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Why didn't you compete?

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  • Why didn't you compete?

    Just trying to get a sense from people as to why it was only 2 teams in the wireless contest this year. I've retired and want to help run things next year and I'm trying to find out what kept you from competing?

    Was it a time commitment? Not enough gear? Did'nt know if you'd have a chance? No incentive? anything else?

    Want to make the contest kick ass next year and we need competitors to do that. So what's kept you from competing?
    Never drink anything larger than your head!

  • #2
    Re: Why didn't you compete?

    for me? some lack of knowledge, but I want to learn....

    I need to branch out my knowledge...


    • #3
      Re: Why didn't you compete?

      I have an interesting perspective here I think.

      The WD contest has been a source of frustration for me for the past two years.

      The first year we did the contest it was a straight WarDrive. Who can score the most based on a few factors (APs found, encrypted APs found, unique APs found etc). The second year was largely the same, but team based.

      When it came time for the third year, I really wanted to inject some difficulty into the contest. My thought was, many times can we ask people to drive around Vegas? This was the first year of the mini games, but there was also a regular WD. For the most part, the WD contest was an amateur ctf over wireless.

      Last year, the WD became one of the mini-games, but we went with the easy/hard format where you had to choose 'gimmie' points or a more difficult game that would require more (or at least different) skills, and would reward more points. To a degree this worked as the winning team choose to take a 'sure thing' easy contest requireing the second place team (sorry Render) to complete the hardest game of all in order to score enough points to tie the game. This was the type of strategy I was hoping for and it worked. biggest source of frustration with the WD/Wireless contest was that the contest staff was spending 4-6 months getting the contest together, building the required servers, figuring out a way to keep our WLANs up against the massive DoSes, etc. After all the work we put into the contest, the more 'skill intensive' it became, the less interest there was in the contest.

      Consider the participation by year (all values are approximate):


      This was the main reason that I wanted to walk away from the contest. I wasn't trying to 'dump a loser' off on anyone else, but it just seemed like my vision for the direction of the contest (more difficult, more hacking/less driving, add in a level of defense capability, etc) was not a direction the attendees and participants enjoyed. I thought it was probably time to inject new blood into the games.

      It appears that this didn't really help as participation was at an all time low this year. Which brings me to the actual answer to your question Render. I think part of this can be chalked up to no 'new' games this year. I think part of it can be chalked up to the fact that people have to actually get their equipment to Vegas. The first year or two, WarDriving was 'new' and people were eager to participate so they were willing to haul antennae, etc out. Now, it has largely lost it's sheen and people aren't willing to do that.

      Can this be fixed? I think so. I think what we did last year (DEF CON 13) where one of our games was a combo with Lock Pick was a good idea that was VERY poorly executed. I take partial responsibility for that and I think the LPCon guys bear the other half of that responsibility. Short answer, we didn't really know HOW to do a crossover contest. We learned some lessons and I think this could work now. I also think it provides an opportunity, if promoted correctly, for some of the smaller contests to expand their participant base.

      I think the level of difficulty needs to come down somewhat. I don't mean go back to 'who has the stamina to drive for 27 straight hours.' I am more referring to the fact that when you tell people they have to locate a WLAN, attack a server, compromise it, escalte privs, secure it, and defend seems like a daunting task.

      Creativity. Recycling the games from last year was probably not the best idea ever. The PSK Limit guys were eager to defend their crown (again) but other than hardcore guys (ahem Render) that really wanted to win the contest once, I think it was difficult for others to justify participation. Especially since PSK Limit had won it twice before and were likely to defend. Who wants to play a game you can't win?

      Finally, time. The days of people being willing to devote their entire con to this contest are over. I don't think it's a good idea to have the contest run for more than a couple of hours each day MAX. I think this is the model that Thorn went with this year.

      I really think it would be a good idea to contact the PSK Limit guys and ask them to help out with designing the contest. Also, SYN-ACK is GREAT at that stuff and has organized contests in his local area for several years...some of which are VERY complex.

      I wish you luck with this. I would love to see this contest gain a following again and I certainly feel like I can be blamed (wholly) for the decline in participation over the years because my vision of where the contest was going was not in sync with the participants. Good Luck.
      perl -e 'print pack(c5, (41*2), sqrt(7056), (unpack(c,H)-2), oct(115), 10)'


      • #4
        Re: Why didn't you compete?

        Very useful insights Chris, I was seeing alot of it myself.

        I'm envisioning something where the barrier to participate is low (i.e. laptop and card is all that's needed) and it comes down to knowledge of tools and lateral (creative) thinking.

