Story from the near future: foreign govt hackers launch app w/ spying backdoor at #sxsw, pwn everyone's phone data. (Maybe already have!)— elipariser (@elipariser) March 9, 2013
This actually happened in the near past, not even the near future, in either 2003 or 2004 (I don't remember which). Of course, this is when all of SxSW interactive fit in one building, the downtown conference center. The wifi networks never held up so the coveted spots in the hallway were near the ethernet ports & power plugs (a modern powerbook only had one or at best two sessions worth of power at that time, and "liveblogging" was still a thing).
Some enterprising character booted up "etherpeg" and everyone's email, flickr uploads, IMs, and blogger and Movable Type passwords were laid bare for all to see. At the time we didn't consider this a threat (remember, most XML-RPC passwords were sent over the clear, for better or for worse), and packet-sniffing was something people did when they were feeling mischievous, not because people's passwords were particularly valuable. It was an amazing few hours. To get an idea of what this looked like, here's the same software running in Bryant Park in 2005, courtesy of David Gallagher:
Brad never passed up an opportunity for a prank on this scale, and soon the network was flooded with some hardcore porn. Watching people literally jump out of their chairs when they were supposed to be paying attention to the stage is definitely one of my favorite SxSW memories. Jason and Finn helped people secure their browsing by installing stunnel and pretty soon etherpeg got less interesting.
While we're blogging memories, a few people have asked me about the picture that went around twitter & tumblr yesterday. This was an award that Mediarights won for the fifth annual Media That Matters Film Festival. I'm pleased that after twelve years, the film festival is still going, which is no small feat for a non-profit!
For the last few years I've felt melancholy around SxSW time, and that picture of Finn and me and Eli's tweet got me wondering why. I realized it was mostly because I missed Brad so much, who was always the unofficial mayor of the conference. Now I've spent an hour or so looking at old Flickr pictures and blog posts, and I'm glad I've had a little time to remember him. What a great man he was.