26C3: Here be dragons (2009)

26c3 Backstage

26c3 is over. Go see what you missed – it’s all there. During the last hours I went to see what the people behind the stages thought of this year’s congress.

A group that is hardly noticed by the general public is the kitchen crew: they prepare food for some 350 ‘Angels’, approx. 10% of all participants. ‘Angels’ are the helpers of the CCC events. They still have to pay for their ticket like everyone else and trade their work for food and a conference t-shirt. When asked what their goal was the kitchen crew said: we make the angels happy! And they believe that they succeeded by about 80%. Mostly this is done by preparing sandwiches – cooked food is prepared only for putting everything up and taking things down. Next year the kitchen crew would rather not share a room with the press group, they said, because it’s hard to reduce preparing food to non-interview times. While everyone in CCC says there really in favor of having the congress at the bcc also most everyone complained about space really being a problem…

Next to kitchen and press in the back of the ground floor is C.E.R.T., the Chaos Emergency Response Team. They, too, are satisfied with the general health and fire emergency situation, no serious injuries at the congress and one or the other burning ash trays, that was it. Most common problem are people who don’t sleep, don’t drink enough water and eventually start not feeling well at all. CERT also are the people who make sure that the aisles are kept free when talks are happening and seem quite confident about this role. But “We’re not genuinely evil – there’s reasons!”. Their wish for 2010: more showers. Both for others who get smelly after a while and for the CERT team members who don’t really get to go home:

“This year everyone was peaceful and cooperative and also they didn’t blow anything up.”

Speakers Room Across the hall is the speaker’s room where speakers can relax, leave their stuff and find all kinds of technical assistance. I’ve greatly admired the speaker’s room team for keeping perfectly calm in any kind of situation before. Also for them this year has been easy – no serious trouble except for one talk on day four that had to be cancelled because someone pulled the power plug from a old IBM machine that needs two hours to boot. They were happy to have had a sofa for the first time, about the friendly speakers and would appreciate less problems concerning ticket sales: sometimes speakers bring people who like to see that specific talk and then can’t get in – unpleasant for everyone involved.

Radioraum Also widely unnoticed is the radio group, hidden behind the stairs of the top floor. Their recorded interviews are broadcast by different independent radios across Germany.

Much more visible is the Phone Operation Center, or POC. They run both a DECT phone network and – for the first time – a GSM (mobile phone) network, made just for the conference. Anyone who registers either their cordless or mobile phone can make calls to other registered conference participants free of charge. Numbers can be pre-registered at eventphone.de and there’s even a phone book. This year approx. 900 DECT phones were registered plus some 500 GSM phones. To the POC team it felt as if less people attended the congress – maybe due to less tickets that were sold? (This was contradicted in the closing event when an announcement was made that this was the biggest congress ever). They didn’t have the impression that the fact that both DECT and GSM phones can be listend in to had an influence during the last four days. The option that phones can be tapped isn’t all new. The phone people, generally 5 – 10 at the different CCC events, always come early because DECT phones are needed already to set everything up: These phones that are used for general organisational purposes, have four digit numbers starting with a 1, while everybody else gets numbers from 2000 on upwards. It is also possible to register EPVPN numbers that can be taken home to be used via Voice IP. All in all the POC crew was happy and has no wishes left to fulfill.


There’s many more people who work behind the scenes – couldn’t talk to them all, but there’s always a next congress. See you at SIGINT in May..

By Anne Roth, who was guest-blogging for the CCC

The CCCs retrospect for 2009

The first talk in the big hall on day three of 26c3 was the CCC’s retrospect of the year 2009. Due to my slow coffeemaker and hungry kids I missed the months of January and February (please add), and start recounting in March:

New CCC members

New CCC members

Two new

Erfa groups (local groups) were started, in Aachen and Mannheim. The map shows regional concentration of CCC hackers plus the number of new members per year. Starting 1997 approx. 100 new members joined “the club” each year.

Next an unpleasant experience of a CCC member was told who had his house searched and all tech equipment confiscated. Law enforcement had believed that who owns a domain (of a bit torrent site in this case) also has the respective hardware at home. It prooved that all concerned law enforcers had no idea of what was going on and used their ignorance to keep all things taken in the raid until this December. Only through legal protection covered by the CCC it was given back in the end. Unfortunately German law doesn’t provide for relevant recompensation in such cases while in contrast it is quite easy to get a judge to sign a search warrant.

Constanze Kurz

Constanze Kurz

According to Constanze Kurz this practice violates the newly established

fundamental right to digital privacy. The vast majority of cases are based on issues of copyright and drugs. Frank Rieger added that we urgently need to push for regulations for the handling of confiscated computers and technical devices. For the time being it’s difficult to even understand where they are and what is done to them and by whom.

