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

defcon 21 deception mr worst case scenario 08 04 2013 header

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.


Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.
Digital Trends Live

Actress Holly Fields reveals the secret world of video game voice acting

Voice actress Holly Fields has led an interesting career, from growing up with Molly Ringwald to working on Star Wars: The Old Republic. Fields appeared on Digital Trends Live to talk about her career.

Intel answers Qualcomm's new PC processors by pairing Core and Atom in 'Foveros'

Intel has announced a new packaging technology called 'Foveros' that makes it easier for the company to place multiple chips together on one package. That includes chips based on different Intel architectures, like Core and Atom.
Product Review

‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ is an ode to gaming that lives up to its name

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a loving tribute to Nintendo and video game history. It’s a terrific multiplayer fighter that also has plenty for single-player fans to love this time around.

Smartphone makers are vomiting a torrent of new phones, and we’re sick of it

Smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, LG, Sony, and Motorola are releasing far too many similar phones. The update cycle has accelerated, but more choice is not always a good thing.

Do we even need 5G at all?

Faster phones, easier access to on-demand video, simpler networking -- on the surface, 5G sounds like a dream. So why is it more of a nightmare?
Home Theater

The Apple AirPods 2 needed to come out today. Here are four reasons why

Apple announced numerous new products at its October 30 event, a lineup that included a new iPad Pro, a MacBook Air, as well as a new Mac Mini. Here are four reasons we wish a new set of AirPods were on that list.

Razer’s most basic Blade 15 is the one most gamers should buy

Razer's Blade 15 is an awesome laptop for both gamers, streamers, professionals, and anyone else needing serious go in a slim profile, but its price is out of reach for many games. The new Blade 15 Base solves that problem with few…

Going to hell, again. The Switch makes 'Diablo 3' feel brand-new

I've played every version of Diablo 3 released since 2012, racking up hundreds of hours in the process. Six years later, I'm playing it yet again on Nintendo Switch. Somehow, it still feels fresh.

‘Fallout 76’ may have online multiplayer but it’s still a desolate wasteland

"Is Fallout 76 an MMO?" That depends on who you ask. Critics and players often cite its online multiplayer capabilities as a reason it qualifies. Yet calling the game an MMO only confuses matters, and takes away from what could make…
Digital Trends Live

Microsoft has #*!@ed up to-do lists on an epic scale

Microsoft has mucked up to-do lists on a scale you simply can’t imagine, a failure that spans multiple products and teams, like a lil’ bit of salmonella that contaminates the entire output from a factory.

As Amazon turns up the volume on streaming, Spotify should shudder

Multiple players are all looking to capitalize on the popularity of streaming, but it has thus far proved nearly impossible to make a profit. Could major tech companies like Amazon be primed for a streaming take-over?

Throw out the sandbox. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is a fully realized western world

Despite featuring around 100 story missions, the real destination in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the journey you make for yourself in the Rockstar's open world, and the game is better for it.

‘Diablo Immortal’ is just the beginning. Mobile games are the future

Diablo fans were furious about Diablo Immortal, but in truth, mobile games are the future. From Apple and Samsung to Bethesda and Blizzard, we’re seeing a new incentive for games that fit on your phone.