Has DefCon gone soft, or are the real hackers in hiding? I have a theory …

Mr. Worst Case Scenario is Digital Trends’ paranoid, squinty-gazed, perpetually on-edge security correspondent. And he’s prepared for anything to go wrong, dammit. This week, he’ll slither out of his underground bunker in Montana, don his tinfoil hat and attend DefCon 2013 in Las Vegas.

The situation is more dire than we thought, folks. The rabbit hole is deeper. The mystery is more complex. The scheme is more massive than just some measly pyramid. It seems, I hate to say, that DefCon is one giant mirage, built entirely to deceive us of the real threats literally lurking beneath our feet.

How do I know this? Because the whole “nefarious,” hacker event is, well, tame. Too tame. So tame, in fact, that I would bet my life that there is a separate cabal of criminal mastermind hackers plotting, as we speak, in the basement of the Rio casino. Don’t believe me? Just look at the evidence – the truth is right there in plain sight.

Exhibit A: Children

It’s not that I hate children. It’s that their cuteness puts me on edge. And it’s even worse when they appear unexpectedly. So when, during the DefCon opening ceremonies on Thursday morning, a mother brought her toddler to dance around on the videographer platform in the middle of the event’s ballroom, my hackles raised.

The reality of what’s going on here in Vegas is enough to cause someone – not naming any names – to soil his trousers.

 What on earth is a kid doing at the most notorious hacker convention in the world? 

A quick scan of the room revealed that we were surrounded. Babies in arms. Two-year-olds in strollers. Teens sitting next to their “super cool” moms. If it weren’t for the sketchy-looking DefCon organizers cursing and drinking beer on stage, I’d have thought I’d mistakenly landed at a SpongeBob SquarePants fan rally.

I soon uncovered that the presence of children had been planned from the beginning. Rather than foolish hacker parents deciding to bring their kids along for a wild ride, it turns out that there is an entirely separate schedule of events just for rug rats. Spy School, Hardware Hacking, How Do You Look in Google Glasses? – even on face value, these kid-centric events are disconcerting. Knowing, as I do, that they are simply a diversion from the reality of what’s going on here in Vegas is enough to cause someone – not naming any names – to soil his trousers. 

Exhibit B: New blood

In retrospect, I should have suspected something was off on that first morning. One of the DefCon organizers asked the roughly 1,000 people in the room how many were attending DefCon for the first time this year. And wouldn’t you know it, nearly every hand in the place went up.

Of course, someone more gullible than me might say that this influx of “n00bs,” as they called us, is the result of a once underground event going mainstream. Nonsense – just like the child decoys, this flood of new blood is an orchestrated effort to hide the hacker conclave.

It would take a fool to think that, all of a sudden, the bad hackers of this world have simply gone soft.

But they didn’t stop at the audience; many of the speakers, too, are fresh imports. Of all the various talks I’ve attended over the past few days, most have been given by first-time speakers. Know how I know? Because a roving gang of alcohol peddlers suddenly appears during each new speaker’s talk, to make them do a shot of some mystery liquid disguised as Jack Daniel’s. While I have yet to confirm this, my guess is that the substance is actually a low dose of LSD, administered to keep any speakers from going rogue.

The plan is quite ingenious, I must admit. By filling in the speaking slots with relative unknowns, the veterans are free to slip away into their underground lair without raising any eyebrows – except mine.

Exhibit C: Where are the cops?

We all know that the founder of DefCon, Jeff “Dark Tangent” Moss, asked federal law enforcement to sit this year out. And so far, any feds in attendance have kept their heads down. But they are not what concerns me – what concerns me is, not a single on-duty officer has needed to show up.

This is not the norm. In 2001, for example, FBI agents arrested Russian cryptographer Dmitry Sklyarov for Digital Millennium Copyright Act violations (or so they say). And in 2009, four attendees were reportedly arrested on felony charges for attempting to bungee jump from the roof of the Riviera Hotel and Casino. This year, nothing. It’s like a goddamned Disneyland vacation.

Pertinent questions: Why are there no hardened criminals here? And why is everyone else so well behaved? Think about it.

Exhibit D: Where are the hacks?

Seriously. I have not witnessed one real hack here at DefCon. Oh, sure, there are a bunch of controlled hacking contests. And we all know that some idiots have tried to join the public Wi-Fi, only to find their name and login credentials plastered on the Wall of Sheep. But none of that counts. I’m talking about true hacks and revealing talks – the kind that companies and government organizations sue to stop. Not a single controversial exploit has reared its head at this year’s DefCon. And, as odd as that sounds, that’s making me nervous.


Based on the evidence above, I think we can all agree the only logical answer is that all the real hackers have slithered off to plan something horrible – because they certainly aren’t doing it on the floors of DefCon. And it would take a fool to think that, all of a sudden, the bad hackers of this world have simply gone soft.

So, where are they? And what are they up to? These are questions we should all be asking. I’ve never said this before: I can’t do this alone. Please, if you have any information, send it to me however you can. But don’t expect a response. I’m going deep undercover. I’ll let you know what I find.

Over and out. 

(Images courtest of Shutterstock, Inc. All rights reserved.)

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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