As more than 2,500 hackers, crackers, programsers, and federal employees descend on Las Vegas for the DefCon show, America's networks have never been safer, according to show organisers.
The seventh DefCon show has brought people from as far away as Australia and Alaska to gather to compete in "hacking" capture the flag tournaments, pick up new tips, learn what to say to federal agents if they come knocking on the door, and dance the night away to music played by DJs. This year's DefCon show has grown dramatically in size from last year, according to the show's organiser who goes by the code name of Dark Tangent.
"We grew from 1,700 to at least 2,500. We printed over 2,300 name badges and we ran out," said Dark Tangent. "We've doubled the number of speakers from last year."
Attendees have come to learn about everything from hacking Novell's NetWare and Oracle databases to actually meeting government security officers, who made a plea for those in attendance to stop their mischief from September to December so they can deal with the year 2000 (Y2K) crisis.
DefCon itself, however, was not immune to hacking -- the show's site at http://www.defcon.org/ was hacked and sprayed with "graffiti" reportedly by a European hacker group called ADM.
Organizer Dark Tangent blamed the group's ability to launch the attack on the fact that the site was recently turned over to a site hosting company that didn't give it appropriate protection.
The new company hasn't done anything to protect it, (so) it was bound to happen," he said. "I am not happy."
Attendees were not impressed with the defacement of the site as well, and called it poor form.
"It's not called for," said a 16-year-old attendee, code named Type-O, who traveled from Alaska to attend the event. "Those are the people that give hackers a bad name."
The growth of the show, from 100 people in its first incarnation, has occurred despite Dark Tangent's efforts.
"I really did no announcement," he said.
Nevertheless, some attendees could not be kept away, even with recent floods that placed three to four feet of mud in the street before the convention site hotel.
"It was even worth the four-hour flight delay," said Kane14, a 15-year-old cracker from Pennsylvania. "Nothing is going to stop DefCon."
With so many "trouble makers" in one place, Dark Tangent contends that network administrators need not worry about too many attacks coming out of the show.
"Half the people working for them are going to come back and help them secure their sites better than before," said Dark Tangent.
"This is a place for hackers to get together, chill out, and to really meet the faces behind the aliases," said Batz, a 22-year-old hacker from Canada. "It is just fun."
More information on the DefCon show is available at http://www.defcon.org/.