Mom: Wasn’t DEFCON the hacker event you went to when you were 15?
Mom: How did we allow that?
Me: You didn’t know because I didn’t tell you.
I went home to VT this past weekend to visit my parents and pick up this insanely cute kitten.
The kitten has nothing to do with this story, I just wanted to show her off.
Over dinner my father mentioned that he had heard an NPR story about DEFCON earlier that day. I was a part of the crew that put on DEFCON for 10 years, and I’ve been just an attendee more than a few times.
I had been at Purdue studying CS the summer before my senior year of High School. Ostensibly, it was to see how I liked the program, but I had hacker friends there and I mostly wanted to hang with them and read about the intricacies of the TCP/IP protocol.
I read this cover to cover that summer.
So that explained how they didn’t know that I went to Vegas. But then the question: how had I paid for the plane ticket. It took me a few minutes to remember; I sold t-shirts.
To finance my trip I created a t-shirt with two quotes.
Front: In this age of digital darwinism some of us are ones, you’re a zero.
On the back across the shoulders like a players name on a jersey, it said: 31337
Which is Leetspeak for elite.
It also had a quote from the “famous” hacker Erik BloodAxe: I only hack for money
I borrowed enough money from a friend to print a run, and then sold them at DEFCON. The proceeds were enough to cover my trip, and it was how I met the organizer, Jeff Moss, and became a Goon for the next 10 years.
I hadn’t thought about this in so long I had almost completely forgotten.