It's hard to get a clear picture of what the hackers who met at DefCon in Las Vegas over the weekend really wanted. Matt Richtel's New York Times report on the drumming of a National Security Council senior director indicated that they wanted the government to be more careful in securing its own Web sites. But they also wanted to hack into those sites. Oh, and they don't want the government to rely on Microsoft software to protect those sites.
Bruce Meyerson's AP report in the Washington Post said that members of the Cult of the Dead Cow released the cracking software Back Orifice 2000 because they wanted to expose security flaws in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT software so that Microsoft could fix it - presumably so that Microsoft's customers could feel more secure.
So ... some hackers want Microsoft's customers to be more secure, while other hackers don't want the government to use any Microsoft software.
Bob Sullivan's report on MSNBC suggested that they wanted to get together to share knowledge about how to commit crimes that none of them will ever actually perpetrate. Polly Sprenger's report for Wired suggested that they wanted to get together to watch teenage dancers, or maybe to settle online grudges by fighting them out in inflatable sumo-wrestler costumes. The Wall Street Journal headlined its Web and print editions with a come-on about feds and recruiters invading the conference. But instead of summer-movie-like action, John Simons' account yawned over routine conference activities: seminars, panels and talking heads. Make that talking feds. Simons reported that DefCon organizers regularly broke into panel discussions for a rollicking game of "Spot the Fed," which invited attendees to pick out the ubiquitous undercover agent in the audience.
Winners - both the eagle-eyed attendee and the bagged agent - got T-shirts.
Sounded like a pretty regular convention, once you got past the black T-shirts and tattoos of circuitry. But the real story may happen this week as NT administrators watch for evidence of damage from the harmful new program, nicknamed BO2K. If it hits hard, the hackers will have proven their point.
Which is, well ... something about Microsoft.
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