DefCon 22 and BSides LV recap

I managed to make it to Vegas in a rather unexpected way, what originally was a planned beach trip ended up not working out, and I ended up being able to join FALE at BSides LV and DefCon 22.


I was working in the mornings, but most of my free time at BSides LV was spent at our lockpick village where we were joined by someone making hand made lockpicks as you can see above. I didn’t get to attend any talks, but the talks were found online shortly after, my favorite one being the Hack the Gibson talk which focused on IBM mainframes. Very educational considering I work with mainframes and do some operations on them at work. Jon McAfee, yes, that McAfee also made an appearance, which was interesting to say the least. He talked a little about his version of events regarding his recent troubles in Belize. Including alleged hired assassins out to get him, his personal spy ring, and people popping out from behind trees they’re hiding behind, and snapping pictures, etc. Later, he shifted into some Snowden-esque persona rallying for personal privacy online, and plugged his new product that spys on spyware, not sure how you protect yourself from spyware by installing his “trusted” spyware, but that was the sales pitch from my view. Also, there was the tower of vendor distributed condoms, collectively named “Bonerhenge”, built by some people who apparently didn’t have a better use for them in Vegas, thus had some time on their hands.


There were super sensitive recruiters who get really upset when you tell them that you don’t like them, when asked why your refusing their stuff after they continually interrupt your conversation to offer you something, and report you to the staff for “rudeness”. This may or may not have lead to FALE not being invited back next year, which would be kind of sad because BSides started because vendor influence at other cons kept certain talks from taking place. Granted this is a meager incident, but it still means a vendor is dictating what’s allowed and all of FALE is being held accountable for someone’s individual opinion. Although, I concur that recruiters especially in this case can be annoying. If someone doesn’t want what you’re offering and is trying to talk to someone, step off. If you want to know their reasons and ask, at least don’t get mad when you get an honest answer. What’s weird is it probably wasn’t even close to some things we normally do that some might consider offensive. So when someone from the BSides staff pointed his finger at us and started heckling us saying we should be ashamed of ourselves, with zero context a long time after the “incident” took place of which the rest of us weren’t aware of, we asked him what specificaly was he referring to?

The rest of the week was spent at DefCon…sort of. We spent at least half of it at the hotel room hacking the badge do all sorts of crazy stuff like spam/reset other people’s badges, etc. The source code for the badge firmware was provided on a disc, and found online as well. We created our own altered versions and you can take a look at the code on github. The badge was based on the propeller chipset by a company called Parallax. The propeller an open source multi-core chip that’s low power and could be compared to an Arduino. Like an Arduino it has a C like language and can be re-programmed over an USB interface. The badge itself had LED’s, various touch/contact switches that functioned like buttons, pin outs and IR TX/RX which were mainly used for communicating with other badges. Due to it’s capabilities there are all sorts of projects you can use the badge for, you can do your own Propeller based robot which I know some people are working on, or just about anything. The hardware hacking room had a contest for the coolest badge hack. The code also contained clues that were used in the badge challenge which they have every year which is a key to a larger puzzle that you solve. That was for those who were very dedicated. Most of our hacks were getting it to do cool new LED patterns and to reset other badges like a Goon badge (attendees had a mere Human badge, where as people with special status had custom badges, like Speakers, Press, etc).


To be honest, the most fun was trying to figure out the badge, I attended some talks sure, but nothing to me is better than sitting around a table trying to figure out how the thing works while drinking red bull. This to me is the quintessential DefCon experience I’d always heard about.

badge hacking

I did attend some talks, still waiting for them to make it online, I also checked out the rest of the con, saw what there was to see, went to a few after hours events, ate my first In and Out burger which I went to in a limo. I also just chilled out by the pool, especially when I managed to lock myself out of the hotel room.


All and all, it was a great first time experience, and I hope I can do it again next year.

See also