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    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    Last HOPE conference (Hackers on Planet Earth) Part 4

    The Last HOPE conference (Hackers on Planet Earth) in NYC 2008

    Part 4 (Saturday)

    After not a lot of sleep and with my own presentation looming later that day, I somehow made it to the conference at 10 AM for “Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM)—A Brief Primer on the Arcane Art and Science of Electronics Surveillance and Bug Detection.” As my hacker/lawyer Mainer friend aptly said, “He looks like a nice guy and reminds me of my Grandpa—but without the bomb stuff.” Marty Kaiser told us about some business deal with the FBI or CIA (I cannot remember which) that didn’t go well and the gov. destroyed his reputation causing him tens of years in court and something like $75,000. in legal fees. He also showed us some old bug detection devices and reminded me why my old metal detector in the shed shouldn’t be discarded because it can find bugs like the newer ones cannot. Interesting should I ever need that.

    “A Convergence of Communities,” was given by my father, John J. Strauchs, former case officer (that means covert agent) for the CIA. Married to my mother who was a hippie in the 70s (afro, headbands—the whole thing!) and former leader of her college’s Student’s for a Democratic Society (SDS), I’m a mix of the two perspectives. My father’s presentation was critical of how Homeland Security is spending our tax dollars. He believes that we’re bankrupting our economy with often expensive, and not always necessary, security that isn’t intelligently planned and implemented. Intelligence, in his opinion, is the only way to prevent terrorist attacks but some attacks on certain infrastructures, such as mass transportation, are inevitable. However, it is possible to mitigate the risks—and subsequent fatalities should an attack succeed--by making wiser choices regarding high-risk terrorist targets through prioritizing using triage.

    His abbreviation for TSA (thousands standing around) is appropriate, especially when I have to deal with my husband getting stopped every darn time we go through security because he has an olive complexion that TSA incorrectly assumes makes him Arab or when security demanded that my son, only 1 year old at the time, crawl through the metal detectors alone because he might be hiding something; he crawled through and then stopped in the middle of it thus creating a huge back-up into Dulles airport—that’s my boy! That probably wasn’t smart allocation of TSA’s resources.

    Steven Levy, a prolific writer and public speaker, talked about his inspirations for the book Hackers. He began by mentioning an article from the 1980s in Psychology Today as being his chief inspiration. One of my friends, Kaja Perina, is currently the Editor in Chief of Psychology Today. I got on my cell and told her she’d better get down here to cover the conference because her magazine was just mentioned as being the inspiration for the book which helped spawn the hacker culture! She was there by the end of the day and was kindly given a press pass for the conference.

    After Levy’s presentation, I went into seclusion back at the hotel to give my presentation a last review before my 8 PM time slot. I missed some talks I wanted to see, but I had to practice. I’ve spoken to large groups before and even been in front of an event featuring U.S. Congress, but presenting to my peers—and some pretty smart peers—was a daunting task. I had to meet some high bars for this talk.

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