It's a long-overdue and much-deserved tribute to the hardest-working chroniclers of hacker culture. Emmanuel Goldstein and co have inspired generations of electronic spelunkers and freedom fighters, and they're still going strong -- and have never been more relevant, thanks to the debate sparked by the Snowden leaks.
The H.O.P.E. conference offers 2600 a chance to bring the global hacker community together. Steve Rambam, a security specialist who was arrested by the F.B.I. before his talk at the 2006 conference, told me that he comes back because he feels like he is speaking to the vanguard of computer culture. “These kids are trendsetters,” he said. Johannes Grenzfurthner, an Austrian artist and hacker, told me before the talk that the hacking community has changed drastically in the past ten years, becoming more mainstream. One of the greatest shifts, he said, is the growing acceptance of women at conferences like H.O.P.E., despite the fact that the hacker community is still male dominated.
This year’s conference featured talks on how to hack just about everything. One speaker, wearing a glowing strap-on penis, explained ways to hack sex and create a more sex-positive culture; another explained how he had used “social engineering” (basically, psychological trickery) to get behind the propaganda curtain in North Korea. At one booth, alongside displays of early computers and conceptual art, people learned how to pick locks, while at another attendees used soldering irons to make their own TV-B-Gones, keychain fobs that can switch off televisions.
Much of the conference was focussed on surveillance and civil liberties in the digital age; there were talks on how to create an e-mail system that would be impervious to the N.S.A., how to alter your appearance to thwart the surveillance state, and how to hold the government accountable by making use of Freedom of Information requests. Snowden attracted the biggest audience. He encouraged the hackers and programmers in the audience to develop and use new and better tools. 2600 might use print, but Snowden was encouraging his listeners to “encode our rights into the protocols you write.” A hacker and 2600 contributor who goes by the moniker TProphet told me, “There were some very specific things that he was saying to a very specific audience, and that audience is pretty fucking powerful.”
A Print Magazine for Hackers [Nicolas Niarchos/New Yorker]