        The problems I had with the minicontests at DC13 was that after an initial WLAN bit, the task was unrelated to WiFi. The one I really liked was the 'Last crusade' as it tested participants ability to break through various security methods. I also liked 'King of the Hill' in concept, but when it takes you the length of the contest to get in in the first place, it's appeal wanes a bit.

        Myself, I'm retired, so there will be one less hardcore person competing, and PSKL has indicated that they are not going to defend thier title (3rd time was enough I guess).

        I still think there is some competition here, it's just a matter of finding out what would appeal to everyone and get them competing. I know there's alot of wireless know how at con, it would be nice to show it off.
        Never drink anything larger than your head!


        • #5
          Re: Why didn't you compete?

          Originally posted by Chris
          I think part of this can be chalked up to no 'new' games this year. I think part of it can be chalked up to the fact that people have to actually get their equipment to Vegas. The first year or two, WarDriving was 'new' and people were eager to participate so they were willing to haul antennae, etc out. Now, it has largely lost it's sheen and people aren't willing to do that.
          The traditional drive has had its play for certain, as well as a couple of the minigames, imo.

          I suspect TSA may play into things, considering that at Defcon 10 I packed a yagi in my backup as carryon.. but this last year almost got anal probed for a 500mW amp and a fruit rollup. As soon as we landed home TSA released its newer set of restrictions that have many not wanting to fly at all, let alone tote gear for contests.

          Major factors I've found.. over the years:

          1) Skill level effects participation. It's been joked about since HJ at Defcon 10 when they asked 'What does Wifi stand for?' or something of that matter... amoung other Wifi-related questions. A large number of people can run around and run a program to capture stray packets.. the ability to do something with those packets limits your field. I think the minigames concept can lend to more participation by diversifying the games.. a point system can run for each minigame and apply towards a greater Wifi Decathalon .. if you really want to do the whole thing, but you shouldn't have to.

          1a) Equipment/skill level. Lets face it, you're less likely to spend your time playing something when you feel like you're playing against people that can not only out Wifi you with their pinky, but that you feel can out equip you with antennas, amps, or whatever gear may apply. Add in more chance, logic , or similar aspects to the minigames and you'll see more people try, if not just for the fun of doing it. I think the spirit of driving around Vegas was that it didn't require too much skill, but it was fun and new back at DC10. Like Chris said, much of the WDc is no longer new or hip.

          Lets face it, a lot of the folks that digged wifi back at DC10 don't play with it as much 5 years later. Why? Well.. its not new(ish) anymore.

          Another lesson from l0st: there were a large number of serious hardware hackers that dove into his contest this last year .. but the winners were an adhoc team that showed up when another team didn't. This doesn't make the hardware hackers less skilled .. quite honestly, it's amazing what they can do with a paperclip and chewing gum wrapper. It does show that if properly formatted.. anyone can compete, anyone can _LEARN_, and most certainly anyone can have a fun time that they brag about later on. If people are feeling intimidated by the contest or the competition, it will probably have a VERY limited audience like years past.

          1b) While prizes are nice, several contests showed that the drive to play isn't necessarily tied to what goodies you can get for it. Make it fun and at ceremonies talk about the various fun people had.. folks don't need or care about a total rundown of who scored what where, unless a larger contest looms.

          2) Timeframe. A lot of folks discovered they didn't want to drop their entire Defcon for a wireless contest. Even some of the hardcore CTF guys take a break once in a while. In previous years there were a handful of contestants that were insane enough to drive distances and lengths that no sane human should to get the most access points within a specified period of time. Even those ironmen got tired of that format .. so minigames mentioned above should be scheduled in advanced, limited in length and spread out throughout the con based on other event scheduling so that participation is available.

          3) Look at your NDS/PSP... or a board game. Pick popular game formats and apply them to wifi. The games don't have to be skill testing / eye popping extranaganza. Make a Wifi tictactoe game, or something. Instead of driving to find the most APs, have people drive to flush out the most APs with a specific SSID/config.. or... ask l0st for ideas .. he has a million+1 methods of toruturing contestants in a way that they deem fun.

          4) Announce. Some of the games can remain mysterious, but the sooner folks know about it, the sooner anticipation starts building and the more folks become interested. Get people talking about it on the forums, get people signing up.. market it and they will play. Inversely, the less information they have, the less hype that is out there about competing, the less people will commit and effectively the cycle will degrade turnout.

          5) Do something that involves getting Chris 1) wet, 2) hugged, 3) filled with whipped cream. This will ensure success.
          if it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud; and I'm gonna go there free.


          • #6
            Re: Why didn't you compete?