In April some 400 people joined a demonstration against censorship. SIGINT, the CCC conference that focuses on politics and society more than the congress in December, took place in Cologne for the first time. The conference was generally perceived as a successful event included a workshop that was especially worth mentioning. Members of different political parties in Germany explained their views: to make a difference it’s not enough to get through with the point that something is factually wrong. It needs to be perceived as wrong by the public to make politicians move. The next SIGINT will again discuss politics in May in Cologne.

Frank Rieger

Frank Rieger

Next in line was the constitutional complaint against what is called the “hacker law”. This complaint was not accepted by the constitutional court. The long reasoning of the court is worthwile reading nonetheless: it explains why it is wrong that already the possession of software that is considered to be hacker tools is illegal.

The CCC clearly is becoming of interest more when the press is seeking information of quotes: there were 1504 inquiries by the media, more than ever before. Germany’s social democrat party apparently has a rather peculiar understanding of confidential talks: during last year’s voting campaign not a lot of support was gathered by the party when it announced its stance pro internet censorship. As a result the CCC was invited to a meeting to discuss both this issue as well as online campaigning. Even though the party had originally asked to keep quiet about the meeting a press release was issued right after. Martin Dörmann, new speaker for new media issues of the SPD group in federal parliament since the former speaker was forced to resign after shady accusations that he possessed child pronography, was quoted. He said in the meeting: “Nobody is planning to erect a censorship infrastructure!”. Apparently without realising the strong resemblance to a historical quote by Walter Ulbricht less than two months before the Berlin wall was built: “Nobody has the intention to erect a wall”.

In June the CCC submitted its statement (pdf, German) on data retention to the constitutional court.

Also in June the local CCC in Mannheim set up a wireless connection that covered 50 km: another reason to point out the extraordinarily creative activities of the local groups. The concept of “geekends” was revived: one ERFA group invites another for a weekend, travel cost covered by the CCC.

CCC wordle In July the CCC apparently pleased itself enormously by discussing a new set of formal club rules which resulted in some members wondering whether it was a good decision to become a formal German Verein rather than a terrorist organisation, the other option. They then rewarded themselves with a new website that is a great step forward to user friendly content management which was implemented later. It does include WYSIWYG (contrary to this blog’s software, if I might add that). A wordle done using CCC website content showed that there is potential for improving language.

In August the hacker summer camp Hackers at Random (HAR) saw great parties and light installations by the CCC in the Netherlands. In September, due to the elections coming up, a panel discussion had the minister of justice, Brigitte Zypries, discussing technical details she’d better not discuss in public. A source of joy for many hackers present.

Martin Haase

Martin Haase

Also in September the huge demonstration “Freedom not Fear” was organised to protest against increasing surveillance and violation of privacy. During the demonstration several incidents of unexpected police violence happened. Only because activists had video recordings was it possible to raise public attention for this. The CCC published critical video material and asked for clear identification of police in Berlin in a

press release.

The CCC won a legal battle against the company producing the optical scan voting system meant to be used in Hamburg. The company hat attempted to stop the CCC from publicly claiming to have found technical flaws of the system. The decision by a court in Hamm favored the CCCs point of view in almost all points.

Andy Müller-Maguhn

Andy Müller-Maguhn

Haefft.de, a school children’s web community, went

offline after having been informed of security problems in December. The constitutional court’s hearing on data retention received wide public attention and especially so the CCC’s statement. The event was transmitted to the public by using Twitter. This is not tolerated by the court but in this case so far no legal action was taken. The decision on data retention is expected for spring of 2010.

By Anne Roth, guest-blogging for the CCC

Vierter Tag/Fourth Day

(English version below)

Liebe Hacker,

wie Ihr sicher gemerkt habt, ist die Situation an den Kassen unübersichtlich und davon geprägt, möglichst fair so vielen Hackern wie möglich die Teilnahme am Kongress zu ermöglichen. Wir sind dabei von den physikalischen Gegebenheiten des Gebäudes eingeschränkt und müssen – sehr zu unserem Leidwesen – Besucher wegschicken.

Dabei kommt es im Einzelfall zu unschönen Erlebnissen, die wir nun durch eine kurzfristige Maßnahme zumindest finanziell auszugleichen versuchen. Von den 300 am Mittwoch ab 08:00 Uhr an der Kasse zur Verfügung stehenden Tagestickets, werden wir, auf first-come-first-serve-Basis, an diejenigen eins kostenlos und nicht übertragbar verteilen, die bereits mindestens ein beliebiges Tagesbändchen fest am Arm haben. Alle anderen können ein Tagesbändchen regulär kaufen.

Dear fellow hackers,

as you may have noticed, the situation at the cassier decks is very confusing. We’re trying to allow as many hackers to attend 26C3 and do so in a way that’s as fair as possible. Still we’re bound to the actual physical capacity of the bcc building and were forced to send away participants.

Some of you have had a very unsatisfying experience due to this so we’ll try to compensate – at least financially – by the following measure: Out of the 300 daily tickets for wednesday, available on a first-come-first-serve-basis from 8 am on, we will give out a free and non-transferable one to everyone showing up with at least one day pass (wristband for day 1 – 3) still attached to his arm. All others still can buy a regular day pass for day four.

