Tag Archives: GrrCON

Volunteering at GrrCON 2017

GrrCON 2017, the seventh year and my third time attending. I volunteered again this year because it is a lot more involved than being a regular attendee. I’ve been to other conferences where volunteering burns you out. GrrCON is the only con where I could be in the middle of one job and ask “What more can I do to help?”.

The 2017 Difference

GrrCON hasn’t changed much since I have started coming to it. There are great speakers, supportive vendors, free beer, and even a tattoo artist. The organizers and volunteer staff do a great job putting on such a quality conference every year. If you haven’t been before, I strongly recommend going next year.

One big difference this year was the overwhelming amount of registrations. Apparently there were so many vendors and attendees signing up, registration had to be capped before we exceeded the amount of swag that was preordered. Attendees that got in later in the day had to use badges from previous years because we ran out.

Vendors were also placed in the hall outside of the tracks for speakers because the vendors area wasn’t big enough. While it was cool to see charities, local community groups, and school programs in a high traffic area, it still separated them from the vendors area.

All of the talks were recorded by IronGeek. He does a great job recording everyone that wants to be recorded and gets the videos posted online quickly. You need to go and checkout the list of videos from this conference, each of the speakers have good talks. The number of talks that I want to see are already in the dozens.

My Experience


Volunteers arrived a day early to get everything set up and swag bags ready for registration. It was a long day of preparing badges and unloading boxes but it flew by. There was a ton of people to help and it was great to catch up and see what people have been doing since last year. I forgot how fun it was to mess with Jen and the rest of the GrrCON family.

Wednesday night was the speaker dinner. People were always moving around to say hi or get another drink. I saw a lot of old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s been said for a while that GrrCON is more of a family reunion than a security conference and this dinner made me truly believe that. I also picked up a set of Hak4Kidz badges that night. It’s a great group and I wanted to show my support.

One cool story I’ll share is that I was sitting with the guys from the IoT hacking village. They told me about the bluetooth badges, a pi zero that did half of a handshake with nearby devices. The badge tracked the overall number of bluetooth devices it could interact with. After a certain number of devices were identified, it also started playing with wifi networks. I wasn’t told more because it was a challenge for the village, but I was really interested in the project.


Thursday morning started at 6 am. I was one of the first volunteers to show up and help set up registration. We carried all the swag bags to the front table and added a few gifts to some of the bags. My jobs for the rest of the day were to float around the vendor area in the morning and to help with the mi-go track in the afternoon.

Thursday night we partied at Z’s, I met up with some of #misec‘s finest and had a great time. The bar was doing karaoke and Lintile sang a tribute to #TrevorForget. After Z’s we got a drink at Founders before crashing for another early morning the next day.


Friday’s job was to help with the large speaker track and then play bouncer for the VIP area. While working the VIP area, I was able to have another volunteer tag in so I could go watch a friend give her first talk.

The day went by even faster than Thursday and it seemed like we were tearing down parts of the conference before the talks were even finished. After the con, I had a quick dinner with a few friends, said my goodbyes and left for home.

What is Next?

Next year’s GrrCON will be September 6 & 7! CFP and tickets will open in March. I believe that GrrCON ’18 will be in a larger part of DeVos place in order to accommodate the spike in attendance.

Hopefully I’ll get a speaker badge as well as a volunteer badge next year. It’s just an idea right now. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but we’ll find out in March!

The bluetooth badge also gave me an idea, however I have no clue where to start with it. I think it would be cool to get a scrolling LED strip on a hat to display messages like “Hello <bluetooth_device/wifi SSID/etc>!”. I’ll have to reach out to friends and see if that’s an easy project and if it’s actually do-able. Do you think it would be cool to walk around the conference with this?

2016 in review

2016 has been a crazy year, and I’m not talking about celebrities, politics or world news. A lot of security related things have happened for me personally. I wanted to base this post chronologically on what I’ve done.

One of the first screenshots from 2016 is a constant reminder for me. What’s the first rule of infosec? Troll first, work later. I’ve come to realize that Twitter is the diving platform everyone needs. Twitter allows us to get lost in the world of meme’s, jokes, and sometimes useful rant’s from infosec’s favorite rockstars.

We had fun hacking Queen lyrics

Bsides Indy

Bsides Indy was a lot of fun. I got to meet some great people and attempted a CTF. Even if the CTF bombed hard, the team I was on had fun trying to attempt to play. The takeaway that I remembered most is networking. I met a lot of people I had only seen mentioned on Twitter feeds before. I took some of the stuff I learned at Bsides and messed around at Spartan Hacker’s SpartaHack hackathon.

