The DC Cryptoparty was a success!

Oct 17, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I announced that a cryptoparty would be held at HacDC in the first half of October. If you haven't been watching hashtags on Twitter, a cryptoparty is a party where people get together to eat pizza and learn how to install and use strong cryptographic software (like GnuPG and Truecrypt) safely. These parties began in Australia as a result of the government there passing a bill which requires mandatory recording and storage of all net.traffic, just in case someone living in Australia is doing anything illegal. Almost immediately cryptoparties began springing up around the world, Washington DC among them. E-mails were sent, resources were pulled, and people were tapped... and things came together.

With everything going on lately I was in a mad rush to finish up a couple of presentations for the cryptyparty. I find that I don't do very well unless I have a framework of some kind, and love them or hate them, Powerpoint slides (or something like them) seem to be a perfect fit for my style. During the same weekend Geeks Without Bounds organized a hackathon to advance some projects at the International Conference of Crisis Mappers. Project Byzantium had been asked to attend, and later we'd been asked to help with some things behind the scenes. I wound up consulting for a couple of projects while I was at the conference and doing a little teaching, so I didn't complete or really polish my presentations. I was also beginning to falter from exhaustion and not enough sleep, so by the end of Saturday I was driving-by-wire to get home and try to rest. I think what saved me was taking Sunday off entirely.

I drove to HacDC that afternoon to set things up with Brad and some of the other folks from HacDC - moving tables around, setting out chairs, running power, putting up signs, things like that. The church had given us use of the dining room downstairs, so we weren't particularly hurting for room for everyone and their gear. Signs directing people to the dining room were stuck on the walls, food was set out, and ice was used to chill cans of soda. People started trickling in around 1700 EST5EDT, and it wasn't long before we had enough people in the room for Bradford from HacDC to open the night's festivities.

The general format of the DC cryptoparty was an unconference - there was just enough structure to hang some things on, but it was still pretty free form to make it adaptable to new circumstances, unscheduled skillshares, and things like that. Some ad-hoc classes were held by attendees who volunteered, such as the ones on VPNs and information theory as it pertains to passhrases. Runa Sandvik, one of the developers of the Tor Project was kind enough to do a Tor class for us. Robert Weiss of Password Crackers did a class on rainbow tables - implementations of the time/computing power tradeoff attacks on hashed passphrases - what they are, what they're used for, and how they work. He's kindly given me permission to post his slides for download by the community. They're his work, not mine, give him the credit. I'll put them on cryptoparty.org soon.

I did two presentations, one on GnuPG and one on disk encryption. I need to finish (and correct) my slides so they're not up yet; when I do I'll upload them and post about it.

To summarize, the DC cryptoparty was a smashing success. We all taught something on Sunday night, and we all learned something new on Sunday night. I think the hands-on classes went very well and people seemed very pleased with them. Unfortunately our net.access was spotty at best that night so there wasn't a whole lot of downloading going on (or perhaps it was spotty because there was downloading going on that night, we're not sure), but many notes were taken. There is talk of having a second cryptoparty a few months from now but no solid plans have been made yet.

Once again, thanks for coming, everyone! Thanks to Bradford Barr and HacDC for making the cryptoparty possible. Thanks to St. Steven's Church for letting us use the dining room downstairs and all of the tables and chairs for an evening to hold classses and do unusual things with computers.

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