            You may also consider that when the contest was simply WarDriving, people knew what to expect. They had practiced at home and didn't expect any surprises (in terms of knowledge gaps, missing equipment, etc.). Change the rules to something they've never done and the motivation to join because they are an expert at X wanes simply because they've never done X before.

            (Please, no drug jokes about the wireless folks.)


            • #7
              Re: Why didn't you compete?

              Originally posted by renderman

              Myself, I'm retired, so there will be one less hardcore person competing, and PSKL has indicated that they are not going to defend thier title (3rd time was enough I guess).
              Renderman, you can't retire. Who else would Chris tell they couldn't do something and have to be DQ'd or something in the middle of the vendor area?
              DJ Jackalope
              dopest dj in the galaxy. *mwah!*

              send in the drop bears!


              • #8
                Re: Why didn't you compete?

                wardriving just doesnt have the zing it did 4 years ago. atleast mix it up with things like RFID, bluetooth etc...


                • #9
                  Re: Why didn't you compete?

                  Originally posted by caffeine20
                  wardriving just doesnt have the zing it did 4 years ago. atleast mix it up with things like RFID, bluetooth etc...
                  In 2000, I was excited to see 25 or 30 different ssid signatures on the 35th floor of a hotel in San Diego. Now, I see that many in any urban area. Channel 6 (the default on every moronic consumer device out there) is so overpopulated that I'm sure neighbors interfere with each other's cable modems. Wardriving can be done from your couch; a contest just doesn't seem like much fun.

                  I'm also not interested in anything that takes up *all* of the time I have at defcon. With the exception of CTF, I don't get it. I'm one of the strange ones that attends the talks (not all, but some). On the other hand, even if it was only a couple of hours, it's too much like working.


                  • #10
                    Re: Why didn't you compete?

                    I think with all the wealth of talent on the organizing side, a contest(s) can be developed that meets the needs of the contesters:

                    Doesn't take up all day (a few hours at most);

                    Doesn't require advanced df equipment;

                    Levels of participation that don't exclude half the potential contesters.


                    • #11
                      Re: Why didn't you compete?

                      Sorry to hear that you're retiring, Render, is this just from the WDc? I hope it's not also from CoWF...don't pull a BW on us!

                      IMHO, the low number of participants has to do basically with what Chris has said - WiFi is not "new" anymore. It is not as exciting. Heck, I even started to do a Google Earth version of SV and got turning my attention to hardware and other topics.

                      I also agree that we need to either cross-breed the competition, or do a "static" competition, i.e. one that involves people turning up at the event with something they have been preparing during the months before (do I hear "beer" and "cooling" in the background somewhere...?); this is just an idea I'm throwing on the table, maybe there is no practical way of implementing it.

                      Another one: an orienteering course. This would depend on the practicality of leaving WiFi devices around Vegas, but the general idea would be - find an initial AP around the con venue, connect to it. A web server has instructions (vague ones) on finding the next AP, only after solving a challenge. Each AP you successfully find and solve the challenge on gives you a code, which you then have to note in order to prove you completed the course.

                      I sure hope to see something WiFi-related next year!


                      Keyboard not found. Press any key to continue.
                      Asshat thinks: "where's the any key?"


                      • #12
                        Re: Why didn't you compete?

                        Don't worry, I'm not retiring from life, just the wireless contest.

                        So far I'm seeing a few things.

                        Time commitment: Keep it short and sweet
                        Technical requirements: Keep it low, don't make it about who's got the most gear
                        Challenge: Make it not something that people can easily prepare for or over study

                        Additional question: Direction finding or pen testing, which would you want to see more of?
                        Never drink anything larger than your head!


                        • #13
                          Re: Why didn't you compete?

                          Why not both, I like the idea of going from one waypoint to the next, get the riddle on the webpage of the site, enter a code, solving the puzzle get a token or new piece of information then move on with the new SSID you have to search for etc etc.

                          Many more ideas to come.


                          • #14
                            Re: Why didn't you compete?


                            The reason I did not attempt the WiFi con this year was that it sounded from the beginning that it would be a team event and knowing very few of the people that were not already on a team, I decided to just observe.

                            I think the concept of multiple challenges, may one in AM, one in PM, of cascading difficult is a great concept and may attract more people.

                            I would also encourage you to think about the possiblity of a separate cons for individuals and teams, or having two awards, one for each.
                            Will Hack for Bandwidth


                            • #15
                              Re: Why didn't you compete?

                              yea id have to had my hat to the "i know ppl that compeat and totaly own at it so i didnt think id have a shot" category

                              lol so menny memories of seeing renderman walk around with dual yagies and a backback sensor :P