Geeks Gather for Woodstock-style Conference

By Dave

I really wish I was at this conference, it sounds like a lot of fun. I am not a hacker by any means, but I am sure I could learn a thing or two from being at such a conference about security, and whatnot.

There are hundreds of tents on the hot and soggy campground, but this isn’t your ordinary summertime outing, considering that it includes workshops with such titles as “Politics of Psychedelic Research” or “Fun and Mayhem with RFID.”

This is the three-day “What The Hack” convention, a self-styled computer-security conference dealing such issues as digital passports, biometrics and cryptography.

Borrowing heavily from Woodstock and the more professionalized Def Con conference that begins Friday in Las Vegas, the event held every four years in the Netherlands draws an international array of experts and geeks. About 3,000 gathered Thursday for the opening.

Unlike better-known and better-funded industry meetings, “What the Hack” had to fight for its right to exist.

The mayor of the southern Dutch town of Boxtel, who oversees the village of Liempde where the convention is held, initially tried to stop the event from pitching its hundreds of tents outside his town — a reluctance stemming from the lingering public image of hackers as asocial, anarchistic and vaguely menacing.

The mayor withdrew his objections after meetings with organizers.

Some of the scheduled lectures and workshops might reinforce the convention’s shady reputation, such as the talk about mayhem with RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification tags.

But other seminars appeared wholesome enough, such as the workshop on how to make homes more energy efficient or how activists can lobby governments more effectively.

Even the local police officers assigned to monitor “What the Hack” are being included in the event. Officers are holding daily workshops to educate the public about how they go about securing events like these. Such cooperation with authorities would have raised eyebrows in previous years.

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