DefCon Chronicles: My Dad’s Personal Story and the WWII Origin of Hackers

September 29, 2023

This Chronicle shows how Hackers have their origin in WWII techs and engineers like my father. There were at least five Villages of DefCon Dad would have liked: Soldering Skills, Crypto-Privacy, Ham Radio, Recon, and Misinformation Villages. I will explain why these particular villages would have appealed to him, a man who served in the Pacific as a Naval Communications Officer in WWII and, again, in the Korean War. For background I must also go into the surrender of Japan and the Occupation.

Midjourney “photo” by Ralph of a Naval Communications Officer in a Ship’s ‘Radio Shack.’

In connection with the Misinformation Village, I will also inform regarding the questionable conviction for treason of a young American woman accused of being Tokyo Rose. That was the name given to all of the Japanese American women who hosted the “Zero Hour” news and music show broadcast all over the South Pacific to GIs. The music was real, the news was fake.

Digital Image by Ralph of Tokyo Rose.

Hacker techs, like my Dad, were born out of necessity to survive wars and propaganda. The skills they learned in WWII live on today in DefCon 31. Hacking then, and now, involves self-reliance, hands-on tech work, but also, as the DefCon 31 Red Team Village put it, critical thinking, collaboration, and strategy. DefCon Chronicles: The Thirty-Two Villages of DefCon. These are all things that many young men and women in WWII had to learn to make it through the War.

WW II Crypto Communications Image of Ship at Sea by Ralph.

This is the sixth Chronicle in the DefCon Chronicles series. It began with Where Tech Elites, Aliens and Dogs Collide – Series Opener. The second chronicle is Hackers Response to President Biden’s Unprecedented Request to Come to DefCon to Hack the World for Fun and Profit. The third is my Village of special interest, described in Sven Cattell’s AI Village, ‘Hack the Future’ Pentest and His Unique Vision of Deep Learning and Cybersecurity. The fourth was The Hacker Olympics – ‘Capture The Flag’ Games with 1,828 Competing Teams. The fifth Chronicle provided a quick overview of all thirty-two of the Villages, with a close-up of the Red Team Village, DefCon Chronicles: The Thirty-Two Villages of DefCon.

A Personal View of a Few DefCon 31 Villages That My Farther Would Have Liked

The DefCon Villages include a variety of hacker sub-cultures and education opportunities. There was a Village for everyone. The Thirty-Two Villages of DefCon. I saw a few Villages that my Dad, George Losey Sr., would have liked. He was a conservative man, from the Greatest Generation. He Served as a Naval Communications Officer in WWII and again in the Korean War. His favorite Village would probably have been the Soldering Skills Village, now combined with the Hardware Hacking Village. Dad was always soldering something electronic with a small soldering iron in his converted garage workshop. I imagine he had to do the same to keep his equipment going when he was on a small ship at sea in the Pacific, for years. Electronics soldering looked, and was, to some extent, dangerous. So naturally, even as a young kid, I wanted to do it too. He obliged and kept me busy doing stuff in his well-tooled shop. I never burned myself, well, not too much.

Hackers usually have a tech background. Digital art by Ralph.

Many ex-military techs and engineers were like that. All very self-reliant. They learned the hard way to overcome all problems themselves, including technical breakdowns, and live with the constant threat of enemy attacks. For the U.S. Navy, which was far outnumbered in the Pacific by the Japanese, sinking by surprise attacks was an everyday threat, so was Japanese propaganda radio telling them they could not win. Through their own intelligence, faith, vigilance, discipline, fellowship and teamwork, most of them somehow got through it. Many hackers today are like that too, for a variety of reasons, including family heritage. Some were not a lucky as my Dad. They died in the Wars. Surprise attacks, a sinking ship and drowning was always a danger in the Navy and, for some, how they came to their end.

Digital image by Ralph of Sinking Ship in WWII.

