Sunday, August 16, 2015

Román Ramírez: "We are organizing RootedHONGKONG"

Román Ramírez, the most visible face at RootedCon, the security conference

"I was born in the Dominican Republic in 1974 and came to live to Spain with five, when my parents separated. I've been into computer areas since 1992/1993, although at school I was already interested in the subject, but at home there was no money to have a computer, so I used those of my friends. I learned computer security self-taught, in parallel with my learning of programming and systems management. I spent time in the university, where I lost many illusions. Now, the most important project of my life is my daughter. "

Roman Ramirez speaks for itself. Man of great character, hacker of the old school, clear and dark, and proud of it. Roman is not lost and is not a cliché, he has made himself and is not a topic. You love him or hate him, or a bit everything, but always in a big way, chest out. Today he is known as RootedCON president, which last year, in its fifth edition, brought together 1,304 people. It is certainly the largest Spanish hacker convention.

Where does your nickname come from, patowc?

Long ago, when I got my first modem and I logged onto the BBS, I noticed that most people chose grandiloquent aliases (Terminator, Black dragon ...), and I thought that I had to choose a nickname I always remember which should have perspective and, above of all, do not take too seriously myself. Patowc therefore, the toilet cleaner. In addition, it is related to a character in a RPG (Rune Quest) which was a duck :)

How did you get into this?

Having entered as BBS Public NME, The Light, the first Encom (later encomIX), and interacting with people of Glaucoma or Apòstols, it was easy to evolve in a particular line. I have never liked the "small groups" , I have always preferred to learn by my own, so I moved a lot dealing with many people, both in Spain and the United States, Australia ... exchanging exploits or user accounts.

I did many gray things, I learned a lot with many people, met very smart and interesting persons... and all of that has led me here. Now I am a professional of security in a huge enterprise.

Why Rooted?

We saw that something was missing in Spain. There were small events, most private and very closed, or major events under the control of companies, whose interests were not promoting a Community or share knowledge. When we talked about it Javier Olascoaga , Raul Jover and Román
Medina-Heigl, we realized that it was important to create an open event and it could go either, outside hacker, state forces, military, student, professional, criminal or a simply amateur.

The Spanish RootedCON raised the hacker community and, as a consequence, the CONs have multiplied . Are you happy?

Very much. And proud. And above of all, I believe that we have fulfilled a mission that we auto assign to ourselves at some time. Moreover, apart from a lot of people who has been encouraged to do things throughout the community we have achieved an important fact: there is very good understanding and collaboration with the state forces. They have understood and have very clear who are the real enemies and the Community has realized that there are also hackers in Civil Guard, in the Police, Mossos, Basque police, militaries or...even among spies :)

Do you gain money with RootedCON?

This question always makes me laugh, because it seems that we should feel guilty because our event grows, and there is always a"funny guy" who calls it a commercial event. It is clear that to be "authentic" you have to be broke and organize a small event, with free admission and fifteen people in a dark room :)

No, we do not make money with RootedCON. Everything was spent on organizing the event, or if we had more income than expenditure, it is provisioned for the following year. When we bring trainers of the standing of Peter van Eeckhoutte, Manu Quintas & Jorge Capmany and many others, we tend to provision money in order to reduce costs. Financing courses which can cost 1,000 or 2,000 euros, with the help of sponsors, for example, is one of the objectives to manage revenues well.

RootedCON Valencia means that you entered the business of making CONs - or so they say?

And what's exactly the business of making CONS? That we're rich organizing events and occupying hours of our personal and family life? We did not win almost nothing , I repeat, and we could devote to other things that money itself would win. But the fact that we do not have a vocation "to make money" does not mean we do not want to grow and have more scope. It's something bad? We are now organizing RootedHONGKONG. And then RootedNORDICS. And whatever it takes to continue growing and be bigger and more important.

You are a person with strong political views. Have you come to hacktivism?

Only once in my life. I worked, without thinking much about it, filling of blue ribbons a web of ETA that was hosted on a server in Belgium (I discovered that the guest user was named gast, and that they had the mail reader pine, from you could go to the shell directly without many problems). Then others completed the process by putting the blue ribbons.

Some people think that I'm proud of that, but the important discovery I made is that I was wrong, because there are no ideas in the universe so legitimate which can justify that I raised my hand against anyone, either with a gun or by computer. Nobody has the right to impose its will through violence and hacktivism, as understood usually, has a too strong component of "impose many ideas." And I do not care how good those ideas may be, use "weapons" (hacking, DDoS, or massive campaigns views) is always a mistake.

But I do think I'm a hacktivist. I always face and defend what I think it's right. That's hacktivism. I organize an event where information is free and uncensored. That's hacktivism. I give talks in schools to children and parents to help them to protect themselves on the Internet. That's hacktivism. And, like me, there are many other hacktivists who do not raise their hands against anyone ...

Did we live better when governments do no pay attention to Internet?

Of course. Now there is a war for control both by governments and economic interests. The good news is that trying to put controls on something as big as the Internet is an absurd and unworkable idea. And this is where the hackers have a duty to his community. Whenever a tyrant seeks to invent a new absurd control there should be hackers to disable it with free and open access tools. It is critical to imbue future generations of the importance of committing with a free Internet where anyone can access FREE to uncensored knowledge.

Among the bugs of the Internet of Things and the critical infrastructures, it gets very ugly. What are we going to do?

It is an issue that concerns me especially. Mainly because, although governments are on track and are taking seriously the whole thing, we continue with very serious situations. I return the question: It's not strange that speech on "the dreaded international terrorism" which justifies Cameron (UK) or the FBI / NSA (United States) demand that encryption is restricted? If the danger of terrorism really was such as that... I can think about many ways of "make a complete mess" attacking different infrastructures, why it has not happened already?

So, or there is no imminent danger, or there are no such vulnerabilities (yes there are, I have witnessed). If I limit myself here to the objective fact that the vulnerabilities exist, the situation is SERIOUS and WORRYING because the measures proposed are not really improving, but to kidnap more rights to citizens. A terrorist or a drug dealer cares so little if encryption is forbidden, the loser is the citizen.

Will the hackers save the world?

Great hackers have promoted monumental changes which have improved the lives of many people: from Alan Turing to Julian Assange, my friends NcN, Navaja Negra, GSICKMinds, Sh3llcon or my fellows from RootedCON :) Many hackers (either computer scientists, lawyers, composers and lyricists of the Grateful Dead or police) are committed to making the world a better place, whatever their ideological orientation might be.

Text: Mercè Molist


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