Review of the first Athens CryptoParty

On Sunday the 11th of November we finally had our first CryptoParty in Athens, Greece. We hosted it at the Athens Hackerspace.

We organized our first CryptoParty in a very ad-hoc way. A pad was set up and advertised on Twitter/Facebook. Almost immediately people started writing their thoughts, views and interests there. We soon had a list of topics that people were interested in and another list of people willing to give presentations/workshops. Later on we set up a doodle so people would choose the most convenient dates for them. From the group of 50 people that originally expressed their interest to attend the CryptoParty, at least 20 voted on the doodle. That’s how the final date of November the 11th was chosen.

It was surprising/refreshing that even though everything was organized through an anonymously editable pad, nobody tried to vandalize it.

The actual event
Through the pad, we chose 3 topics for the first meeting. “Using SSL/TLS for your Internet communications”, an “introduction to Tor” and another “introduction to I2P”.
The time for the event was set for 12:00 in the morning, probably a very bad choice. The next one should definitely be later in the afternoon or even night. We learn by our mistakes though…People started showing up at around 11:30, but the event didn’t start until 12:30 when someone from gave a 5′ intro talk about what the hackerspace is to people who had never been there before. People kept coming even until 13:00 and the audience had grown to more than 30 people.
After the three workshops/presentations around 10-15 people stayed and we ordered pizza.

All in all I’d say it was fairly successful since more than 30 people came and actually did things to improve their security.

The presentations/workshops
Using SSL/TLS for your Internet communications” (in English) was my effort to show people how cleartext data travels through the Internet and how any intermediate “bad guy”/LEA can easily read or manipulate your data. People were instructed to install wireshark so they could actually see for themselves what the actual problem is. It was very “nice” to see their surprise upon watching cleartext packets flowing through their network cards. It was even nicer to see their surprise when I used tcpdump on hackerspace’s router to redirect traffic to wireshark running on a Debian laptop to display their data, without having “direct” access to their computer. Then people were introduced to the idea of Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS), and how HTTPS protects their web data from prying eyes. After this tiny “privacy apocalypse” it was very easy to convince users to install HTTPS-Everywhere. And so they did. Afterwards they got instructions on how they should change SSL/TLS settings for their E-email and IM clients.
My original intention was to “scare” people a bit. It was funny to see their faces when they logged in to yahoo mail and they could see their emails cleartext on wireshark. People don’t understand how data travels through the Internet unless they experience it for themselves. I’m glad that people who had absolutely no idea about HTTPS are now using HTTPS-Everywhere to protect themselves. Hopefully they’ll show that to their friends as well.

Introduction to Tor” (in Greek) gave people an idea at what anonymity is, how it differs from security and how users should be combining both TLS and Tor usage for security and anonymity at the same time. A brief explanation of what hidden services are was given as well. Even though George asked people to download and install Tor Browser Bundle and use it, we’ll definitely need more “hands on” Tor workshops in the future. It will be interesting to convince more people to actually use it and why not, even set up their own hidden services.

Invisible Internet Project a.k.a. I2P” (in English) by @alafroiskiotos was probably the hardest of the three presentations to keep up for people that had no previous idea about anonymity networks. It’s unique architecture and some difficulties in it’s usage raised a lot of interesting questions by attendees.

Thoughts on future CryptoParties
After the end of the workshops/presentations we had a lengthy discussion with the attendees as to what they would like to see/experience in the future CryptoParties. Unfortunately people were not very vocal. Very few participated and openly expressed their thoughts/opinions. A great part of the discussion was spent trying to figure out whom should CryptoParty presentations/workshops target at, users? developers? geeks? It’s obviously very hard to target all groups of people at the same time.

So here are my thoughts on what future CryptoParties should be. CryptoParties should be about changing user habits, they should be closer to workshops than presentations. They should be focused mainly on users not developers nor computer science students. Just simple users. People don’t want theoretical talks about cryptography, they need advice they can use in their daily lives. It’s already very hard to talk about modern crypto to people who haven’t got a strong mathematical background, you have to oversimplify things. Oversimplifying things then makes geeks/nerds unhappy and still doesn’t “teach” people about proper crypto. Even a fairly “simple” HTTPS negotiation contains key crypto concepts that are very difficult for a “crypto-newbie” to grasp. So it’s a lose-lose situation.

We need to teach, or better convince, users on using good, secure, audited tools and not just tell them about technologies and concepts. We, weirdos, might like that, but most users don’t. People need our help to learn how to avoid “fancy” tools and false security prophets. We need to show them how security should be applied in a layered approach. Getting people to care about their own privacy is key to the success of CryptoParties in the way I see them. To achieve that, we, people that know a few things more than the average Joe, should all become volunteers to such efforts. We should be joining CryptoParties in order to help others and not in order to improve ourselves and our knowledge. (Actually when you study in order to make a good workshop/presentation you improve your own knowledge as well, but let’s leave that beside for now.) We can have our separate geeky/nerdy events to present fancy tech and cool crypto stuff, but let’s keep CryptoParties simple and practical. Oh and we’ll need to repeat things again and again and again. That’s the only way people might change their habits.

