DefCon 19, Day 3

Sunday was interesting — this was actually the first DefCon I have attended (and I’ve been to the last five) where Sunday was actually busy. Normally Sunday feels very empty — most people have gone home, and the ones that are still around are too hung over to go to the morning sessions. I was not quite hung over enough to miss the morning sessions, so off I went. I’d imagine a lot of people took advantage of DefCon TV, though.

I started the day with Whit Diffie & Moxie Marlinspike’s Q&A session in Track 1. There was no topic in the program; instead, they just both answered questions about SSL and cryptography. One interesting detail: one of the reasons RSA has become more successful (or at least frequently used) than Diffie-Hellman was that Diffie himself favored it, on account of certain attacks for which RSA is more favorable (though Diffie-Hellman is better against others.) A lot of the discussion, though, was about Moxie’s notary system proposal. I have to give Moxie credit here — though I’m still not sure that I agree with his proposal, I probably spent more time debating it with people than I spent talking about any other presentation this weekend. It certainly spawned a lot of conversation.

Paul Craig’s iKAT tool is always interesting, and he presented a new version. The previous one only attacked Windows kiosks, and now he’s cross-platform. Essentially, the principle is that Internet kiosks are designed with the threat model of defending the kiosk from the user… and not defending it from the Internet. Thus, iKAT is an Internet site that can be used by the user to attack his own machine, under the assumption that his own machine is some sort of locked-down Internet kiosk with restricted permissions. iKAT allows the user to take full administrative control of most of them, either just to get unrestricted Internet orb, if he’s less friendly, to Trojan the card-reader.

Next, Alva Duckwall presented A Bridge Too Far, a talk on bypassing 802.1x via creating a layer-2 transparent bridge. This was actually a rather cool talk, and coupled very well with yesterday’s talk on exploiting hotel VoIP via VLAN-hopping by cloning the phone. With all the focus being on Layer-3 protocols these days, it’s cool to see that you can still do some interesting stuff at Layer-2.

There was a talk in the afternoon on bit-squatting — essentially, a binary version of typosquatting wherein you register a domain that’s a 1-bit error off from a legitimate domain, not intending to catch user error but rather to catch hardware and network errors. 1-bit errors are fairly common, at least when multiplied by billions of Internet users. I didn’t attend the talk because I felt that all the interesting material was basically contained in the title — the moral of the story is going to be that you should probably register the 1-bit-off domain names of your own if you’re going to create a highly-targeted site like a banking site. Talking to people who did attend… the consensus was that it shouldn’t have been a 50-minute talk.

Instead, I visited datagram’s talk on tamper-evident devices. Most of them, well, aren’t tamper-evident, at least not against a skilled attacker. The attacks range from very obvious (stretching plastic, razoring up adhesive) to requiring more knowledge (dissolving adhesive with a wide variety of organic and inorganic solvents) to very clever. Note that during the Tamper Evident contest at DefCon, wherein people tried to bypass a wide variety of anti-tampering seals and devices… none of the seals or devices successfully resisted attack.

I followed this up with a talk by the DefCon NOC on Building the DefCon network. It’s an interesting challenge — building a high-bandwidth network, wired and wireless, for use by 12,000 people, many of whom will be actively attacking it, given only 3 days, using only hardware you can afford to keep in a box 51 weeks of the year. Considering their constraints they do a remarkable job. This year’s secure wireless was, so far as anyone could tell, actually secure… and possibly safer than using GSM or CDMA in this environment (GSM is definitely broken, and the not-quite-confirmed rumor is that CDMA users were hit by an 0day MitM this year, too.) DefCon TV was a huge hit, even though it did not successfully reach all rooms.

The last talk of the day was Jayson Street’s dramatically-titled “Steal Everything, Kill Everyone, Cause Total Financial Ruin!” It was sometimes amusing, but overall it was mostly a self-aggrandizing pentester talking about various (mostly physical) exploits he had pulled off. Not really any valuable content for a security pro, though your average non-security person would probably be shocked at how trivially exploitable most systems are.

Having spent pretty much the whole weekend at DefCon events, I decided to go back down to the Strip, see a show, and have some delicious steak frites and wine at the Paris. It was a nice ending to a packed weekend.

Overall, DefCon this weekend was a huge success (I’m making a note here.) The Rio was a great environment, much better than the Riviera, with enough room to grow and real food to eat. Staying in the conference hotel and having a group to enjoy DefCon with made it a much more fun experience than past years; both will be things I’ll be sure to repeat. (Incidentally, Google Plus is a great tool for attending a con with a group — it’s like having your own private Twitter — though I can’t say that I have found much else it’s good for yet.) Speaking of Twitter, while it’s been indefensible for DefCon in prior years, at this point since everyone has a smartphone and a Twitter account the #defcon hashtag actually has so much traffic it’s almost impossible to keep track of. Every time you bring it up there are hundreds of new tweets.

I think the new non-electronic badges were a success. While perhaps less “cool” than the electronic ones, far more people participated in the badge contest this year than have ever participated in hacking the electronic badges, and while badge lines did run 2-3 hours, at least they were available before the con started. At some point, DefCon management needs to learn that the conference is growing 10%+ per year and that they need to order enough badges for growth; considering the much lower cost of non-electronic badges, perhaps they’ll do that next year. The lines are entirely unnecessary — they exist only because everybody knows that badges have been under-ordered and people at the back of the line won’t get one. Without this pressure to get badges first, the infamous LineCon could be avoided.

DC303 and Rapid7 threw great parties. However, most of the fun I had was around the Rio pools — having them open until 2am was great, though even later would be nice (and allowing alcohol instead of having everyone smuggle it in would be an improvement, though I’m not holding my breath on that one.) Finally, thanks to DC206 for a great time, a lot of very interesting conversation, and confusing the hell out of taxi drivers.

attacks, hardware, networks, physical security, products

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