September 25, 2017

DEF CON Talk Cancelled

Each year at DEF CON, we receive a huge number of submissions. While most of them are interesting to some portion of our attendee population, there are normally a few talks that seem to have mass appeal. This year, DEF CON received a submission from Ben Caudill about a technology he had created, called Proxy Ham. The concept was simple; increase the anonymity and privacy of a user by creating a device that allows a remote connection that can’t easily be traced back to the user.

The device was designed around a Raspberry Pi, and included wireless interfaces in the normal wifi range, and the 900 MHz range. This is an important distinction because the remote connection via 900 MHz allows a user to connect to the device up to 2 miles away. The wifi connection is used to associate with a wireless access point, somewhere in local area. The assigned IP address would be assigned to the Proxy Ham, not the user, so tracing the connection back to the user would be difficult.

But the presenter abruptly pulled the plug on his talk, leaving many scratching their heads. Was this a Federal intervention? What if the FCC was concerned about the use of radio frequencies that normally require an approved license? Could it have been a concern about the use of the device as a mechanism for terror? Or was it just pulled because of financial reasons? It wouldn’t be the first time a company has gotten in the middle a presentation like this, to protect their perceived interests.

Regardless of the real reason, the talk has been pulled, and all details about its existence have started to disappear. It would be great to hear more about what’s happened, and I’d like to see more research on this topic, by other groups. But in the end, DEF CON has lost some interesting content.

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