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The Wall of Sheep: a lazy hacker’s worst nightmare

Oct 25, 2018 · 3 min read

The Wall of Sheep: a lazy hacker’s worst nightmare

You would think that hackers, of all people, would know how to keep their private data secure online. However, there’s something called the Wall of Sheep that has revealed an embarrassing truth – even hackers and cybersecurity experts can be caught with their pants down.

What does it do?

Before we tell you how the Wall of Sheep works, let us tell you a few situations they’ve witnessed while spying on other hackers:

  • They watched someone being dumped online (his girlfriend wasn’t too nice about it).
  • They spotted someone who thought it’s a good time to file their taxes. Where? At a hackers’ conference.
  • They came across someone’s private messages to a friend about ‘coming out’. However, if the Wall of Sheep read them, it’s evident they were not that private.

What is DEF CON?

To understand the Wall of Sheep, you need to understand DEF CON. DEF CON is one of the largest hacker conventions in the world. It attracts everyone from computer security professionals to hackers, students, lawyers, and even FBI agents. Walking into DEF CON with a powered-on, Wi-Fi enabled, and unsecured device is like walking into a lion’s den with a shirt made of bacon.

However, even among cybersecurity experts, there are people who forget or don’t know how to protect themselves from other hackers.


How the Wall of Sheep taught hackers a lesson

It all started as a game at one of many DEF CONs. A few security-minded attendees were sitting at a round table and ‘sniffing’ traffic. They realized that the majority of people at the convention weren’t using any security measures. None. The more they looked, the more potential ‘victims’ they found, until someone said that there were so many of them that they reminded them of sheep.

They decided to teach these unprotected hackers a lesson and make their usernames and passwords public. After gathering some paper plates from a pizza stand next door, they wrote down their victims’ details and stuck them on the wall. This showed how easy it was to access anyone’s information and that, in anyone else’s hands, things could’ve ended much worse.

Of course, the group was quickly told off by hotel management for sticking dirty plates to the hotel’s walls, so they decided to take the Wall of Sheep digital.

How the Wall of Sheep looks today

The Wall of Sheep is still a massive part of DEF CON. It has its own infamous village where the main attraction is a large screen displaying victims’ usernames and a few symbols from their passwords. New users are added to the list with a humorous clip involving sheep.

Every time you log into an app or send an email, your information is communicated online – and via Wi-Fi, if that’s how you’re connected. The Wall of Sheep’s goal is to demonstrate that if your connection isn’t encrypted and if someone is listening to your traffic, your data can easily be stolen. The information gathered is not used in any malicious way, although it certainly could be. Indeed, the organizers even encourage attendees to have a chat with them and learn more about the precautionary measures they can take so their data wouldn’t end up in the hands of an ‘evil’ hacker.

What can we learn?

The Wall of Sheep might achieve its goals in an unconventional way, but it’s undeniably a great example that shows what happens to hackers (or could happen to anyone) when they let their guard down.

Fortunately, we know that our clients would probably never end up on the Wall of Sheep. Why? When NordVPN encrypts your data, hackers can no longer see your Internet activity, even when you use public Wi-Fi. NordVPN also hides your IP address, which means that searching the web, writing emails or downloading content from the internet is done anonymously.

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Emily Green
Emily Green successVerified author

Emily Green is a content writer who loves to investigate the latest Internet privacy and security news. She thrives on looking for solutions to problems and sharing her knowledge with NordVPN readers and customers.


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