My Dad would have also been very interested in the Crypto & Privacy Village and the Misinformation Village. As a communications officer on small ships in the Pacific and South China Sea, he listened all day to radio transmissions and codes. Cryptography was part of their training and everyday job. When not below doing this, in what they called the radio shack, Dad would be on deck with other officers, carrying huge binoculars looking out for enemy war ships and planes, the Zeros, and especially Kamikaze pilots. The suicide pilots at the end of the War were feared and considered insane, much like terrorists of today. He ended up keeping a radio and pair of binoculars near him all his life. I just now realized why.

WWII Ship at Sea at Night, image by Ralph.

So yes, my Dad was always interested in code and radio communications. These were life and death activities for him in his formative years. He also shared with me, when I was a young adult, that he always suspected our government had broken the Japanese codes, but that information was never revealed to him or his Captain. Navy ships at sea in enemy territory were not overtly warned of possible attacks discovered in decrypted messages. They did not want to disclose to the Japanese that the Navy had cracked their code.

WWII Navy Ship Digital Image by Ralph Losey.

Years later, the suspicions of my Dad and many others in the military were confirmed. Further, the same thing had happened in the European Theatre where the British had cracked the Nazi Enigma Code. A few small sacrifices were thought to be a necessary for the greater good of winning the War. My Dad survived the Wars and never saw a Kamikaze. He told us that he was never in a battle at all. Perhaps that was true, anyway it made my Mother feel better. Before he could leave the Navy, however, he was assigned to be one of the first Naval officers in Japan as part of the second, diplomatic phase of McArthur’s Occupation after the surrender. This history may seem a little off point, but it is important, I think, that we never forget the gruesome truths of history, lest we repeat them. Take a moment to watch this historic video of the surrender and occupation of Japan, which ultimately led to Japan’s democracy and remarkable economy.

Occupying Japan 1945 – The First Uncertain Days of Peace, a Mark Felton Production.

My Dad was no Marine, although one of Navy ships he served on transported them, and so he was not part of the first phase of the Occupation, where armed U.S. military assumed control of Japanese bases after the surrender. He was part of the second phase of the Occupation in early 1946, where select military, often unarmed, would walk around in uniform, what they called showing the flag. They would try to act friendly and offer candy and chewing gum to kids. My Dad, like others in the Occupation, missed his own family and wanted to return home. It must have been both a terrifying and incredibly strange experience for both him and the Japanese. Most of the Japanese people had never seen a Westerner, much less a very tall, young American Naval Officer.

Photo take in Japan in 1945 During the Occupation. National Museum of the US Navy.

All my father would say about the Occupation is how terrible it was for the Japanese people he saw on the streets. He was one of the first in, and there was still tremendous destruction and rubble all around from bombing. He was fascinated by the art and architecture, especially Kyoto, which was left untouched, but wary of the people. When I was older, he mentioned, just once, the piercing looks of hatred, resentment and proud defiance he received from some of the “repatriated” Japanese military on the streets. He was, of course, walking in uniform in their cities, often alone and unarmed. He understood the hatred he saw, and shared, but was impressed, despite himself, by their silent dignity, a dignity he kept to the very end.

Street scene in Tokyo, 1945, during Occupation, showing cobbler shop operating on street. National Museum of U.S. Navy.

I happened upon the video that follows about a Japanese girl’s first sighting of an American in the Occupation. It could have been my Dad. This video is an incredible and, for me, touching firsthand account. Please take two minutes to watch this video.

Meeting an American for the First Time – Michiko Kornhauser.

George S. Losey Sr. would also have liked the Ham Radio Village, which describes itself as “Continuing this pioneer spirit, Ham Radio Village is here to support advancement of the hobby with a cybersecurity slant.” My father, following his Navy training, built a large ham set-up with a giant antenna at home that always needed tweaking. Ham Radio was another thing he taught me, plus the Morse Code. Although I never bothered to get my own FCC license.

Dad was also one of the first to purchase a TRS-80 computer from Radio Shack, which was one of his, and my, favorite stores. At the time, I had no idea the store name is what sailors referred to his place of work onboard a ship. I remember reading the instruction manuals with him and setting up the TRS-80. DefCon 31 had some instruction and contests in hacking old systems. He would have liked those too, although I did not see Radio Shack models included. I also did not see my favorite old system at DefCon, one that came a few years after Radio Shack’s, the Texas Instrument 99/4A. I taught myself to program on the TI-99/4A, using TI Basic and Assembly, and created my first games and teaching software with it. Teaching yourself to program is something that most hacklers have in common.

