Breaking and Entering by Jeremy N. Smith

Breaking and Entering by Jeremy N. Smith

Author:Jeremy N. Smith
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HMH Books

For the rest of the morning and afternoon, Bruce paced back and forth as he spoke. He never seemed to tire, but when he let them go, all the students were exhausted.

“Rest up” were his parting words. “Tomorrow the perspective flips.”

The formal part of the instruction was over for the day, but more remained. That evening, both instructor and class re-gathered to unwind in a bar called Postman’s Pub, a ten-minute walk from the hotel.

Ostensibly they were there to enjoy a drink or two in a casual atmosphere. In fact, though, Bruce was holding forth, with students listening spellbound.

Bruce had discovered hacking the way many kids did—in middle school and high school, he said, when he and his friends decided they needed to reverse-engineer the copy protection measures on computer games. From there, for fun, he moved on to dissecting computer worms and viruses. Soon he was present at the birth of the full disclosure movement, when security researchers like him fought to publicize new vulnerabilities.

“Back in the day,” Bruce told Alien and her classmates, meaning just four or five years ago, “everyone was after us.” The computer giants whose product flaws they exposed said the technical findings revealed proprietary business matters, and threatened to sue them. For their part, the FBI and other government agencies claimed the information abetted criminals and terrorists. Some fellow hackers attacked the most prominent white hats as glory hounds intent on giving away hard-won secrets and ruining the fun of hacking for everyone else.

“I remember my first SCAN class,” Bruce continued. The instructor was a SCAN co-founder. “I was too intimidated to say anything all week. Then we ended up talking in the parking lot.” He chuckled. “It turned out that we’d actually been on the same white hat IRC”—Internet Relay Chat—“channel for years.”

“Then what did you do?” said Alien.

“We decided to start Elite Defense,” Bruce said.

He stood to get a drink. Alien followed. A few feet away from the bar, however, she found her path blocked by a fellow student who had risen suddenly, trying to make it look as natural as possible, as if he just wanted to order another pitcher for his table.

“Amazing class today,” he said a little too emphatically to Bruce, who nodded.

“So . . . ,” the guy offered as an awkward segue. “What kind of firewalls do you think are better?” he said at last. “Cisco or Juniper?”

“Both are like condoms,” Bruce said. “If they don’t break, I don’t care.”

“It’s where you place them that counts,” Alien jumped in.

When Bruce laughed, so did the other student.

“That’s what I always say,” the student added as a follow-up. With nothing more to offer, he went on to fetch his pitcher, leaving Alien alone with Bruce.

“Do you get to travel a lot?” she asked.

“All the time,” Bruce said. “I’m just back from Kyoto. I found this amazing hot spring in the woods and soaked for hours with the locals.”

“Wow. What did you talk about?” said Alien.

“It’s a long story. What are you having to drink?” he asked.


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