Neale Pickett, formerly the go-to guy for cyber security at Los Alamos National Laboratory, led attendees of this Café through his White Hat Hacking café, an online training simulator. The teens worked in teams to solve hacking puzzles of all types. Attendees learned the basic skills needed to see the world through the eyes of a computer security expert.
Scenes From the Café
Neale presented this Café at four Café Scientifique New Mexico Locations.
About Neale Pickett
I have been interested in computer security ever since I watched my dad spend a week piecing back together a deleted file on my mom’s computer. I had assumed that deleted meant gone for good. I thought to myself, if deleted files are still around, what other ideas did I have about computers that weren’t right? I decided to find out.
In high school, I ran an Albuquerque BBS (like a web forum, but before the internet) called “Andra,” and picked out my hacker name: “zephyr.” I was involved in some minor tinkering around with very early networks as “zephyr” and worked with a friend to set up a system that would allow people in Albuquerque to send messages all over the world with just a computer and a modem. That same friend and I, with two other people from our high school, won the first Supercomputing Challenge, run by LANL and Sandia.
In college, I learned about PGP encryption and how to send emails anonymously on the internet, and I got involved with online protests against the “Communications Decency Act,” a law which would have made it a crime to provide internet access to a 19-year-old sending emails to his 16-year-old girlfriend.
After school I worked briefly for LANL; I left just before the firestorm over Wen Ho Lee and the Case of the Missing Hard Drives. I moved to Seattle and worked as the chief architect for FreeInternet.com, which was briefly the second largest internet provider in the USA. I then went to Watchguard Technologies, and wrote firewall software for medium-sized companies.
While in Seattle, I became involved with a worldwide cryptography and anonymity organization called the “cypherpunks.” I organized two protest marches against the illegal jailing of a Russian computer hacker named Dmitry Sklyarov, who was later released and allowed to go back home to his wife and son.
When I came back to LANL in 2005, my experience made me a good candidate to deal with network computer security. I now work as a Systems Reliability Engineer for Canonical, publishers of Ubuntu Linux. I also run the white hat (good guy hacker) site dirtbags.net, and run Capture The Flag contests around the country to train computer security profession
Hands on Activity
This Café was all hands-on! Neale Pickett introduced teens to how he got hooked on cyber security because he loves solving puzzles and looking for anomalies. He then gave a brief overview of how computers represent information in 1’s and 0’s and then challenged the teens to solve a number of puzzles to HACK into his computer. Dr. Pickett has designed a training tool for experts and novices to better understand how hacking occurs. He walked the attendees through the training simulator and answered questions. If you’d like to try HACK, it is available anytime. Just visit hack.dirtbags.net and follow the directions.
Even if you don’t want to do this professionally, just knowing what a “buffer overflow” or “phishing attack” is will help you be aware of computer security any time you use a computer to write a paper, plan a birthday party, or order dinner.