For most of the conferences I’ve been to, I’ll say networking is the most important. The people I meet, the conversations we have, and the advice I get are invaluable to me. Networking is the main reason to continue to attending conferences.

Circle City Con

This conference was my first attempt at volunteering for a security team. Circle City was good experience. I learned a lot while on the job and met some great people. However at the same time, it was at this conference I learned that it’s not always best to volunteer for every shift you can make. After Circle City, I started shifting from a “ALL THE SHIFTS!” mindset to “I’ll fill a shift or two”. Circle City is a fun conference and a lot of stuff happens, I’ll be happy to get to go next year without being “on the job” for the entire conference.

My wall of badges after circle city con

Over the wire

Jayson from CBI introduced me to the Over the Wire challenges this year as well. It’s great training and proof that basic linux commands is all you need to be a 1337 H4CK3R. I learned a lot and that information helps me to gain a competitive edge in CTFs and during ethical hacking exercises at work. So far I’ve tackled Bandit with Jayson and friends, and also Leviathan by myself. Check out those posts if you want to know more about Over the Wire.

Converge Detroit

Pokemon Go was proof I was there!

The conference that started MiSec. I was happy to volunteer at this conference in our own backyard. There was a lot of great talks, I got to network with a lot of my favorite people and help out with Hak4Kidz all day Saturday.




I was lucky to get to play Jayon’s CTF-NG. Jayson has done an amazing job creating a new style of CTF. It’s far above any other CTF I’ve attempted. The point of the game is to get cards and use them to beat other players. Cards are distributed across customized VMs inside the game’s network. I was able to get into a few machines and find some annoyance cards. Not bad for my first attempt at the game. Since playing I’ve learned there’s a lot of networking and basic linux commands that I need to master.

At least I can prove I was really annoying!

Since my first attempt at Jayson’s CTF, I’ve had a few more chances to redeem myself. I’ve had a couple helpful hints. There’s been improvement in my network analysis and tool usage. In the latest attempt, I was able to find a legendary card.

School’s out for summer!

In May I graduated from MSU with a major in Media and information and a minor in Computer Science. I continue to learn what I can about information security, but I’m hesitant to sign up for more another degree. At the same time I moved from an internship to a full time position at Vertafore where I get to work with application security and vulnerability management.

Misec Panel – Path to the dark side

MiSec had a really cool panel in May where some experienced infosec professionals shared their journey of getting to where they are today. There was a lot of great tips and live tweeting so check out the post I did to follow up on that.

TLS research & talks

One of the first projects I did while working full time at Vertafore was researching TLS. The goal was to find how it worked, why it was required and what standards are the most important to secure connections. I drafted some standards, locked down this website by using Let’s Encrypt, and gave a lightning talk at MiSec Jackson about some of my research.

Hacker Summer Camp

Hackers and DefCon go together like PB&J. Add BsidesLV, guns, and black hat parties and there’s a whole week of fun, training, and more in Vegas. I met so many people while volunteering, standing in lines for talks, or visiting work shops. Hacker summer camp was a great experience and I’m pumped for 2017. DefCon 25 is going to be huge, being the 25th anniversary of the original DefCon means they’re going all out. A new location, more villages and workshops, there’s going to be something for everyone. I hope to see you there!

Defcon Smiley

HPKP research

The next research project I worked on at work that I also brought over into my personal websites was enabling Public Key Pinning. It’s a header that compares the TLS certificate to a pin that client’s browsers saves after the first visit to a website. I wrote a post about it and if you frequently visit this blog, you may have had a issue when my TLS certificate expired and I failed to correctly renew it. A few readers were blocked from seeing the blog because the HPKP pins didn’t match. I’m just happy I learned this lesson (and what’s required to fix it) on my personal websites and not while one of work’s applications!

I’ve done a little more for work that was based in application authentication. Specifically, I looked at 2FA, salted hashes, and other factors that goes into a securing login process. There’s blog posts on that research but those posts haven’t moved from drafts to something publishable. There will be a few time traveling posts appearing in 2016 next year.

Misec Lansing

September 14th was the first meeting of a new chapter of MiSec. Tek Systems hosted the first meeting in Lansing for MiSec and we have since moved on campus so students have a better chance of attending. It’d be great to have students and infosec professionals working together to improve the community.

Kyle and I had the idea to start another location. Since Kyle organizes the Jackson meetings, I’m the coordinator for the Lansing chapter. I get to be the guy that finds speakers for each month and organizes other events in the area. If anyone wants to give a talk or is interested in another event for MiSec Lansing, please reach out to me about it.

