Philly With a Side of B-Sides

Over the weekend, I got my second taste of B-Sides.  This time Drexel University in Philadelphia played host to the 2nd annual B-Sides Philly.

Much like the event in April, I got a good cross-section of technical and non-technical information to ponder.  The event began with the keynote, given by a speaker I had heard in Rochester.  Ernest Wong, from the US Military Academy, gave a talk on “Innovating for 21st Century Warfare”.  Though the examples he used for innovation were the original “Mission Impossible” and the movie “Top Gun”.   The speech that bored me in Rochester, was downright interesting.

The next talk was on Russian Information Operations and how much of it is social engineering.  I couldn’t help see a lot of similarities between the tactics Russia is using and the tactics Trump, Fox News, etc are using on the minions in the mobile estates, etc.   This was interesting enough that I actually streamed it for a fellow activist:

Now it was time to get logged into the system a bit, with a talk on the Unix, etc command line called “Out With The Old–In With the GNU.”  A look at how people often use commands that they have learned or are familiar with, without looking for alternatives.  This can lead to ‘fingerprints’ that can be used to track and trace a user, and the talk was on how to avoid leaving such a trail.

The next topic I explored is something I could see my fellow activists being interested in, “Disinformation and Hiding Personal Information”.  Trump will eventually tighten the grip on “The Resistance”, and being able to go incognito may be something that needs to be explored.  Oddly enough the “Dark Web” was not brought up either in the talk or the questions.

I broke for lunch and then explored the vendors room, where I got some business cards that I plan to follow up on once I get my Security+ Certification.

The afternoon session brought a talk on ransomware that was interrupted by a fire alarm and a very quick introduction to a web security dojo.

I managed to save the best for last, with a talk on how there’s common ground between improv comedy and social engineering that  has me looking at reaching out to a local improv theater troupe and finally a talk on the mind of a hacker that was a bit chilling.

The closing remarks brought a surprise for me.  I am now the proud owner of a Bitcoin wallet; it’s really more like a personal vault, and there’s the matter of me learning how to get some cryptocurrency into it.

I hope to return for 2018, but may leave the driving to Amtrak.


Keeping Down

I am nervously watching the sky this morning.  Later this afternoon, I may be doing some door-knocking in a community that is likely to feel the affects of both Trump’s policies and the people he has empowered.  If the event is postponed, it will likely be until tomorrow, which will be a good thing for me.

The event being moved will mean I don’t have to worry about what to do while the Steelers-Ravens game is on.  I’ve been doing well boycotting the NFL, at least the games themselves.  Opening weekend, I had a meeting.  The next week, a kayaking trip.  Last week, a peace festival and unexpected visit to my Aunt in the hospital.

What is more interesting is that Trump’s “trailer park caucus” seems to have decided to start boycotts of their own.  They’re demand is for the players to stand for the National Anthem or for the NFL to take some action.

What I think has happened is that some people have confused patriotism with nationalism.  This has happened many times in the past, a common way to stifle dissent is to convince folks that the dissenters are “unpatriotic” or “Un-American”; the response to Civil Right and Anti-War protesters in the 1960’s, and the response to “Black Lives Matter” and the NFL players taking a knee.

If the event today is not moved, I can still keep busy.  I can clean my floors, work on some pictures and maybe get some coding time in.

Compared to what folks in Selma, Montgomery, Standing Rock, etc had to deal with, a day without football isn’t so bad.

The Weekend Code Warrior(2017 Version)

It is with great pleasure that I report that I will be back in the ranks of the employed!  I begin a new job Monday testing defective Apple products.

With the job, I won’t have as much time during the week to work on programming, etc.  I do want to get back to preparing for my Security+ certification exam, but I also see a need to work with; Python and the Raspberry Pi, Kali Linux and maybe TAILS, JavaScript and App Development, and “doxxing”.

I think about it, and the only time I may have to do all this may be the weekend.  I get up pretty early on Saturdays and Sundays, so I could get an hour in before breakfast, or even during it.  College football could be a good background for coding as well.  Since I’m boycotting the NFL in solidarity with Colin Kapernick, that leaves Sundays free.

Now I may have to cut back on my “field work”, maybe just restrict that to meetings, etc.

It would seem that I still feel the call of the activist geek, or want to be found by the South-Central PA cell of Anonymous.

Ain’t No Party Like a Crypto Party?

The roles I play in the resistance to Trump seem to be expanding.  Comments from a few activists lead me to think I am in some way like Templeton “Face” Peck from the 1980’s TV program “The A-Team”.  I’m the guy who can interact with more mainstream progressives like “Indivisibles” and then pass info along to allies.