Little big Dragons

Berliner Congress Center

Berliner Congress Center

Day 2 of the Congress is in full course, tickets are completely sold out and next to the talk in the three big halls many other activities can be found in halls and workshop rooms. Several Blogs have entries about what happened so far: http://futur3.com/ with a summary of Day 1, jtb.blog with already several articles (in German) and Fruto del Caos (Spanish). Please add your blogs to the blog page so it can be part of the aggregated conference news feed!

Update: more reports are popping up in blogs. Since most people publish more than one article, I’ll just name the blogs that have the details (please add more in the comments): Qbi, Open Data Network, Netzpolitik, Brainweich, Manu bloggt, Testgebiet Unintendet Purpose, Adrians Blog. More 26c3 feeds are at http://26c3.screamorap.org/. A video of a singing Tesla coil can be seen at Evil Daystar! “Verkabelt” have published their views on the first day as an audio podcast (in German).

The talks in the big halls are drawing a lot of attention, but many exciting things are taking place also in the basement and in workshop rooms. The Congess Radio is recording interviews. Several phone options are set up specifically for the four days: the Phone Operating Centre is running a mobile DECT system and phone infrastucture. In addition there is a cellular phone network, set up and operated including the necessary license to make phone calls within the 26c3 mobile and DECT networks. Find the mobile phone operators in Room C04 if you have questions.

Many workshops offer topics such as Podcasting Developer Workshop, Meditation for hackers or Haecksen breakfast (the women’s network within the CCC). Projects meet and present their work, in addition during the Lightning Talks new ideas and projects have four minutes to give an overview of what they’re doing and – more important – what kind of support they’re looking for.

By Anne Roth, guest-blogging for CCC

No more day tickets for 26C3 Day 2

As you may have already heard, the 26C3 is sold out. There are no more all-day tickets available, and we have just sold out of day tickets for today (Day 2).

Day tickets for Day 3 will go on sale tomorrow morning at 08:00.

If you do not have a ticket, check out the live streams of the talks, or attend one of the many Dragons Everywhere gatherings being held all over the world!

Feedback System

We have activated our feedback system. So if you have attended a lecture, please look it up in the schedule (Fahrplan) and rate it. Your feedback is most helpful in determining what you like and what you don’t. It will help our speakers and the next program planning team to come up with an even more fascinating program. Thank you very much!

If you don’t like politics, at least work on the software!

Frank Rieger holding the keynote talk

Frank Rieger holding the keynote talk

Frank Riegers keynote talk started off Europe’s biggest hacker conference today. Already before the first talk the conference is sold out and the big conference hall of Berlin’s

bcc – Berliner Congress Center was packed with people during the talk. Many watched online via stream (when it was available). For the time being both streaming and connectivity in general are suffering from too many users.

Frank Rieger gave a general overview of achievements by and future challenges for the hacker community: technology is perpetrating our lives more and more and it’s up to us to draw the lines between what is useful development and what needs to be restricted. He said “To rationalise dealing with human beings is evil”. Ending up with a phone bot when trying to get through to a Paypal hotline is degrading, to say the least. Dangers of ever increasing surveillance can’t be tolerated by pointing out a vague interpretation of “freedom”.

It’s time to roll back “all this shit”. We need to come up with radical demands: it’s not that citizens exist for the state, but instead the state exists for its citizens, or rather, the state is the citizens. Data collected by the state need to be publicly availabe with very few exceptions. One demand could be that both state authorities and companies need to be compelled to tell us about all existing data about us once a year. Including what happened to them.

“We want a foundation watching over issues of data protection just like the consumer protection agencies that already exist” (in Germany), he went on . This institution should e.g. compare and publish data protection measures by companies and suggest the best ones. At the same time we need an independent institution governing issues of security and information technlogy. The existing German BSI is more and more turning into a surveillance authority.

Another issue touched in the keynote were models for income generation for artists and authors in times of uncontrollable file sharing that will never be rolled back. “It has to be possible to make a living by working in arts and culture. On the other hand there is no fundamental right to being rich”, he addressed the music industry.

Legal battles make sense but don’t solve problems in themselves. It’s necessary to make sure after a pro-privacy decision e.g. by the constitutional court that police carrying out searches are aware of what’s legal.

Next was his urgent appeal to the hacker community: “Even if you are sick of politics: at least help to improve the software!” Anonymity is one of the most interesting issues of the time – politically just as technically. It’s up to us to be up to date and to not accept the flaws in the software we’re using. Also – and this is one of our biggest advantages – we getting better at creating publicity and using technological tools to do so. Hackerspaces are the best thing that happened to us in the past years: we can do this together, not everyone for him- or herself.

(At this time the stream broke off for me and I’m hoping for complementation via the comments)

By Anne Roth, guest-blogging for the CCC