I was recently fortunate enough to be the face of The Pinnacle Group’s CryptoChallenge at DerbyCon in Louisville Kentucky. I am always amazed to watch the depth of talent brought to bear in these type challenges and I marvel at the process of watching these big brains crunch away at complex mathematic and observational puzzles. This event was no exception.
The prizes were four 4TB USB3 Hard Drives and a winners certificate. I knew right away that it was going to be amazing as L0stBoy (the creator of the DEF CON Mystery Box Challenge and the DEF CON badges for several years) quickly assembled a team and went to work on it. He started off with no computer and was working out all the encoded and hidden messages by hand on paper. UNBELIEVABLE! Then I found out the RenderMan (of aircraft navigation vulnerability fame among other things) had thrown his proverbial derby in the ring as well and knew it would be exciting.
During the next 24 hours at least 4 teams labored away solving a variety of hidden and cryptographic challenges and despite a web service provider glitch, Team L0stBoy and his L0stCateers had solved the puzzle and came to me and excitedly whispered the answer in my ear by 2:30am the next morning to take first place. The team consisted of L0st, Mouse, Crypt, Leah, John, Dragorn, Clutch, and Ellen.
I had visited their decrypt den (a hotel conference space they have taken over) at one point and was amazed at the talent they had assembled as well as their progress. I was peppered with questions by the team and had to be careful not to reveal anything by my body language or lack of response. I knew their team was keenly observing my every move and nuance.
I was really excited when they took first place but not as excited as they were. There was the obligatory group photo and much rejoicing and congratulations ensued.
The next morning I got a text that Darth Null was looking for me and sure enough, he came up to my booth and whispered the answer. He was very reserved but I was quite psyched that he had solved it all alone. A job very well done indeed!
Next was RenderMan who also flew solo and again a celebration and another drive.
During the contest a young man named Spencer Scott had approached me several times to report his progress and ask questions. He also completed his challenge solo and as I understand it, it was his first con and CryptoChallenge. I was Very proud of him and hope to see him again and again at other cons and participating in future challenges.
Thanks to all who played, assisted, and participated and thanks to Dave Kennedy and the entire DerbyCon crew for facilitating this!