If you want to find out more about the next Athens CryptoParty keep an eye at Hackerspace’s events and the athens cryptoparty pad. Join us!

Good luck to all the CryptoParties worldwide!

AthCon 2012 Review

Alternate title: “Being a lamb around a pack of wolves” … A venue full of hackers that are eager to attack your systems…

On 3-4/05/2012 the third AthCon conference was held in Athens. AthCon is an international security conference whose motto is “The First HIGHLY TECHNICAL Security Conference in Greece”.

Even though I am not a security professional, my daily job title is “Systems and Services Engineer” which of course includes various aspects of security but I am certainly not a security researcher, I had decided months ago that I would be attending this year’s AthCon. Since I like messing a lot with IPv6 for the past 2-3 years, I decided that I could try and submit an introductory talk about IPv6 security issues. My talk was accepted, so I was not only attending AthCon this year but I was going to give a presentation as well.

My presentation – Are you ready for IPv6 insecurities ? was during the first day of the conference. I am always worried when I give presentations on IPv6 that the people attending have probably no clue about this ‘not-so-new’ protocol. Most people think that IPv6 is like IPv4 with bigger addresses and ‘:’ instead of ‘.’ to separate the address groups, which is of course a HUGE mistake/misunderstanding. I was hopeful that this wouldn’t be the case in AthCon, so when I started my presentation and I asked the crowd ‘how many of you know what SLAAC is ?’ and I only saw 3-4 hands raised I kinda froze, I was expecting at least a double digit…I was going to give a presentation on IPv6 security concepts to people that have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. Being prepared for the fact that some people would need some ‘refreshing’ on their IPv6 knowledge, I had prepared around 20 introductory slides explaining some IPv6 concepts before I entered the security details, but I doubt these were enough for most people there. I am hopeful though that some of the attendees might be motivated to read more about the protocol since I think my security slides contained enough details, references and links to get people started. If someone needs more details feel free to contact me.

Enough with my presentation, what about other presentations ?
My personal view is that this year’s AthCon had some great talks, some that were ok and some that I didn’t like. I won’t mention which ones I didn’t like, but I noticed that a LOT of people were gossiping about these in the hallways. I will only mention here the ones that I really liked.

Day 1:
“Packing Heat!” by Dimitrios Glynos
A presentation that every pentester should download/watch somehow. Techniques about packing your executables to avoid detection by anti-virus programs, need I say more ? Great content and very well presented. Congrats Dimitris!

“PostScript: Danger Ahead” by Andrei Costin
How to use PostScript programming language to take advantage of Printers, OS, etc. Very interesting concepts were presented and also the examples/demos shown were pretty cool and easy to understand.

Day 2:
“Apple vs. Google Client Platforms” by Felix ‘FX’ Lindner
I guess mostly everyone reading this blog knows FX and what a great speaker he is. If you don’t then start watching his previous presentations and start reading about his work. His presentation at AthCon, apart from being the best one in terms of “presenting it”, was also extremely interesting. He connected the security concepts behind Apple’s iOS and Google’s Chromebook with their business tactics and policies. Just wait for AthCon to publish the videos and watch it. Probably the best talk at AthCon 2012.

“Advances in BeEF: RESTful API, WebSockets, XssRays enhancements” by Michele Orru
Jaw-dropping. That’s all I have to say about BeEF. Scary. Watch it to see what browsers and IDS have to face and defend against…not in the future but right now.

“Exploitation and state machines” by Halvar Flake
This presentation was about exploitation techniques and why automated exploitation engines don’t work that well. Even though reversing and exploitation is far from my interest topics I enjoyed the talk a lot. Very well structured and very clear points. Too bad this talk did not appear on the schedule and was there as “tbc”, I am sure many more people would come just to listen to this talk and speak to Halvar.

If I were to suggest a couple of things for next year…
a) Please put the CTF in separate slots within the day, not at the same time with the presentations. In a conference of 150-200 people (just guessing here) having 30+ people leaving the presentation room and just attending the CTF all day long leaves the main room a bit empty. I am pretty sure there were people that wanted to attend both the presentations and the CTF, unfortunately they had to make a choice.
b) Send some details/info to the speakers about the conference a few days earlier. Maybe non-greek presenters were given but we weren’t, at least I wasn’t.
c) The venue is really nice, but maybe it would help if the next AthCon was organized somewhere downtown. Yeah I can understand that the cost would be higher but number of people attending would also raise (I think).
d) Give us even more highly technical presentations/speakers! People starve for these kind of talks!

