Defcon descends on Las Vegas

I’m here at Defcon watching the hacker masses share their information. As usual, it’s incredibly crowded, but the new venue at the Rio hotel is a welcome upgrade. Las Vegas is as hot and crazy as ever. It’s never a boring visit.

So far there have been some great talks, and I’d like to highlight a few favorites.

The talk by Moxie Marlinspike; “SSL and the Future of Authenticity” covering the shortcomings of the Certificate Authority system, was an eye-opening look into how broken this system is. As always, Moxie is an engaging and relevant speaker, and his solution is based around a distributed system with multiple authorities verifying the site you’re connecting to. With a few kinks still to work out, it’s an interesting idea, and certainly it’s time to move away from the current model.

Another talk, by Daniel Garcia, called “UPnP Mapping” demonstrated an issue quite widespread on the internet. UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) is a interoperability system developed by Microsoft, with the idea that devices could added to a network with zero setup. It’s never worked very well at best, and at worst, it can provide a remote party all sorts of information about your device from the Internet. Mr. Garcia demonstrated a tool where he was able to scan a network block, create a list of vulnerable routers, and then even issue commands. In some cases these routers could be used as an open proxy, or many other more malicious purposes.

Finally the “Chip and Pin is Definitely Broken” talk by Andrea Barisani, Adam Laurie, Zac Franken, and Daniele Bianco covered the flaws in the implementation used on credit cards with an embedded chip system to authenticate purchases. The presenters created multiple pieces of hardware to successfully defeat each part of the authentication schema and did a brief coverage of skimmers. They finished the talk by successfully sidestepping the Square payment system and move money across accounts by converting the string of numbers into audio signals.

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