Monday, August 18, 2008

Sex and Technology

If you've read much of the Hideaway you know I find human behavior and identity to be fascinating. And you know i'm a total nerd. So the geektastic question I am going to address in today's blog entry is why is Cherry 2000 culturally relevant?

Cherry 2000 was a bad 1987 movie that has attained cult status - no doubt helped by semi-regular lustful references to the Cherry 2000 by Crow and Tom Servo on MST3K. Cherry 2000 wasn't the first movie to feature a humanoid sex robot (ok, technically an android), Blade Runner in 1982 had Pris the replicant. But Pris *looked* like a whore.

Cherry 2000 looked like the girl next door, and wasn't just an animated sex doll but the main character's wife-substitute.

When the main character breaks his wife/doll, he puts her personality/memory on a chip and sets out in search of a new body to house 'her'. But being a sentimental human, he wants the same model - not any old female shell to house his beloved memory chip, he wants the exact same doll, because the human has fallen in love with his android and is emotionally attached to both the physical representation of her as a person as well as her 'personality'. (of course the entire movie is set up so he instead abandons his wife/doll in the desert and falls in love with a REAL woman, a pre-Antonio Banderas Melanie Griffith.) But go back a sentence or two, where I talk about how he has fallen in love with the artificial human - THIS is one of the things that makes Cherry 2000 different from Pris or Gigalo Joe (AI). Cherry is loved. She is in a relationship, as much as she can be given that she is property and not programmed to consider independence (or really anything other than subservience) an option. Cherry, Pris and Joe are all designed and programmed to be sex partners for humans, but Cherry 2000 is the only one who is truly owned (the second difference). Pris and Joe are prostitutes, but have freedom to move about in society and choose their partners/activities/home/relationships. Cherry is property. And IMO this makes her far less human than Pris or Joe, despite the fact that she appears to have the more conventional and respectable/stable life. She has no free will, and that makes her less human than the other human substitutes.

So why is the creation of human sex substitutes so common in the future vision? Is it technology for technology's sake? Misogeny run amok? I think it is just that sex is fun, but people are complicated and STD's are a bitch. But if we've evolved enough to create complex human substitutes, shouldn't we have evolved enough to change our attitudes about sex between consenting adults and by and large not need the sex robots? Sure, the hideously ugly or those into really whacked out kinks that they can't find willing partners for would still need/want these dolls, but what would drive a human into the bed of a machine versus a true flesh and blood human offering the same services? Pure skill? (Not to say that skill isn't desirable; after all, Data rocked Lt. Yar's world). If that is the primary criteria for sex android evolution, there damn well better be Joe models and not just Cherry and Pris.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What I hated about Black Hat this year

I’m on my way home from Black Hat and I have to say, some things have improved since CMP bought the conference a couple years ago. But that is a different blogpost. This is about the things that SUCK now. Like the vendors. Now vendors in and of themselves aren’t so bad when they have technical representation at their booth to talk to con attendees about their products or services. It’s the Booth Bunnies, or in some cases, the Booth Whores, that I find offensive. I’ve gone on record in the past about hating RSA because of the obnoxious marketing overload. I really hope Black Hat isn’t going that direction. I understand that the majority of Black Hat attendees are male, but it is still horribly annoying to watch companies use Cherry 2000 style bimbos try to lure potential customers to their booth based on sex appeal. And the mere fact that booth bunnies exist on the con floor makes it harder to be a woman in this industry and not have the gen pop assume you must be there purely as eye candy.

McAfee had the Security Barbie style booth bunny. I guess to distract you from the fact that their product sucks. I wonder if she comes with the Malibu Beach House.

Cenzic had a Booth Bunny ACROSS the hall from their booth (very sneaky!) stopping people walking by with “are you interested in Web Application Security?” and handing them puzzle pieces you could take to their booth and possibly win a prize. This was really funny, since I was walking with someone who works for one of their competitors (and has better products). As expected, I didn’t win anything. At least she wasn’t dressed up like a tart.

Some company had a Booth Bunny dressed as a Vegas showgirl, which I can at least respect for its theme appropriateness, even if I still hate the Booth Bunny philosophy. She was running different games where people answered questions to win prizes.

The most egregious offender was EdgeOS. When I stopped to snap a picture (and lets be clear, this was the best looking of the three Booth Whores I saw there), one of the guys working the booth asked if I’d gotten an invitation to their Saturday night party. Here is how the conversation went:

EOS Guy: hey, have you gotten an invitation to our party yet?
Me: No.
EOS Guy: you haven’t? how’d that happen? (this was kind of creepy the way he said it)
Me: probably because I didn’t stop by your booth to chat up your booth bunnies for one.
EOS Guy: they aren’t booth bunnies.
Me: no? when they wear pleather they aren’t called booth bunnies anymore?
EOS Guy: no, they’re booth babes (hands me invitation to party)
Me: whatever you call them, they make it harder to be a woman in this industry. (walks away)

You might think calling them Booth Whores is a bit harsh and judgmental. Maybe Goth Booth Bunnies is more sensitive. But this was the most direct sexual marketing I’ve seen at a non-sex industry conference, and if you get paid to dress like that, stick party invitations in your bra, and leverage sexual energy to get geek boys to stop at the booth of your temporary employer, I’d say you are selling your body for profit. AKA whoring.

