Like other migrating beasts, hackers travel huge distances for feeding, breeding, and breaking things every summer -- at Defcon in Las Vegas. The way they move about the city is driven primarily by the availability of free booze at corporate parties or the convenience of air-conditioned infosec habitats; the heat makes them torpid. As such, everyone takes taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts everywhere, day and night.
The mostly-male migration forgoes the braggadocio of colorful plumage as seen in avian species. Instead, they establish social dominance and attract attention of potential mates and recruiters by bragging. Thus, according to my taxi-related experiences while covering the conference over the years, Las Vegas car drivers overhear way more of infosec's boasting and swagger than they probably should.
Ferrying hackers and feds during "hacker summer camp" has got to be a dream gig for a spy. How could it not be? Spying on hackers is usually more trouble than it's worth. Thanks to Uber and Lyft's gig economy it's much easier. No union, no problem (for them at least).
Case in point is GQ's story The Spy Who Drove Me. Two weeks ago at the Aspen Security Forum, a high-horse homeland security conference, journalists from GQ and Washington Post (among others) kept ending up with a conspicuously curious Uber driver.
Gloria the Uber driver picked up journos on the conference's first night. The next morning, correspondents compared notes about how she'd pumped them for information on the ride to the conference. "I'll tell you something if you tell me something," she said to one reporter. Through Gloria's chatty admissions, reporters began piecing together that she'd been to North Korea, and knew who Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was -- surprisingly well. That's when GQ decided to turn the tables on her.
GQ's reporter, Julia Ioffe, texted Gloria for a ride with the express stated purpose of interviewing the Uber driver for a story. According to Ioffe, the exchange got weird really fast:
"Since I saw your face yesterday, I've been wondering," [Gloria] said, "are you from a Russian background?"
(...) How the hell did Gloria know I was from Russia? I certainly hadn't mentioned it, and my last name wasn't on my Uber profile. And, since I'm Jewish, I don't even look particularly Russian—that is, classically Slavic. What else did Gloria know, and how did she know it?
How did you know? I asked her.
Gloria resorted to flattery. "Because your face is so beautiful," she cooed. "The dark hair and the light eyes and the white skin."