The origins of DefCon

malk+bunnyThis week we have the DefCon 20 and Black Hat computer security conferences in Las Vegas — reasons enough for me to do 2-3 columns about computer security. These columns will be heading in a direction I don’t think you expect, but first please indulge my look back at the origin of these two conferences, which were started by the same guy, Jeff Moss, known 20 years ago as The Dark Tangent. Computer criminals and vigilantes today topple companies and governments, but 20 years ago it was just kids, or seemed to be. I should know, because I was there — the only reporter to attend Def Con 1.

In those days there […]

The $30 billion Social Security hack

Sometime last year computers at the U.S. Social Security Administration were hacked and the identities of millions of Americans were compromised. What, you didn’t hear about that?  Nobody did.

The extent of damage is only just now coming to light in the form of millions of false 2011 income tax returns filed in the names of people currently receiving Social Security benefits. That includes a very large number of elderly and disabled people who are ill-equipped to recognize or fight the problem. It’s an impact pervasive enough that the IRS now has a form just to deal with it: Form 14039: Identity Theft Affidavit, December 2011.

The Wall $treet Journal has a story about this problem […]

When Men Were Boys and Boys Were Stupid

An occasional reader of this column, whose son works at Intel and is also a reader, got an e-mail from his kid while on vacation the other morning saying, “Cringely is in Boulder so keep an eye out for him.” At that moment we were both in a campground and I was sleeping 30 feet away. It’s a small world. But while these moments keep happening to me and I keep meeting marvelous new friends as a result, I am constantly reminded, too, of how big the technology culture has become and how impersonal it can be. I was especially reminded of that this weekend reading about the DefCon 18 show in Las Vegas where […]