Sunday, August 18, 2013
My Invited Talk at the 2013 Usenix Security Symposium--A Great Experience!
I spoke at the 2013 USENIX security symposiun on August 16 in Washington D.C. What is USENIX? As I found out, it is probably the most important Advanced Computing Systems Association in the world. It sponsors several conferences and workshops each year, most notably the USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI), the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI), the USENIX Annual Technical Conference, the USENIX Security Symposium, the USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST), and with SAGE, the Large Installation System Administration Conference (LISA). So what does USENIX have to do with me? Well, really nothing, but surprisingly I received an invitation to speak at this year's USENIX security symposium. And what an experience it was! Going in, I thought the association was a minor one and that whatever attendees listened to my talk would be thoroughly uninterested. In fact, I didn't think anybody would show up at my presentation while another one more germain to comoputer and systems security was taking place. I was wrong on all fronts. The first thing that threw me for a loop was the sheer upper echelon quality of both the speakers and the attendees. I mean we are not talking about a roomfull of common computer geeks. We are talking about some serious intelligent and insightful people. The first session I stumbled upon was a talk given by a senior program manager for Windows Core Security Microsoft. The next was given by a former chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission. Then there were several high-ups from Google, Google Chrome, Bloomberg, and--now get this--the current senior director for cybersecurity at the White House! So what the hell was Richard Marcus, a little ex-casino cheat doing there? True, I have spoken at several major casino industry conferences in three different languages and in front of a thousand people, but this, for the first time in my post-cheating life, was not in my bailiwick, and after watching these guys speak with their razor-sharp PowerPoint presentations, I realized that I was gonna be in for a rough one trying to interest these same guys in my presentation, which was a combination of video demonstrations and verbal imput covering some high and low-tech clashing between casinos and casino cheats. I really was a bit nervous. To quell my nervousness, I began with a few jokes about how out of place I was, I even said, "you know, I think I got off the bus at the wrong Washington. I was supposed to get off in Washington State, not Washington D.C. Guess what, these guys do have a sense of humor! They went for it! And I followed up with a few more jokes and then eased into the NBC Today Show video of me demonstrating my world class Savannah cheat-move to the show's then-host Meredith Vieira. I explained the move in detail, and they seemed to love the David vs Goliath aspect of it all. I hadn't expected this high brain-powered grouop to be taken in by such a KISS (keep it simple stupid) casino cheat move, but they were. Next I showed a sexy 6-minute video of RFID technology in casino chips to prevent pastposting and other forms of cheating, and then I demonstrated how I bypassed that. They liked that too. I spoke about the huge online poker scams at UltimateBet and Absolute Poker, and I spoke about some of the supposed hacking that went on in the Crown Casino in Australia to the tune of more than $30 million, which, by the way, I don't believe happened the way the Crown is saying it happened. So by now all these cyber and cryptic geniuses listening to me were asleep, right? Wrong! Their eyes were glued to mine from their seats! In short, they seemed to like everything during my hour-long presentation, and I really got into doing it. Maybe they were just ready to see something different. Every other speaker during the 3-day symposium remained glued to the podium focused on the PowerPoint displays on the big screen. I, however, never stood still. I walked around the large room talking, spending much of the time in the back or in the center between aisles, really interacting with the crowd who wanted to be interacted with. Now, I am not knocking the stoic and stationary integralness of this type of presentation; I know it gets the job done on a high-level conference of this nature. I was only different, and I knew I had to be in order to avoid getting yanked right out of the room. I finished up, received my applause, and was ready to leave when a dozen or so attendees approached me with questions or comments. The questions were what you'd expect from this group: intelligent and sharply keened-in to their subjects. The comments, however, surprised me. One guy said," I've never been to a casino in my life, but your talk was the best I heard during this entire symposium." Well, that surely made me feel good. Then another guy, albeit quite young, came up to me and said, "Mr. Marcus, can I have your autograph?" All in all, a great experience!