Anyway, I assume the pleather girls were on display at the EdgeOS party, I don’t know for sure because I didn’t go. If I had, I’d have been the bitchy attendee who just spent the evening giving the hosts and their pleather clad prickteases shit all night, and I didn’t want to waste my time on that even if they were buying the drinks.

Just in case there is some confusion let me be clear: I have no problem with pleather, fetish wear, or pretty girls. That isn’t what I’m complaining about. When vendors bring in booth bunnies it perpetuates the stereotype that the women at cons are not there for the con itself. I have a problem with the fact that every conference I attend, at least one person assumes I must be marketing, PR, or sales. All of those fields are useful and I respect the marketing, PR, and sales people where I work. The problem is that people assume I am something I am not based on my gender. They assume I can’t possibly do anything technical or relevant to their work because I’m female. And that fucking pisses me off. Let me repeat: It isn’t that I don’t respect marketing professionals, its that I get pissed at the discrimination and bias. I understand that guys are surprised I’m a geek, that I game, that I quote sci-fi movies and know what Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep led to. I understand that compared to the average woman you might meet in the mall or coffee shop, I’m an anomoly. But at a security conference, why WOULDN’T I be just like everyone else there?

Other things I hated:
Dan Kaminsky getting a pwnie. Black Hat overhyped his talk in a frenzy of media whoredom, then he got kicked in the balls by being awarded the most overhyped talk pwnie. He worked his ass off on this issue, did all the right things to try and protect people, and instead of earning the respect he deserved, he got made fun of.

Smells Like Teen Spirit transitioning to Saturday Night Fever. FAIL

French press sniffing creds

Snacktime crowds clogging the halls, making movement impossible

Talks that span 2 hours. I don’t want to commit 2 hours to one talk. C’mon people, tighten it up. There are too many interesting things to see to put all my eggs in one basket for 2 talks. By having a 2 hour talk you are not competing with 4 other tracks, you are competing with 8.

Not enough time or space to talk with everyone I wanted to. The size of Black Hat is a blessing and a curse. You see everyone in one place, where you might only see half as many people you want to at a smaller con. But everyone is circulating so there isn’t time for talking with any one person very much. There are a great many people I wish I’d had time to sit down and talk with more.

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What I liked about Black Hat this year

Dan Kaminsky’s It's The End of the Cache As We Know It. (come on, you know you can't help thinking 'And I Feel Fine' after reading that) Standing room only, Dan’s grandma’s session cookies, talk content, speaker energy, enthusiasm. I <3 Dan. If I could adopt a big brother, it would be Dan.

Bruce Potter’s talk on Net Flow analysis. Super interesting, well presented.

Mark Dowd and Alexander Sotirov’s talk on Bypassing Windows Vista Memory Protections. They’re wicked smaht.

LT. Col. Greg Conti’s talk on visual forensics analysis - I am a sucker for visual representation of any data...

Christopher Hoff's Four Horsemen of the Virtualizaton Security Apocolypse.

I know, my review of the talks is pretty light here, but I don't have to write a trip report for the general public so quitcherbitchen. If you're so interested, you should have gone to the talks yourself.

Registration check in lines are sooooo much better than in years past, more lines, move faster, yay. But having a separate line to get your delegate bag is a bit inefficient for attendees.

Box lunch option. Now if only they’d offer a ‘no lunch’ ticket. I don’t even care if it costs the same as a ‘with lunch’ registration. I never eat at the con, whether it’s a box lunch or plated meal. I feel bad wasting the food.

Overall, compared to when I first started attending Black Hat many years ago, the con feels more professional. Talks start and end pretty much on time, I didn’t see any real AV difficulties, logistically things seemed pretty smooth. Awwww, Black Hat is growing up!

Lobster and crab dumpling things, sushi, and sliders at a vendor party. Best party food all week.

The conference continues to grow and mature. I’m excited to see that, big conferences are a great initiation ground for new security professionals who may not know about or understand yet the value of smaller cons like ShmooCon or Toorcon, and a great ‘reunion’ spot for people who may talk via IM/Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/IRC/email/whatever all the time but only see each other IRL a few times a year at cons. But the size of Black Hat is a blessing and a curse. You see everyone in one place, where you might only see half as many people you want to at a smaller con. But everyone is circulating so there isn’t time for talking with any one person very much.

Wall of Sheep. A DefCon staple, nice to see it at Black Hat too. Baaaaaaaaa.

Not really about Black Hat, but a Vegas thing: there is now one cab company that takes credit cards in Vegas. w00t. I hate carrying cash.

$32K raised for EFF between Black Hat and Defcon. nice.

Several people arranged hotel suite Rock Band parties in the evenings. That is awesome. !..!,

See y’all again in 2009. Wouldn’t miss it.

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The bitch is back

The majority of the last year of my life has been kind of fucked up, during which time I stopped blogging. I'm not saying it's unfucked yet, just that I'm getting used to the chaos and am making an effort to return to the blog. It will take me a few days to get the Hideaway in order and clean up properly for visitors, so I hope you'll check back in soon.