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Noa Yachot,
Former Senior Editor,
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August 2, 2013

It’s DEF CON time! The preeminent hacker convention kicked off yesterday in Las Vegas, and a team of ACLU experts are there. If you’re in town, come visit us in the vendor area, where we’re on hand to chat about what has been a pretty eventful year – to put it mildly – in digital privacy, and where we’re offering limited edition t-shirts (designed especially for DEF CON!) to new ACLU members. And be sure not to miss our two panels today (Friday), after which you can join us to Party Like It’s 1986 at the DEF CON pub crawl. Details on the panels and party are below.

Backdoors, Government Hacking and The Next Crypto Wars
Friday, August 2, 12 p.m.

The FBI claims it is going dark. Encryption technologies have finally been deployed by software companies, and enabled by default, such that emails are flowing over HTTPS, and disk encryption is now frequently used. Friendly telcos, who were once a one-stop-shop for surveillance, can no longer meet the needs of our government. What can the FBI and other agencies do to preserve their spying capabilities?

Part of the answer is backdoors: The FBI is rallying political support in Washington, DC for legislation that will give it the ability to fine Internet companies unwilling to build surveillance backdoors into their products. Even though interception systems prove to be irresistible targets for nation states, the FBI and its allies want to make our networks less secure, not more.

The other solution embraced by the FBI is hacking, by the government, against its citizens. A team of FBI agents and contractors, based in Quantico, Virginia have developed (and acquired) the capabilities to hack into systems, deliver malware capable of surreptitiously enabling a computer’s webcam, collecting real-time location data, as well as exfiltrating emails, web browsing records and other documents.

While politicians are clearly scared about hacks from China, our own law enforcement agencies are clearly in the hacking business. Chris Soghoian, the ACLU’s principal technologist, will discuss what this means for the current, heated debate about cybersecurity and our ability to communicate securely.

The ACLU Presents: NSA Surveillance and More
Friday, August 2, 3 p.m.

From the NSA’s PRISM and metadata programs to IMSI catchers, location tracking to surveillance drones, and warrantless wiretapping to the AP’s emails – this has been the year of surveillance. Come join the American Civil Liberties Union as we unravel the thicket of new technologies and laws that allow the U.S. government to spy on Americans in more intrusive ways than ever before. We will explore the latest news and trends in surveillance, reasons to despair, grounds to be hopeful, and ways in which you can help the ACLU’s fight against government overreaching.

Participating on the panel will be the Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project (SPT); Alex Abdo, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project; Christopher Soghoian, SPT’s principal technologist; Kade Crockford, the director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts; and Nicole Ozer, the Technology and Civil Liberties Policy director at the ACLU of California. SPT Director Ben Wizner will be moderating the panel.

Join the ACLU to Party Like It’s 1986!
Friday, August 2, 9 p.m.

There’s plenty to celebrate about the 80s – like the Bangles, big hair, and Pac-Man, for starters. But one totally un-rad remnant from that era is the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which was enacted in 1986, and which gives law enforcement warrantless access to much of our electronic communications.

So gear up to fight for an update to ECPA: Break out those old high tops, and get ready to get down to some loud and bodacious 80s music at an ACLU-hosted party at DEF CON 21’s pub crawl tonight. Flashy fashion and makeup await. There will be retro décor. And ACLU experts will be on hand to discuss privacy and technology law.

It is ridiculous that the standards for protecting your emails, Facebook messages, text messages, and more haven’t been updated since before the World Wide Web was even invented. So let’s get together to party like it’s 1986 – and demand privacy like it’s 2013.

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