Smithsonian photo of a TRS-80 with all accessories. Enhancements by Ralph.

As a result, in part, of these War experiences, my father, like many in the Greatest Generation, was detached and very private. The military was trained not to talk about what they were doing. So were military families. Spies could be everywhere. See this collection of WWII U.S. posters on the need for secrecy to save boys lives. Here is one of the most popular on loose lips sinking ships.

Loose lips sink ships.” WWII Gov. Poster distributed by Seagrams.

I heard that expression often growing up. Even after the wars, we faced the cold war and constant threats of nuclear annihilation. We still do. The need for privacy and secrecy in deeply ingrained in many of us. That is why lawyer confidentiality obligations, and the need to keep client secrets, comes easily for me. I’ve ingrained that in my kids too.

Like most men his age, my Dad almost never talked about the Wars, WWII and Korea. Still, it was obvious from his comments that he never fully trusted the government or the military “Top Brass,” as he called them. He was a strong believer in personal privacy. So am I. We both resonated with Orwell’s 1984 novel. I could go on about him, but he would object. I have already shared too much about what is nobody’s business but his own. The Greatest Generation was like that. May their heroic sacrifices in the fight against Nazis and Imperialists never be forgotten. Yes, George Sr. would have liked the Crypto & Privacy Village.

Dad was also very fond of listening to Police Radios. For that reason he would have liked the Recon Village, especially the Village presentation, Nosey Cops: Exposing the Hidden Potential of Police Radio by a police radio hobbyist. Here is the link to the Recon Village video of talk. Unfortunately, the volume is too low of the police radio tapes played in the presentation (rookie mistake), so we can’t really hear all of the bad stuff that Atlanta police officers said.

Keeping it real though, Dad would not have liked the far-out looking appearances of many of the hackers at DefCon 31. Still, he was always, first and foremost, a tech-minded expert. He would have put any weird appearances aside, if a person was truly interested, to teach them a thing or two about soldering, model railroad building, remote controls, police radios, old types of code, etc. I am the same way, but in different fields of course. Yes, there was a lot to like in the Villages of DefCon for all generations and types, military and punk alike.

Image of cross-generational techs by Ralph.

Misinformation Village

There is one more Village that I am sure my father would have liked, the Misinformation Village. It deserves special mention. He was well aware of the harm of propaganda, especially from his years of listening to Japanese propaganda, especially the news and music radio show, Zero Hour. It was beamed across the South Pacific and Australia to GIs and starred Japanese American disc-jockeys. They were played by a number of different Japanese women, all of whom were called “Tokyo Rose” by the GI listeners. The Zero Hour show provided good music along with misinformation of supposed Japanese success and Allied failures. It encouraged soldiers both overtly and covertly to give up the fight against Japan and return home. Tokyo Rose became a famous symbol of seductive propaganda during the War, a symbol hated by many.

Fictitious ‘Tokyo Rose’ Image by Ralph.

The Japanese propaganda experts tried to demoralize GI listeners, who were attracted to the music and voice of a young woman, who was obviously American. Only one of the women who worked for Tokyo Radio and the Japanese Secret Police was later identified after the War, Ikuko Toguri, aka Iva Toguri D’Aquino. She was a American citizen of Japanese origin, a recent UCLA graduate. She was stranded in Japan during the War, without a passport, and then coerced into doing the show. She was the one version of Tokyo Rose that, apparently, most GIs did not hate. That was because she read the propaganda in an light-hearted, friendly manner and went by the handle Orphan Ann. As the History Channel noted:

The surviving recordings and transcripts of Toguri’s programs indicate that she never threatened her listeners with bombings or taunted them about their wives being unfaithful—two favorite strategies of wartime propagandists—but she wasn’t Japan’s only lady announcer. There were dozens of other English-speaking women who read propaganda, and at least some of them adopted a more sinister tone. 

