(This post first appeared on the Fight to Repair newsletter.)
DEF CON is the world’s premiere hacking conference. Now in its 30th year, the conference – a creation of cybersecurity luminary Jeff Moss (aka “Dark Tangent”) – is one of the premiere forums for the hacking community. Over the years, it has attracted the brightest minds in the hacking and information security communities to highlight the cybersecurity risks in implantable medical devices, voting machines, ATMs, cars and more.
And this August, the right to repair is on the agenda DEF CON. On Saturday, August 13 at 10:00 AM, I will lead a panel of leading repair, legal and cybersecurity experts: Brazil Redux: Short Circuiting Tech-Enabled Dystopia with the Right to Repair.
Joining me on the panel are:
- Joe Grand (@joegrand) is a fellow SecuRepairs member – a product designer, hardware hacker, the founder of Grand Idea Studio, Inc. and a world-renowned tinkerer and builder. Joe is DEF CON royalty having designed many of the show’s sophisticated, programmable badges. He specializes in creating, exploring, manipulating, and teaching about electronic devices.
- Louis Rossmann (@rossmannsupply | @fighttorepair) of YouTube fame and owner/proprietor of Rossmann Repair. Louis and his 1.7 million (!!) followers are on the front lines of the fight for the right to repair and have helped call out anti-repair bulls**t and advocate for new laws to protect the right to repair.
- Kyle Wiens of iFixit (@kwiens | @ifixit). Kyle is the prime mover of the right to repair movement in both the U.S. and the EU and co-founder of the Internet’s largest repair website.
- Corynne McSherry (@cmcsherr) is the Legal Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), where she specializes in intellectual property, open access, and free speech issues. Corynne has been in the trenches fighting for changes to laws like the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that have empowered software-based monopolies
This isn’t the first time right to repair has been on the agenda at DEF CON. Back in 2019, we did a panel at the DEF CON Ethics Village, one of the many thematic “villages” – each with their own agenda and topics – that dot the show. But 2022 marks the first time that right to repair has been on the conference’s main track – which attracts far bigger audiences and attention.
So what’s the deal with the title? Well…it has to do with a classic, dark comedy from the mid 1980s: Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, which imagines a future polluted, hyper-consumerist and totalitarian dystopia in which a renegade heating engineer, Archibald Tuttle (played by Robert DeNiro) takes great risks to conduct repairs outside of the stifling and inefficient bureaucracy of “Central Services.” When Tuttle’s rogue repairs are detected, Central Services workers demolish and seize repaired systems under the pretext of “fixing” them.
Like I said: it’s dark. It’s also not so far off from our present reality in which device makers use always-on Internet connections, DRM and expansive copyright and IP claims to sustain “Central Services”-like monopolies on the service and repair of appliances, agricultural and medical equipment, personal electronics and more. The net effect of this is a less- not more secure ecosystem of connected things that burdens consumers, businesses and the planet.
Our DEF CON panel of repair and cybersecurity experts will delve into how we’re closer to Gilliam’s dystopia than you might think. In the place of a brutal government bureaucracy, we’re fighting equally brutal and wealthy corporations that are using software based locks and anti-repair arguments trumpeting cybersecurity risks to lock in monopolies on aftermarket parts and service.
We’ll also examine how the emergent “right to repair” movement aims to dismantle this emerging “Brazil” style dystopia and lay the foundation for a “circular” economy that reduces waste while also ensuring better security and privacy protections for technology users.
Check it out in person…or online
If you’re in Vegas, make sure to check out our panel in person on Saturday morning. If you’re not on site, there are plenty of opportunities for you to participate in DEF CON virtually. They include a live Twitch stream: twitch.tv/defcon_groups, a dedicated DEF CON 30 YouTube channel (DEFCONConference) for video updates from DC30 all weekend and the DEF CON Discord (discord.gg/defcon).
Also, there are DEF CON Groups which are semi-permanent online gatherings. Many DCGs have a VR hangout going on throughout DEF CON. Learn what they are up to with this PDF.
If you’re a SecuRepairs supporter, in other words, its time to get your DEF CON on!