Adventures in an American Hacker Camp

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ToorCamp is an American-flavored hacker camp that was inspired by European versions like CCC Camp in Germany and HAR Camp in the Netherlands. ToorCamp 2009 was the "first ever full-scale" USA hacker camp and was held inside an abandoned Titan-1 Missile silo at Moses Lake, WA. After the Black Hat and Def Con hacking conferences, ToorCamp 2012 was held at the northwestern tip of the U.S. at Hobuck Beach Resort in Neah Bay, WA. Since about 400 people either pitched tents or stayed in cabins, not only does it dispel the notion that all hackers avoid sunshine and the great outdoors, apparently a good time was had by all. So if you were tapped out of mula like me and didn’t attend, here’s a look at some of the unique aspects of this cool camp for “hackers, makers, breakers and shakers.”

As you would expect from a hacker conference, there were workshops like the one for lock picking and a plethora of presentations from “hacking computers to brain hacking, from brewing soda to fighting robots, from civil rights to lightning guns.” Joe 'Kingpin' Grand, previously with Discovery’s Prototype This and the infamous hacker group L0pht, kicked off the keynote. Some of the talks and activities that received the most news coverage included Amal Graafstra, who has experimented with human augmentation by having RFID implants in both hands. He found eight other willing souls and implanted them with RFID chips. Dan Kaminsky talked Black Ops and played “with some techniques that are obviously wrong and evil and naïve.” Talking about embedded systems, David Bryan presented “I pwned your router. Oops.” A few YouTube videos posted include Sai talking about “Make Your Laws” and “Cognitive Psychology for Hackers.” Jerry Whiting posted “Occupy your camera: Policing the police through your len(s)” on Vimeo.

Aditya Gupta and Subho Halder of Xysec Labs were scheduled to show off their AFE (Android Framework for Exploitation) creation, which allows malware “writers to steal contacts, SC card contents and eavesdrop with ease.” Gupta told SC Magazine, “For a basic effort at writing malware, that’s not even really trying hard, you can make $10,000 a month.” GeekWire added, “Seattle hacker Parity taught us how to hack a PIN code out of just about any HTC Android phone, and how to apply the approach to other makes and models. Then Kos showed how you could use a special USB OTG cable to connect your Android phone (pre-loaded with tools and scripts) to another Android phone and pwn it in under a minute, gaining access to photos, texts, emails, and even your Google account token.”

While there’s more on the ToorCamp blog, some of the other more bizarre activities included Bike Jousting, setting up a huge dome which doubled as a dance hall at night, and building a cell network called ShadyTel. Ken Westin explained, “We were all given our own SIM card to put into unlocked GSM phones and were able to use the network to not only call each other but also outside the camp, one guy in our camp even called his girlfriend in Australia.” There was also a payphone turned into a community phone.

“Did I mention there were freakin’ laser beams?” Westin wrote at Tripwire State of Security. “Hackerbot Labs built a photonic beam by extracting the laser modules from projectors and merging them into a single beam of light seen for miles.” The laser was so powerful that the group “had to get FAA clearance to deploy” it.

The video below gives a funny overview of ToorCamp 2012:

As unique as a hacker camps are, WorldToor is even more bizarre. It’s a 13-day Ice Breaker expedition journey to “the end of the world” for the first ever hacker conference in Antarctica. The event will be held on December 10 – 21, so if the Mayans are correct about the world ending on December 21, 2012, then this will also be the last hacker conference ever. The ToorCon crew “is dedicated to throwing some of the most unique and extreme hacker / computer security conferences in the world.” Although attendees might feel the “pain” of the cold, that may be nothing compared to withdrawals from being cut off from Internet access. The security conference presentations will take the edge off and take place during the cruise to and from Antarctica.

If the world ends, then you won’t need money and can go out in style with this great adventure for hackers and security professionals. While the conference is free, prices range from $4,499 to $9,299 for additional itinerary adventures. It works like this: “Everyone that comes on the expedition is required to give a 20 minute talk. Alternatively you can organize a hacking session where you either teach others about something or propose working on a particular project.” WorldToor was mentioned during a Hak5 interview about ToorCamp. It was suggested that if the end of the world happens on Dec. 21 and everything freezes over, then WorldToor attendees will be safely secured on an icebreaker which is also conveniently a ship in case the opposite occurs and the polar caps melt.

And if the world doesn’t end and you want another adventure for hackers, then you might consider attending the 29th Chaos Communication Congress, a four-day hacking conference held December 27 – 30 in Hamburg, Germany organized by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC).

This story, "Adventures in an American Hacker Camp" was originally published by Computerworld.

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