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The HOPE Conference, ComiCon’s Tech Cousin – Tech Tuesday

The HOPE conference, also known as the Hackers On Planet Earth is a biennial conference held in New York City, and started in 1994. It’s a place were Hackers from all over can gather and talk about anything security related or about new ideas they have to improve software or what have you. It’s like the technical side of summer camp for geeks.

Summer 2012 Issue of 2600 Magazine
Photo BIG Rich Lawrence

Anything security related can usually be found to be talked about here. It was first brought to my attention by the magazine 2600: The Hacker’s Quarterly, which sponsors the event. Since then I have followed the conferences from afar learning more and more about security and hacking in general. Not the steal passwords and credit cards kind of hacking. That is not what HOPE is about. It’s about taking something and making it do something totally different then what it was designed for. Or showing that there is a hole in the security of a product and making the companies aware of these holes. There are of course other fun things to do like film festivals and Segway riding as well as a live radio station they setup and vendors along with vintage computer displays.

The big highlight at this years conference, that was held this past week, was how a pair of security handcuff, which use a special made key and not generally available to the general public, was defeated by using a home made key designed in a computer aided design program and a 3D printer. The author of the demonstration was able to get a look at a key and using a pair of calipers, was able to create the CAD model and print it. They were then tested on a pair of these handcuffs he procured, showed how they could be opened using the key he made.

Normally, people who do these things go to the companies to show them first, so they can see where the flaw in the plan is. But most of the time, the hackers are ignored, and when they go and show people this problem, the companies act all surprised. Even to the point of trying to sue the person to stop them. Sometimes they do and the research is leaked online, other times, the company decides to talk and drops the suit.

This kind of conference has been helpful in many ways, like helping improve credit card fraud detection. It’s been a place for hackers to meet and network and exchange ideas and knowledge. It can also just be fun to socialize with others who like the same things you do. But if you have an itch to see the hacker culture up close, think about going to the HOPE conference in a couple years and seeing it for yourself. Also check out the 2600 website for videos and photos from all the HOPE conferences.

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