My congratulations fly to AthCon people for organizing the conference. See you next year!

You can find some of the pics I took from the speakers at: AthCon 2012 speaker pics (if any of the speakers wants his pic removed please contact me ASAP)

World IPv6 Day – The Future is Forever

It’s time!

Tomorrow is the World IPv6 Day and in order to celebrate it in Athens, we are having an IPv6 Party at!
I’ll do a small introductory presentation about the basics of IPv6 Protocol and how’s Linux doing with it. After the presentation there will be an open discussion regarding IPv6 … drinking beer.

Everyone’s invited! Be there!

WORLD IPV6 DAY is 8 June 2011 – The Future is Forever

Searching for a new house

I’ve recently moved from Thessaloniki to Athens, Greece and of course the very first thing I had to do was to find a new house. To make my life easier (?) I tried to go a bit techie on that. Using tools/sites on the web and my Android. And here’s what I did and what I used for anyone who might be interested.

First of all I found some sites with real estate listings. The ones I found/used/tried to use were: Χρυσή Ευκαιρία, Rento, Spitogatos and aggelies ta nea.

Each one though has it own benefits and problems, apart from some who only have problems.
Aggelies Ta Nea:
None. I can’t find anything innovative about this site.
i) It has very few listings of places to rent in the areas I liked (downtown Athens).
ii) It is full of listings by real estates agents who ask you as payment one full rent if they manage to find you a house.
iii) There’s no map showing where each house is.
iv) There are pics of very very few houses in the listings.

This site has a really neat feature, price per square meter. It’s quite nice to have the site calculate it for you.
i) It has very few listings of places to rent in the areas I liked (downtown Athens).
ii) It’s default drop down price filtering boxes are a bit weird. It goes from 150->200->300->500->750>1000 Euros. So if I choose a price range of 300-500 euros I get a url like this:
If I change it to:
I get exactly what I wanted.
Having drop down boxes might be fine for some people, but they don’t let me be as specific as I would like. A form to fill the price range by hand would be a lot more useful for me.
iii) There’s no map showing where each house is.

i) Rento is the most innovative site I found. Every house listing is on google maps and you can access its details by just clicking on a house.
ii) It also features a VERY innovative search bar. You actually type a sentence about the house you would like and it searches for it.
iii) Each listing has pictures
iv) You can contact the owner by email
v) There’s an option to note each listing you like so you get something like “bookmarks”.

i) It has very few listings of places to rent in the areas I liked (downtown Athens).
ii) The search bar did not have a negation clause. You can’t search for “not something”. So since I didn’t want a ground flour house, I couldn’t filter them out.
iii) The search bar would sometimes filter more than you asked for. If I searched for a price range of 350-450 and got some houses, then if I search for a 40-60 sq. meters I got some others. If I searched for both the price range and the sq. meters I got very very few results.
iv) Many of the listings were quite outdated. Places had been rent weeks ago and the listings were still on the site. (I guess that’s a problem with real estate sites…owners don’t tell the sites whether the house has been sold/rented when that happends).
v) There’s no way to see the most recently placed listings.

The awkward thing about Rento was that I met the people who manage it in a Ruby meeting in Athens one week after I got the house. They were aware of these problems and they said that they have already corrected them and will push their changes to the site very soon. I sure hope so because the site is definitely worth it.

One suggestion for rento would be to have an option to export as kml the “bookmarked” houses.

Χρυσή Ευκαιρία:
i) Many many houses listed.
ii) The filtering for the search works very well.

i) Very few pics of the houses (if any)
ii) Not every house is listed on a map
iii) In order to get the owner’s telephone you have to send an sms, or call a number and pay some amount of money.
iv) Not every house has an address listed.

I ended up using Χρυσή Ευκαιρία due to it’s massive database with listed houses. I tried to use rento and spitogatos but I just couldn’t find what I wanted. (Maybe I’ll get luckier when I’ll try to move to a new house.)

I then created an unlisted google map called “new houses” and started placing marks on the houses from Χρυσή Ευκαιρία that I liked, sorted by date of last update, and were placed on a map in the site. Then I started calling the owners of the rest to find out where they were. If they were in a place that I liked I made an appointment to go and check the house.
I placed all the appointments at the “TagToDo List” application for my android.
Unfortunately I couldn’t use the “My maps Editor” by Google on my android due to some bug it stopped connecting to google maps. It would be really useful to have this app because I could have all the places I placed on “new houses” and have them with me. Instead I had to print the maps with the marks on them.

Finally in order to walk around the city and not get lost I used the Rmaps application. It’s so much better than the standard google maps because you can get many different maps, and with the addition of GPS Status you can copy paste your exact location to any notes applications you might be using on android to track new houses you find while walking.