Other MiSec projects I contributed to this year is the MiSec slack channel and the wordpress redesign for the website. If you want to join us on slack, there’s an invite app that just requires an email. The wordpress redesign is something @taco_pirate and I worked on.


GrrCon 2015 was one of the jumping points of my security career. I can’t believe it’s already been a year since then. Going back to GrrCon, (having my employer pay for it), was really different this year. I wasn’t working behind the scenes but the organizers and team leads remembered me from last year. I played hacker Jeopardy (and somehow survived the aftermath), I was able to attend talks and still got a chance to network.

My journey into infosec is still just beginning and I’m excited to see where it goes from here! I plan on attending more conferences, be active in the community and continue to learn as much as I can. I hope you’ll join me!

GrrCON 2016

October 6th & 7th was GrrCON. For those that don’t know, it is a security conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2015 was the first year I started going to conferences and GrrCON was my first. That year I volunteered because it’s really hard for poor students to pay their way for the fun stuff. This year, I have a job that actually pays for me to go and learn about security.

Since I wasn’t volunteering this time, I got to explore a lot more of the con and see what goes on for everyone who isn’t behind the scenes. Last year, I was helping set up, getting there early, and got stuck at one spot hours. This time I was able to visit with sponsors, go to all the talks I wanted to see, test out the lock pick village and more. One thing that never changes is that I always have fun at GrrCON.

After attending the keynote speech on Thursday, I met up with friends from MiSec. One of the best reasons for going to a conference is to network. Twitter is one of the best places to stay in touch with your favorite hackers. However conferences are where you get to see them in person.

There’s always too many people to mention at once… if you’re looking to expand your network though, Sam’s got our backs!

After networking and visiting at the MiSec sponsor booth I stopped by the lock pick village. I can officially say that I’ve picked deadbolt locks now, I’ve moved up from just being able to open padlocks. GrrCON had some amazing villages this year. The lock pick village switched up the challenges this year. Instead of the cage escape there was a race to free yourself from being handcuffed to 3 other contestants.

@infosec_rogue's invention for the lockpick village challenge this year
@infosec_rogue’s invention for the lockpick village challenge this year

The other villages included IoT hacking, car hacking, enterprise hacking, and an osint (open source intelligence) CTF. IoT and car hacking were set up as demo’s which looked really cool. There was so much going on that the booths were always busy. The osint CTF was a challenge to find out the most information about two con attendee’s. Finding information like their DOB by using social media and more was the idea being the CTF.

Hacker Family Feud was a lot of fun as well. Amanda (@Infosystir) invited me to play along with Aaron and Adrian. I had no idea what to expect for some of the answers… but I do know I won’t be forgotten any time soon. One of the questions was “Name a 2015 vulnerability that was big in the media” and I froze when it was my turn to answer. The only media I’ve watched lately is Netflix.  What was my answer you ask? “The Target hack”. While I didn’t get any points for that answer, I got some free drinks and candy for my attempt and left a lasting impression on the con’s organizers.

I wish I could show you a picture... but I didn't want to get kicked out of the conference!
I wish I could show you a picture… but I didn’t want to get kicked out of the conference!

There were some great costumes, mature jokes, inappropriate comments and more at the hacker family feud. Due to recording restrictions, I can’t tell you more… if you want to see what really happens at night during GrrCON I only have one word of advice for you, get a ticket for next year!

A lot of my friends and mentors gave talks throughout the con. I attended as many as I could. The rest are recorded and posted on Irongeek’s website. You should definitely check it out and see what you missed.

Hak4Kidz made another appearance this year. From what I heard, there was an awesome turn out. Hak4Kidz held a all day workshop on Friday to get kids involved with ethical hacking. They participated in tech destruction, crpytochallenges, an online CTF, and more. One of the goals of Hak4Kidz is to include hacking into STEM programs (vote STEHM). It’s great to see the interest in sharing the “hacker” mindset with kids, or really, seeing how kids are going to improve our hacker mindset tomorrow. If you have kids or are interesting in helping out, check out their website.

There was a lot of great content this year. GrrCON has a collection of amazing speakers, staff, and volunteers that knock it out of the park every year. I have a lot of good material that I want to bring into work on Monday and share with my boss. Hopefully it will be a means to getting work to help me attending even more conferences next year.

One thing I want to attempt at the next conference is to sit down and attempt some of the challenges. It’s great to attend the talks and get so much information. However they’re also recorded so you can see them on your own time. Networking is important but that also isn’t exclusive. It can even help you win a challenge by asking for help or by joining up to create a team.

