Chaos Communication Camp 2015: Badges, Talks, and Culture

The Rad1o Badge

The rad1o badge is this great standalone HackRF clone, and great hardware hacking platform. On Day Two and most of Day Three, people were divided largely into two camps: those simply having fun with GNURadio and the software-defined radio (SDR) side of things, and those modifying and adding to the rad1o firmware to get the various peripherals up and working or simply make sweet animations.


On the evening on Day Three, this all changed. [iggy] managed to get the HackRF PortaPack library ported over to the rad1o badge. We’re excited about this code because it lets the radio and microcontroller sides of the badge work together, and that means things like a standalone SDR radio sniffer with waterfall plot (pictured here picking up WiFi and Bluetooth signals) is feasible. Using the badge as a standalone transmit and receive platform can’t be far away. Things are starting to get really cool with the rad1o, and there’s still two days of camp left.

Meanwhile, on the SDR front, there was a packed house at the GNURadio workshop last night, and there’s going to be a repeat on Sunday since it was so popular. The Munich CCC has a great SDR scavenger hunt going on currently, and [Sec] and [Schneider] from Munich gave their talk on eavesdropping on the Iridium satellite pager system with a twist at the end: a live demo of decoding the pager’s beacon signals inside the tent, run on custom software and the rad1o badge.


We attended Internet Archive’s talk on how they’re getting along. If you don’t know the IA, they run the Wayback Machine, have preserved a bunch of old-school video games, and are currently running a large-scale book-scanning project. High points of the talk include the story of their legal self-defense against an intrusive National Security Letter, and the background of their workaround that lets them loan out books even when they’re still under copyright.

At the same time, [Will Scott] gave a talk on open proxies. Thanks to the saved talks, we watched both. A lot of computers out there (accidentally or otherwise) allow people to proxy their data

[Lieven Standaert]’s talk on prototyping is a great summary of a bunch of tricks and tips that he’s learned by shepherding students through some fairly ambitious design projects. He’s got a complete lab with CNC mill, laser cutter, and 3D printer and the focus of the talk is on how to use these various tools together most efficiently, playing to each of their various strong suits.

shot0001[Tarek Loubani] gave an inspirational talk “3D Printing High-Quality Low-Cost Free Medical Hardware“. Basically, he looked into stethoscope designs, and re-engineered a 3D printable version. All of the tech in stethoscopes is in the housing design and its shape, and they’re relatively expensive, so it’s a fantastic low-hanging fruit. Watch the talk if you’re thinking about doing some good with your 3D printer. (Not that printing out owls with top hats isn’t important for the world…)

If you’re looking to upgrade your DIY electronics manufacturing capabilities, [hunz]’s talk on “Pushing the Limits of DIY Electronics” is worth a look. As the cool parts get smaller, the DIYer faces a number of new challenges, from thin traces to reflow soldering of BGA parts. A great tip: some board houses offer free SMD solder stencils, and it can be easily worth it to order up a single-sided PCB from them just to get the stencil. He also got into the design side of DIY manufacture, including a discussion of transmission lines that we found helpful.

Here are two more talks that we probably don’t need to tell you are cool: space hacking and combat robots. Need we say more? Both talks are introductory and general, and if what you need is a little encouragement to get involved, you’ll find it here.

Life in Camp: Kids and the Lake

OK, we’re not going to lie: it got hot over the last two days. Like, really hot. One of the nicest features of camp life, then, is the lake (or the lakes, because there’s another one just outside the camp that’s larger and a bit less popular). If you’ve already caught up on your sleep, and your hacking projects are in a good place, or if it’s just too hot to work, nothing beats a dip in the cool water. Heck, even if you’ve got hacking to do, take a swim break for an hour. After all, that’s what makes Camp special.

IMG_20150815_145833Finally, we were surprised how kid-friendly Camp has become this time around. The accommodations for the still-too-young-to-hack are pretty amazing. From a petting zoo to a gigantic Lego-filled tent, to the nearly full schedule of finger painting and kiddie arts-and-crafts, you’d have almost as much to do at Camp if you were five as if you were twenty-five. Time passes, and even hackers don’t stay young forever, and it’s fantastic to see the community taking care of the next generation. Plus, the kids seem to love it.

