Many people–hackers included–try to divide the hacking community into two clearly distinct camps: "black hats," who are looking for holes so that they can exploit them and perhaps even steal data or spread viruses, and "white hats," who look for holes so that they can plug them before they´re discovered by black hats. The reality is often far more gray, but there have always been hackers from both camps at the Con. (And part of the appeal of Capture the Flag is that even the purest of the white hats gets to be a bad guy for a weekend.)
As people come to rely more and more on electronic data exchanges in their daily lives, opportunities for hackers of both stripes are growing. Even something as simple as an ATM receipt can make you vulnerable to attack, warns Robert Morris, a former National Security Agency chief scientist speaking at a Def Con panel session. "Don´t just leave it at the ATM," he says. "Don´t throw it on the sidewalk. I´m not going into what the problem looks like right now–some of you already know–but if you leave it at the ATM, you´re going to lose a lot of money."
The growing popularity of wireless communications opens up even more avenues for electronic entry. At another panel, members of the Shmoo Group (a loose collective of security geeks that includes several Bacon players) present a program that would let someone hijack all the traffic at an Internet hotspot. They also show off a small "hackerbot" on wheels that finds unsecured Wi-Fi users and shows them their passwords on a large screen. Later in the weekend, three teens who have come to Def Con from Ohio describe how they drove around Cincinnati looking for unsecured wireless Internet connections, then knocked on doors and asked the people inside whether they wanted to have their connections fixed. "They kind of freaked out, so we were looking for something to do with all this equipment we´d just bought," says Ben Corrado, explaining what inspired them to attend Def Con, where they won the Wi-Fi Shootout by establishing a wireless connection across 55.1 miles in the desert.