Lastly I want to say thanks to everyone who helped make GrrCON 2016 a reality. It’s awesome to have con like this thats so close to home. I can’t wait for next year, it looks like GrrCON 2017 will be on Oct 26th and 27th. Plan now so you don’t miss out! (There may be halloween costumes, be prepared)

GrrCON debauchery with @infosystir and @vajkat. After parties are also a lot of fun at GrrCON!
GrrCON debauchery with @infosystir and @vajkat. After parties are also a lot of fun at GrrCON!

Irongeek’s Videos

If you’re interested in hacking, information security or even the word cyber. Then you probably are scanning the the internet for things to learn. I want to get as much information as possible, and cons are a great way to listen to some awesome presenters. But how am I going to listen to every talk when there’s three going on at the same time? And on top of that, isn’t cons about networking and connecting with others as well? When will I be able to do that when I’m listening to a cool talk?

Luckily for you and me both, Adrian Crenshaw is here to save the day. Adrian, aka @irongeek_adc is an AV master at cons, he hosts thousands of videos on his website where he showcases videos from cons. There are years of content. I’ve played a video in the background at work constantly for the last month and still have a good chunk of videos left.

Recording at GrrCon

Most of the talks at GrrCon were recorded by Adrian’s group and later hosted on his site. This makes those questions from earlier a lot clearer, you should go to the talks that you just can’t miss out on and catch the rest online. If you strike up a conversation with someone outside of a talk or in the lobby, it’s ok to stay and chat. That talk you just missed will be online tomorrow, and that chat could lead you to something better.

So go to cons, have fun at them (still go to talks), but do not forget that they are posted online. Not to mention it’s not just videos from a single con. There are videos from as far back as 2002. So take a look, see what you find and enjoy.

Thanks Irongeek

Thanks to Adrian for hosting all of these videos! (and letting me write this blog post!) As a volunteer, I was only able to see about five talks in all of GrrCON. Now that almost everything is on irongeek.com (except for those presenters who chose not to be recorded) I’m mostly caught up with the GrrCon series. If you’re not already, you should follow @irongeek_adc on Twitter and checkout his website at irongeek.com

Volunteering at GrrCON 2015!

Who’s been to a Security Conference before? I’m finally able to include myself in that group and I’m really exited about that. A conference is all about meeting others in infosec, learning a lot from talks and workshops, trying your hand at capture the flags (CTFs) or lock picking, networking and most importantly having a great time.

Greenjam94 volunteering at registration
I’ve was spotted. Guess the orange didn’t help.

Not only did I get to go to my first con, I got to volunteer at GrrCON! So instead of paying for a ticket, getting kicked out of the VIP area, and missing out on the after-after parties. I was able to do everything a regular attendee could do and more. At GrrCON I did a lot of running around trying to make sure I was able to do whatever was asked of me. I was helping with registration on the first day, so chances are that if you were there on Friday then I asked you for your shirt size. Aren’t you glad we had such a great talk to get to know each other? One of my friends on twitter saw me and posted a picture as he was waiting in line to get in.

Now a lot of people might wonder, what’s so great about volunteering? Well it’s not the work experience or the free beer (Yeah, you heard me), it’s the networking with everyone. I have never had a better chance to talk to so many “professionals” in a single weekend. I got to meet the vendors, the speakers, everyone I ran into while working, and of course I got to know the organizers pretty well. I would strongly suggest that you sign up to volunteer at your next local conference. You can always catch the talks you missed online, it’s a lot better to network and have fun.

My first con has come and gone. I honestly don’t think it could have been any better. A tattoo artist was supposed to be there but they unfortunately weren’t able to attend (luckily for me and my drunken mindset). The worst part about going to GrrCon though? It seem’s I’ve caught a bug… one con isn’t enough for me. I need to go to another one, heck maybe twenty or thirty more. There are a lot of cons that are close to me, and once I get a full time job, I plan on attending even more. For now I plan on checking out Bsides Detroit, Converge, and a couple other cons around Michigan.

Dinosaurs love cons too!

If you don’t already want to go to GrrCON next year, let me tell you why you should. First off, you’ll probably get photo ops with Bessie (@TWrekt) she’s famous for her appearances at GrrCon, DerbyCon, and others. If a picture with a dinosaur isn’t enough for you then I strongly suggest you reorganize you priorities. Honestly though, if you want to learn more about Information Security then go to conventions. GrrCon had some amazing speakers, vendors, and organizers and all of that would go to waste if you didn’t want to put it to good use. Trust me, it will be fun, informative, and definitely not something you want to regret missing out on.

I hope to see you next year at GrrCon 2016 in Grand Rapids, MI!