How ‘Tokyo Rose’ Became WWII’s Most Notorious Propagandist, History Channel.

This last version of Tokyo Rose, Iva Toguri D’Aquino, divulged her identity after the surrender of Japan in the early days of the Occupation. She did so to try to collect a cash award offered by U.S. reporters in Tokyo. They were all searching for the notorious Tokyo Rose. After she disclosed herself and tried to leave Japan, she was arrested by U.S. military police instead. She was investigated, cooperated with the Occupation military, even recreating her show for them to record, and then she was released. But then famed US radio announcer Walter Winchell heard about it, and protested loudly, whereupon she was arrested and investigated again. She quickly became a household name in postwar America. She was vilified by the media who played to post-war resentments and hatred. In 1948 she was indicted for treason. Winchell, who was himself a notorious propaganda expert, convinced most everyone that Toguri’s friendly, understated California girl approach was in fact clever, traitorous propaganda. It sold papers to enflame the passions of Japanese hatred.

The trial of Tokyo Rose began on July 5, 1949. It lasted 12 weeks and cost $750,000, making it the most expensive court case in American history at the time. National Registry of Exonerations. Not surprisingly, a jury in the U.S District Court in San Francisco found her to be guilty, but, and this is surprising, she was only found guilty of one of the eight counts of treason charged. Specifically, she was only convicted for her speaking on air the following, which she denied: “Now you fellows have lost all your ships. You really are orphans of the Pacific. Now how do you think you will ever get home?” Iva Toguri became only the seventh person in U.S. history to be found guilty of treason. She was sentenced to ten years in prison, fined $10,000 and stripped of her citizenship. Treason, then and now, carries a death penalty, so it could have been worse.

Iva Toguri D’Aquino. National Archives photograph.

According to Wikipedia, Iva Toguri D’Aquino’s arrest and prosecution was an unfair exercise in disinformation. This is a very deep rabbit hole, but it looks like Wikipedia is right. See National Archives Records on Toguri, the FBI records, and the more recent Tokyo Rose: The Woman Wrongfully Convicted of Treason (Court House News Service, 2020). Twenty years after the famous trial, two witnesses admitted perjury. Moreover, judicial misconduct is on the record. Defense testimony and argument was unfairly limited and the judge would not accept the juries hung verdict, because of the costs of the trial. Also see the PBS History Channel Investigations show on Tokyo Rose, including a once classified government memorandum located, showing key witness perjury was known and hidden. Also See, Mark Felton’s excellent video, “Tokyo Rose” – WW2 Traitor or Victim?

A sacrificial lamb was needed by the media and government, and they got it, truth be damned. But eventually, the truth came out. Her defense lawyer, Wayne Collins, never gave up. He was a leader in the legal fight against persecution of Japanese Americans, both during and after World War II. Neither did his lawyer son, Wayne Merrill Collins, who continued his father’s crusade for justice after his father’s death in 1974. See the 2020 Court House News Service Article, supra, and Carrying the Torch: Wayne Collins Jr. on His Father’s Defense of the Renunciants (Discover Nikkei, 2014).

Wayne Collins and Iva Toguri at trial in 1949. Japanese American National Museum.

In 1977 justice finally prevailed. Toguri, a/k/a Iva Toguri D’Aquino, was pardoned by President Gerald Ford and her citizenship restored. She lived on until 2006, dying at age 90. Sometimes distrust of the top brass is warranted. It is encouraging to see attorneys’ stubborn perseverance win in the end. Never give up. That is the Hacker Way and the American Way.

Back to the Misinformation Village, a standing joke at this year’s DefCon was, I wanted to go, but it was incorrectly labeled on the map. The maps were complicated and necessary to find smaller venues like the Misinformation Village. It was a small Village and hard to find. Maybe next year it will have more space and easier accessibility. Here is their self-introduction:

The village’s main event is at DEFCON, and features short talks, workshops, and fireside chats. The village covers misinformation tactics, current campaigns, potential methods for defense and inoculation, and discussions of current and future campaigns.

