Defcon: What to leave at home and other do's and don'ts

Security experts say Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are bad and virtual private networks and EVDO modems are good at security shows, but the best thing is just to leave the equipment at home.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

Attending Defcon and Black Hat can make you feel a bit like a deer in a forest full of hunters.

The iPhone, love it, but leave it at home when going to Defcon, experts say. CNET

With virus-infected USB drives, Wi-Fi network sniffing, badges with built-in microphones and even security experts getting hacked, it seems like it's only a matter of time until your number comes up if you're not careful.

I asked some security experts for suggestions on what they do to protect themselves at the events and here is what they said.

• Have minimal software on your laptop, such as only the operating system and necessary applications.

• Make a backup of your computer before you leave for the conference and then wipe everything and reinstall when you get home.

• Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on all devices.

• Use an EVDO wireless card.

• Only connect to the Internet when you must.

• Use a virtual private network and--if you can--use RSA ID authentication and stop all direct connections to the computer.

• Run Linux off a USB key, back up documents online, and start with a fresh operating system every day.

• In addition to using updated security, application, and system software (antivirus in particular) and installing patches, use an operating system-level firewall.

An EVDO modem, such as the one pictured, should be the only gateway to the Internet used at a hacker conference. Verizon

• Use a disposable camera and a pre-paid cell phone.

• Lock up your equipment in your hotel room when you are going to be gone.

• Take the drives with you when you leave the laptop in the hotel room.

• Ask to be listed as a non-registered guest at the hotel so people can't get your room number or acknowledgement that you are staying at the hotel.

• Don't plug into any Ethernet jacks.

• Stay off the Wi-Fi networks at the airport and the events.

• Don't use the ATMs in the vicinity of the conferences.

What to leave at home:
• Your laptop and smartphone. You can't be attacked if you don't bring your equipment. If you must bring it, consider leaving it in the hotel room.