Hosted by organizations called Black Hat and Defcon, these events are known for their elaborate, though often crude, computer pranks. The convention’s actual purpose, however, is pretty serious.
Stephen Ridley, an independent security consultant, says almost every aspect of our lives today is touched by computers and machines that speak in ones and zeroes, and most of us don’t understand how they work.
“I am of the mind that people who do have this knowledge are actively exploiting these things now,” he says.
Ridley says the hackers in Las Vegas who are taking this stuff apart and poking holes in products we depend on are kind of like the investigative reporters of the digital age. He says their goal is to expose problems before criminals can find them and take advantage.