Going On

Again, with so many things going on at Camp, it’s hard to keep up with everything. Look through the archived talks and see what strikes your fancy. If you find something you like, post up in the comments.

Chaos Communication Camp 2015: Dispatch from Day One

There’s been too much to do here at the Chaos Communication Camp — the Quadrennial outdoor meeting of hackers. Between talks and projects and workshops, there’s hardly been a minute to sit down and write up a summary.  Nonetheless, I’ve sat in on a few talks.  Here’s a quick overview of some of what happened on Day One, and a little look behind the scenes into what makes a 5,000-person hacker camp work.

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Chaos Communication Camp 2015 Teaser

It happens every four years in Germany. The days are at their longest and the summer heat’s penetrating. It’s time to break out the tent and go camping. But who wants to go camping in the wilderness, where there’s no Gigabit Ethernet and nobody to hack on projects with? Much better to attend the Chaos Communications Camp 2015 with 5,000 other nerds. And Hackaday will be there!

If you’ve never been to a Chaos Camp, it’s an amazing experience. It’s like a DIY version of DEF CON, except that it takes place in tents in the countryside outside Berlin instead of gambling-themed hotels in the dry, dusty desert. There’s a lot more emphasis on actually doing stuff while at camp. (It’s meant to be a vacation, after all.) Indeed, presentations are shut down in the middle of the day for three and a half hours to give people time to hack and interact.



Have a look at the list of projects, events, sessions, villages, or talks to get a feeling of scale, and bear in mind that a lot of the most interesting activities are often unofficial: people getting together to work on stuff. There’s plenty of inspiration and room for cooperation to go around.

Like many cons these days, the badge itself will doubtless serve as at least one such source of inspiration, and the 2015 Camp’s badge is awesome. It’s essentially a HackRF One with an LPC4300 ARM Cortex M4 micro, large flash memory, USB, battery, audio, and an LCD screen on-board. Add an antenna and you’ve got an insanely versatile standalone radio hacking platform. We’re digging through the docs in anticipation. So expect some to see a bunch of SDR and RF hacks in the next few months as 5,000 hackers get these in their hands.

If you can’t make it (tickets have been sold out for a while now), you can check out the live streams. Not only will the talks be shown as they happen, but in keeping with the democratic ethos of the CCC, anyone who can set up an icecast server can set up their own stream.

And of course, we’ll be there reporting on as much as we can. If anything strikes your fancy and you’d like us to check it out for you, post up in the comments here. We can’t promise the impossible, but we’ll try. And if you’re going to camp as well, keep an eye out for Elliot and say Hi.

All the Unofficial Electronic Badges of DEF CON

2015 was the year of the unofficial hardware badge at DEF CON 23. There were a ton of different hardware badges designed for the love of custom electronics and I tried to catch up with the designer of each different badge. Here is the collection of images, video demos, and build details for each one I saw this weekend.

Whiskey Pirates

[TrueControl] did a great job with his badge design this year for the Whiskey Pirate Crew. This is a great update from the badge he designed last year, keeping the skull and bones outline. It uses a PSOC4 chip to control a ton of LEDs. The eyes are RGB pixels which are each on their own PCB that is soldered onto the back of the badge, with openings for the LED to show through. Two AA batteries power the board which has a surface-mount LED matrix. The user controls are all capacitive touch. There is a spinner around one eye, and pads for select and back. The NRF24L01 radio operates at 2.4GHz. This badge is slave to commands from last year’s badge. When the two are in the same area the 2015 badges will scroll the nickname of the 2014 badge it “sees”. The piezo element also chirps many different sounds based on the interactions with different badges.

[True] makes design an art form. The matte black solder mask looks fantastic, and he took great care in use of font, size, alignment, and things like letting copper show through for a really stunning piece of hardware art.

Keep reading for ten more great badges seen over the weekend.

