Mar 27 2018
A couple of weeks back, as part of our continuing education program at my dayjob I ran a hands-on class on locksport, the quasi-science (perhaps art) of picking locks for fun and... well... fun. I'm a security wonk so most of the talks I run have some security content in them, but I wanted to do something that was fairly suitable for everyone (coders and not). So, I got the go-ahead to expense a few more locks and some intro picksets to give away from The Lockpick Shop (no consideration for mentioning or using them, they had what I needed at a good price) and hauled most of my collection of locks and tools to work over the course of a couple of days.
I used the Creative Commons licensed lockpicking village slides from the TOOOL website for my talk after editing them a bit to condense them for time and spent a couple of evenings practicing both my slides and craft to gear myself up for the class.
What follows are some pictures and ruminations I have on the topic of locksport that come from years of playing around with locks (after spending about as long trying and failing to get any locks open) and doing formal and informal sessions on the topic. Please bear in mind, I'm far from a master of this particular art. I've competed only once (and pulled a Charlie Brown by picking the lock backwards, thus jamming it at the worst possible time) and, while I recognize that there are some very talented people out there who are into locksport for the sheer artistry of it, I'm not one of them. I'm a pragmatic lockpicker: I'm on assignment, I need into something, I'm going to pick the lock and get in. I'm not a spring steel artist.
Okay. Enough chitchat, here's what I actually wanted to write.
Aug 01 2017
Well, I'm finally back from Defcon 25 and writing up my notes while in the throes of con drop before too much of the experience fades from memory. Suffice it to say that I have opinions about last weekend, which I will attempt to write as concisely as I can. I don't like being negative about things because my experience is my own, and I much prefer that people have their own experiences and make up their own minds about things. However, I would be lying if I painted a rosy picture of my attendence of the largest hacker convention on the planet this year. I did not have a good time, I was not the only one, I learned just about nothing new, and it left me with very few fun (or even good) tales to regale people with. It also felt like the weekend flew by - three days came and went before I knew it, which is both a little disorienting and not actually a bad thing when looking at the thirty thousand foot view.
After a protracted period of getting ready, most of which involved fighting with trying to get my designated burner phone reactivated after sitting for a year in the box I was finally ready to hit the road. You can, in fact, purchase functional SIM cards for just about any cellular provider from eBay and buy a pre-paid plan. Upon arriving in Las Vegas and accepting the 106 degree punch in the face, I hailed a shuttle to my hotel and climbed aboard. This year, Vlad found us lodgings within easy walking distance of Caesar's Palace, where Defcon had moved to this year. I hauled my kit upstairs, ordered a pizza, and plopped myself down to read and relax for the first time in a couple of days.
I'd love to tell you how much fun I had at Defcon and give you detailed write-ups of all the talks I went to (taken from copious handwritten notes, of course), but I didn't make it to a single talk, and was able to visit only one village (the Biohacking Village) twice. Mind you, this was after waiting in line for roughly two hours and not getting into the talks I'd originally come to see. Not that the talks I wound up seeing weren't interesting, they were, but they weren't what I was trying to attend. In addition, the Biohacking Village (that I know of) and other village rooms (that I only heard about and thus cannot confirm firsthand) have made a practice of flushing the room (throwing everybody out) to prevent camping, so as to keep the lines moving and thus making sure that most everybody in line gets into something. The lines for just about every talk I saw were around the corner, sometimes two corners, and most of the way down the hallways. I didn't bother trying to get into the talks in the main tracks. Unsurprisingly, go ahead and laugh, I kept getting lost in the labyrinthine hallways of Caesar's Palace. Possibly much to your surprise, many people who actually have a sense of direction kept getting lost there, too. Some of the maps posted on the corners and at the infobooths gave incorrect directions to various locations. Many of the Goons I spoke to didn't know where things were, either. I don't blame them for it at all; a few admitted to me that they had no idea where anything was, either, so I don't feel alone in my frustration. I can't speak to how well organized Defcon was this year because I'm not in a position to know what was going on. What I do know is that Caesar's Palace is very difficult to navigate, and if I'd known how hard it would be I would have gone up a couple of days early specifically to sneak around and learn where everything was ahead of time.