I also continue to explore the role that my technical skills may play.  My recent trip to B-Sides Rochester was one step deeper down that rabbit hole.  Between issues of The Nation, or when there’s nothing else on television, I have been watching videos from the 2016 Hacker On Planet Earth, or HOPE, conference.   One video that piqued my interest was on starting a “Crypto Party“.  Now I immediately though of a political party, and when I saw that the video was about something more like a “Meet Up”, I could have easily turned it off.

I am glad I did not.  I could see actually running one of these in Harrisburg.  We have a large activist community that may be concerned about keeping their information and activities private.  Also, the communities most under attack from Trump may find information about apps like Signal, Cell 411, Virtual Private Networks. or VPNs, or programs like TOR  useful.

Do I know everything, far from it, but I know more than many people.  I feel this knowledge may be useful to other people.  What I don’t know, someone else may.  It’s now just a matter of figuring out how to put one together.

The 42-Year Old N00b

On Saturday, April 22, I made my first appearance at a “Hackers” conference.  The Rochester Institute of Technology played host to the 7th annual “B-Sides” conference.  The theme “Crypto Cold War” could not have been more appropriate, as we seem to now be embracing the old “Evil Empire”.

I did have a good time, but realize that I have a lot to learn.  The two technical talks I attended; one on Assembly Language and the other about hiding code had me in a bit of a haze.

The non-technical talks were a little easier to bear.  A talk on physical entry made me realize that once one gets into a building, they usually have fairly free rein.  A talk on robust defense got me to thinking that when it comes to security, one may need to “think small”.  A talk on communication made me wonder how often a company tries to make itself the victim, instead of the customers.

A final talk on outwitting “Crackers”, folks who attempt to break into systems, given by an Army Intelligence Officer was a bit of a disappointment.  His focus was more on innovation then exploitation.

I would have never thought two years ago, I would be at an event like B-Sides.  Of course, I didn’t expect the country to decide to make such a hard right turn either.

America Is Still Standing–UP!

It has been two weeks and one day since Donald Trump took office.  There has been a flurry of executive orders, riled up allies, and gaffes like the “Bowling Green Massacre”.

There have also been protests, literally since day 1.  His second day in office brought one of the largest protests in history, that my hometown area even got into the act.  There were demonstrations at airports and tech companies.  Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had over 2000 people for an rally in support of immigrants.  Harrisburg’s turn is tomorrow, February 5th.

Trump and his authoritarian followers have to be surprised and perhaps a bit aggravated that these protests are ongoing.  They may have figured that after the election that progressives, especially millennials, would go back to the “safe spaces”.  I am sure a lot of them have, but many are taking to the streets.

There is more where this came from, there are events in April in the works and it seems that most actions Trump take produce a reaction from activists.

I am still reading Peoples History of The United States, so I am becoming aware that America’s true history may be one of repression and resistance.  What is happening in opposition to Trump may just be another generation taking their turn.

Plan B-Sides

A few of you may remember that I had expressed and interest in attending the annual Defcon computer conference. I actually viewed a few videos from past events and realized that even a 42 year old newbie would have a place.

Alas, Uncle Sam and H&R Block had other ideas.  A little part-time side job had me having to owe money to the government, and H&R Block to prepare my taxes.

It’s not a total loss, I had been taking money out of my checks from this gig, and can cover the amount I owe and the cost of preparation.   I will have to set my sights on Rochester’s annual B-Sides conference.  An added bonus is that I’ll be joined by fellow blogger The Radical Geek!

I just have to see how much rooms cost and how long it would take to get there.

Where Do I Go From Here

Once the Democratic Primaries were over, I saw that some of Bernie Sanders’s supporters may not be fully on board.  I also realized that this could make a Trump Presidency a possibility; I also realized that many of Bernie’s millennial backers may thing that hashtags and memes would be enough, and rather than be blindsided like in 2000, tried to make others ready.

The results of the election were still a bit of a blow to me, and the incidents in the aftermath; including one involving my high school alma mater really have me asking “Where do I go from here?”

I’m realizing more and more that this is a case where I may need to treat comforting the afflicted; Latinos, refugees, Muslims, etc, and afflicting the comfortable as separate tasks.

I think my avenue for afflicting the comfortable may be through the Anti-Fascist community.  It may be a matter of effectively harnessing my skills to assist those that see that Trump and his allies may have to be beaten in the streets.

To comfort the afflicted, I think my best bet may be the Catholic Worker House in Harrisburg.  I have worked with the man who runs that organization in the past.  The issue is that he may not like my collaborations with the Anti-Fascists.  I may have to keep the two groups separate, and mind what I say.

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