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Chaos Computer Club (and Hackaday) Blocked By British Porn Filters

The Chaos Computer Club, Europe’s largest association of hackers and hackerspaces, has been blocked by several UK ISPs as part of a government filter to block adult content.

Since July, 2013, large UK ISPs have been tasked with implementing what has been dubbed the Great Firewall of Britain, a filter that blocks adult content, content related to alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and opinions deemed ‘extremist’ by the government. This is an opt-out filter; while it does filter out content deemed ‘unacceptable’, Internet subscribers are able to opt out of the filter by contacting their ISP.

Originally envisioned as a porn filter, and recently updated with list of banned sexual acts including spanking, aggressive whipping, role-playing as non-adults, and humiliation, the British Internet filter has seen more esoteric content blocked from British shores. Objectionable material such as, “anorexia and eating disorder websites,” “web forums,” “web blocking circumvention tools”, and the oddly categorized, “esoteric material” are also included in the filter.

A site built by the Open Rights Group is currently tracking which ISPs blocking which domains. is currently blocked by ISPs Three and Vodafone. Interestingly, this site – Hackaday – is blocked by the ‘Moderate’ British Telecom filter. The ‘Light’ BT filter – and all other British ISPs – still somehow let Hackaday through, despite posts about building shotguns cropping up from time to time.

UPDATE: Upon reflection, it comes to my attention that Brits have a choice of ISP.

Hackerspace Tours: MuCCC

Our trip to Germany wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a proper European hackerspace, and the Munich Chaos Computer Club was more than accommodating in allowing us to invade their space.

Before even walking in the door, you’re greeted with one of the coolest displays you’ve ever seen. Half of the front of their building is a gigantic flipdot display. It’s astonishing in person, and although no dots were flipped during our visit, we can imagine the noise would be deafening. Simply awesome.

Walking in the door, you’re greeted with the general meeting area, conference room, couches, and a Twilight Zone pinball machine. The machine didn’t quite work when we arrived, but within five minutes, [Sprite_TM] was behind the backglass and had everything fixed within an hour.

The back room and basement have the usual assortment of tools – a 3D printer, CNC, lathe, and electronics workbench. If you need a key made, head to the basement. You’ll also find an ATM in the basement. The story with that is that the news station in Munich wanted to do a story on how easy it was to get USB access to the Windows system in an ATM. The station couldn’t do it – but they faked it – and put the ATM up on eBay. Not much money later, the ATM found its way to the space’s basement.

MuCCC is more than just a space with tools, though: in the european hackerspace tradition, there are frequent presentations and talks that would fit in at an academic conference. Last Tuesday, [nicolas] presented a few techniques to protect cryptographic keys from physical integrity attacks, i.e. an evil maid attack or a SWAT team invading your router closet. It’s a daemon that listens to an AVR loaded up with sensors through a GPIO pin. If there is physical intrusion in the device – barometric pressure or light – keys resident in memory can be erased.

You can check out a gallery of pics from the space below.

Hacking SD Card & Flash Memory Controllers

We hope that some of our readers are currently at this year’s Chaos Communication Congress (schedule can be found here and live streams here), as many interesting talks are happening. One of them addressed hacking the memory controllers embedded in all memory cards that you may have. As memory storage density increases, it’s more likely that some sectors inside the embedded flash are defective. Therefore, all manufacturers add a small microcontroller to their cards (along with extra memory) to invisibly ‘replace’ the defective sectors to the operating system.

[Bunnie] and [xobs] went around buying many different microSD cards in order to find a hackable one. In their talk at 30C3 (slides here), they reported their findings on a particular microcontroller brand, Appotech, and its AX211/AX215. By reverse engineering the firmware code they found online, they discovered a simple “knock” sequence transmitted over manufacturer-reserved commands that dropped the controller into a firmware loading mode. From there, they were able to reverse engineer most of the 8051 microcontroller function-specific registers, allowing them to develop novel applications for it. Some of the initial work was done using a FPGA/i.MX6-based platform that the team developed named Novena, which we hope may be available for purchase some day. It was, among others, used to simulate the FLASH memory chip that the team had previously removed. A video of the talk is embedded below.

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