, and samples of Poopacino, coffee made from beans digested by civets, had been offered. Two of the table’s hacker brethren were extremely pissed about the mess, even though there had been no damage done. Well, no visible damage anyway – a bit of moisture had caused a major malfunction in a switch, and the game network suddenly widened substantially. Nobody noticed.

. . .

Inside the white van, Scrub was beginning to feel the heat. His thinning hair was thwacked to his forehead with sweat. He wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve, and continued to type. The air-conditioner was on, but there had been a little bit of a gasoline smell on his sleeve from an errant spill he’d made during his getaway fill-up. He’d cracked the front window to vent it a bit, but the van was getting warmer and the smell was getting stronger. Maybe he’d left the gas cap hanging off again. Oh well, it would just be a few minutes more. He’d be OK. A small price to pay.

Scrub’s excitement was palpable as he hit the enter key, and the clever backdoor he’d planted on the CSI servers two years ago gave him instant access to the hotel network. He cut and pasted his elegant script at the command line root prompt, and hit the return again. Across the street, a series of failures was put into motion. Power died instantly all over the complex. Glamorous shops, restaurants, gaming areas and guest rooms all faded to black at the same time. Doors failed in their locked mode, and the gas heat came on in every room. The backup generators failed to engage, but an off site automatic dialing system he’d set up called each room and politely notified guests that they were temporarily “confined” in their rooms, and they shouldn’t try to leave. May as well take everybody down with the building, he thought.

. . .

In her gradually warming penthouse suite, Reminy hung up the phone, horrified to hear that she was now effectively a hostage inside the Crossed Stars. She began to freak, but quickly caught her breath when she remembered that not only had she left the door to the hallway propped open, she also had her lucky revolver waiting in the safe. She’d used the television’s infrared remote to hack into the hotel server, and she’d figured out how to pop the lock on the room safe and take the charges for the safe and the mini-bar off of her bill. She figured she should save some money for the taxpayers while she was on an expense account.

Damn, it was getting hot in the room. She yanked the thermometer off the beer cooling contraption and in a matter of seconds, it read 113°. She flashed back to her Thursday evening cooking stint at the Toxic BBQ in the 116° heat a few days ago. Much cooler here, she smiled. Suddenly, Reminy realized with a shock that all the left over meat they’d brought back from the Toxic BBQ would be defrosting in the hotel’s walk-in freezer. They’d needed a place to store the stuff – giraffe isn’t small. It helped that D.T. was friends with Jerry Cross and had talked him into giving up some freezer space. The meats were truly exotic, and worth a fortune. Besides the giraffe, there was polar bear, giant tortoise, caribou, and some mystery meat that someone had said looked like it used to be a pwny. Nikita told them it was unicorn. Banshee figured it was rhino. Either way, Reminy needed to save the meat. She had to act, and she had to act NOW. Grabbing her Pug .44 and some extra ammo, she raced down the 96 flights of stairs to the kitchens below.

. . .

Scrub sighed as he waited in his tin can just outside the shadow of the Crossed Stars Tower. It wouldn’t be long until the tower came down in the most beautiful way, and he had a little more than five minutes before he popped out of his idling space to make a clean getaway. He’d given himself a full fifteen minutes to drive a block- the Vegas sun and The Strip’s traffic were the only two givens here. He had mixed feelings about having to actually be in Vegas – but as it turned out, he needed to access the CSI network via the hotel “wiffie”, as he called it. This all would have been much more fun from his houseboat. Yeah, not so hot on the lake, he thought, but here in Vegas, I’ll at least be able to inhale a bit of the dust, and carry it with me forever. He smiled at the thought. He was turning into a pretty sentimental asshole after all these years.

. . .

Back at the Open CTF, Dogten noticed a few new machines on his scan. He probed a bit until he found that a newer SQL patch had not been applied. The designers of the game had given him a freebie; it was almost like an engraved invitation. After about twenty seconds or so, he was in. The game masters had created a welcome banner that read:

Crossed Stars Complex, Inc.

Definitely a nod to Jerry Cross, who’d purchased the Riv out of bankruptcy just a month earlier. Dogten was only the penetration half of the team. It would be up to Trix to find a lovely exploit to deliver for the score.

Trix poked around a bit and managed to open a remote window on a notebook hanging off the the wide open system. She started up a power management dialog box. Their usual strategy with portables was to raise the target’s power plan to “ultra high performance” so that all their CPU hammering would go unnoticed. Hopefully, the “operator” (who appeared to be logged-in and active in the simulation) would not feel their performance hit. Trix hit the apply button, and waited. Eff’n slow box, she thought. Then she hit the ok button and the dialog box closed. Mischief managed! Now it was time for Trix to deliver a real payload.

. . .

Scrub stared intently at his screen. He’d be up for 27 hours by now, and he felt like his vision was going wonky. Damn! The screen seemed harsh on his tired eyes – seemed brighter. The damn laptop’s battery was burning up his knees, really burning up his knees, and between the nasty smell of warming electronics and gasoline fumes, he was happy to know the job was nearly finished. But Scrub’s laptop was not well at all. It made a sickly popping noise, then all of a sudden, flames shot out from the battery compartment. Next, the small fire caught hold of the draft coming through the cracked windows of the white van. Damn! Son of a bitch! His pants were on fire. And then, Scrub’s thoughts jumped to the little whiffs of gasoline he’d been smelling for the past half-hour, and he was immediately filled with horror. This was it. The van exploded. Scrub exploded. His script stopped running, and the brief attack on the Crossed Stars was over.

. . .

Trix began to slip her payload onto the mystery machine to hopefully score a few points. But suxor of all that sucketh, her remote window popped shut and she lost access. Damn! Trix was disappointed to see the connection die. She’d been so close. She laughed and unplugged her cable from the switch.

“Let’s get some booze, Dogten,” she suggested. I work better with a buzz. Then we can play with the locks for a while or go back to the hotel and get ready for the party.

. . .

Reminy stepped out of the hotel kitchen’s giant freezer. She was not the only one who’d thought of the freezer. All around her, lights were beginning to come back on, and the thunk and hum of the air conditioning starting back up caused everyone in the chilled little group to smile. All told, twenty-three armed hackers had come to the freezer to save the meat, and they’d found the freezer a delightful place to weather the heat wave. A little insulation is a good thing.

. . .

Back in the huge meeting hall, Chasm looked out across the audience and caught the smiling goon’s eye. The goon held up his hand to indicate a five minute warning, and Chasm gave an imperceptible nod of his head. The talk had gone far better than he ever could have imagined.

“So thanks to Madhat and my bud, Flea, and thanks to all of you for paying attention. A lot of us got off track for a pretty long time, but now, I think the path ahead should be pretty clear.”

The crowd rose to their feet, and slowly began to clap until the room was shaking with applause. Never before in the history of Defcon had there been such an amazing announcement. Of course, there were still details to be published, but it pretty much meant that three hundred or so of the best hackers in the world had managed to stop cold a terrorist nation threatening to bring the free world to its knees, and that doesn’t happen every day, even at Defcon.
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