How To Protect Your Data, Devices, and Privacy During Hacker Summer Camp

How To Protect Your Data, Devices And Privacy During Hacker Summer Camp.jpeg

During our Hacker Summer Camp 2019 coverage in Las Vegas, we connect with keynote speakers, presenters, panelists, organizers, and the InfoSec community to keep the conversation going. While this isn’t one of those chats, we are honoured to have this guest contribution from our good friend, Marija Atanasova. Enjoy!

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By Marija Atanasova

#HackerSummerCamp is almost upon us. A plethora of security conferences — Black Hat, BSides, DEF CON, Queercon, Wicked6 Games, The Diana Initiative, and so much more — are all happening in Las Vegas on the same week (Aug 3 - 11).

With the infosec community about to overtake the city in a few days, how are hackers and civilian attendees protecting their data, devices and privacy during the conference?

Everyone I asked about this was quick to share their thoughts and tips — an underlying characteristic I've come to associate with this amazing community, even if some of the tips came with an ask to share them anonymously.

Before I list the things I learned — advice I will be following personally myself this year — I do want to point out that there are countless guides and resources for first-timers, so be sure to take a look at this, this and this, as well as others you may stumble upon in the coming days.

Anyway, some of the standing basics for DEF CON, kindly provided by Ted Harrington, Executive Partner at Independent Security Evaluators include:

  • Don't plug your devices into any USB ports — be wary of "free" charging stations or "lost" power bricks.

  • Don't plug any discovered USB devices into your devices — be wary of any "lost" thumb drives, or corporate "giveaways".

  • Turn off any radios you don't need or aren't using, including especially WiFi and, if practical, Bluetooth.

  • Avoid logging onto any unknown WiFi networks.

Other common-sense tips "to stay safe and reduce the risk of becoming the next cyber victim," as Joseph Carson, Chief Security Scientist & Advisory CISO of Thycotic says, include:

  • Use cash and keep you contactless cards in an RFID protected wallet.

  • Power off any devices you are not using, even those left locked in your room. For the devices you carry with you, keep them in airplane mode.

  • Avoid Public WiFi and use mobile data always with a VPN.

Carson also recommends going a step further by taking these precautions BEFORE traveling to Las Vegas:

  • Update, Patch, and Backup your devices.

  • Leave sensitive data at home.

  • Remove anything from your devices that could be sensitive in nature.

As Carson points out, "This is just good practice for any travel and should not be limited to just Vegas for Black Hat and DEF CON."

Overall though, keep in mind that "Most attendees at DEF CON are kind, welcoming, smart, interesting people! Don't be afraid to get to know them!" Harrington says.

Good luck with trying to protect your privacy in Las Vegas, though. It is nearly impossible to avoid being tracked by the thousands of security cameras around the conferences.

"You can attempt by wearing different caps and sunglasses daily, however these will not even fool some of the more sophisticated security cameras," Carson says.

Also, note that “Do Not Disturb” signs do not mean a thing to hotel security staff in the aftermath of the 2017 mass shooting. It might even appear suspicious to hotel staff if left on your door during the day. We all remember the so-called ‘random’ hotel room checks at Caesar's last year.

If you don't want for people to enter your room WHILE YOU ARE IN IT, you may want to invest in portable door jambs.

Some people also recommend scanning your room for any signs of hidden cameras or doing the light and fingernail test to check if the hotel room mirror is two-way or not.

However, when in Vegas, you might as well accept that you will be watched and tracked. As Carson points out, the new saying is more likely to be “What happens in Vegas gets caught on camera and stays on camera.”

Good luck with your preparations, friends. Keep some extra room in your bag for badges, stickers and swag — and in your heart, save some room for new ideas and people you meet.

"Make sure to capture the greatness of what this community is about, even amidst level-headed cautions," Harrington says.

I agree, 100%.

See you all at Hacker Summer Camp!