Misinformation Village, Welcome Page

Here is the upbeat intro video that the Village put out. The opening lecture of the Disinformation Village was Teaching Information Warfare: Strategies in Academic and Government Institutions by Greg Carpenter, Ph.D., Chief Security Officer of KnowledgeBridge International. Greg Carpenter is a retired Army Officer with twenty-five years of service, many awards, and is an expert in electronic warfare. Here is selection form the Misinformation Village’s detailed description of Greg’s Session on information warfare:

This presentation provides a concise overview of the teaching strategies employed in academic and government institutions to educate individuals on information warfare. … The multidisciplinary nature of information warfare actively encompasses cybersecurity, psychological operations, Operations Security, electronic warfare, deception techniques, and associated intelligence support.

Misinformation Village Schedule

Next year I will make a point to attend as many of these Misinformation Village presentations as possible. Misinformation is a key problem of our age; it has been forever perhaps, but especially since WWII and the success of the Nazis. I have written about the problem of misinformation in the Twenty-First Century many times. See eg: Information → Knowledge → Wisdom (series of essays). The problem has been greatly exasperated by unregulated AI bots since 2016, but there is still hope that properly aligned and regulated AI may still save the day. See e.g.: Hackers Response to President Biden’s Unprecedented Request to Come to DefCon to Hack the World for Fun and Profit.

Digital image of the hoped for sea change using Dall-E by Ralph.

My hope, my vision of the future, is that AI will help us survive the disinformation tsunami, help us to progress from an Information Age to a Knowledge Age, and maybe someday, to a Wisdom based culture. Also see my series of essays concerning Plato’s Cave allegory as applicable to today’s misinformation culture. This is a cause I will never abandon, no matter what the odds.

Digital Image by Ralph of Plato’s Cave.


Hackers have their origin in WWII techs and engineers like my father. They were the original hackers. It all flows from them, including the first computers. Things like Soldering Skills, Crypto-Privacy, Radio, Recon, and Misinformation were all part of a communications officer’s training. Most of this training was on the job, self-taught, under great pressure, facing life and death challenges. Those in the Pacific knew they were outnumbered and outgunned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Most of the Tokyo Rose personalities they heard reminded them constantly of their precarious, seemingly hopeless life. They were urged to quit.

In this cauldron of danger the WWII Hacker spirit of self-reliance and determination was born. Hacker techs of every generation never give up. They ignore the propaganda and fight on, fiercely, despite the odds.

No matter how bad it may seem, Hackers never give up. Digital image by Ralph.

Cybersecurity today may seem like a hopeless struggle, a tech system where enemies infiltrate networks daily with surprise Zero Hour attacks. The aggressors always seem to have the upper hand. It may seem like we are drowning in misinformation and social engineering. But still, the cybersecurity experts of DefCon 31 fight on, not only to make a living, but out of personal ideals. They do so in true WWII hacker spirit.

Hackers do not fall for the enemy’s discouraging propaganda, that the battle for secure systems is futile, that misinformation can never be stopped. Truth and justice are not propaganda. They are ideals worth fighting for, worth dying for. The Greatest Generation knows this, including the father son legal team of Wayne Collins Sr. and Jr. They fought on for justice for Tokyo Rose for 28 years until they won. The hackers of DefCon are the same way, they have the self-confidence and the will to carry on. From out of their dangerous digital cauldron amazing things will continue to emerge.

Hacker Cauldron brewing unexpected amazing things. Digital image by Ralph.

The Greatest Generation spirit lives on in DefCon. We will win, probably by a tech breakthrough, possibly AI driven, or maybe some other way. The cyber world will someday be safe again from war and disinformation. After we win, I hope we again show mercy on the defeated and hand out red candy pills, not arsenic. Only the red pills of truth lead us all out of the matrix of lies and despair. 10-4?

Morpheus offering only healthy red pills of truth to the children. AI image by Ralph.

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023 – All Rights Reserved – Does not include government images or YouTube videos.

DefCon Chronicles: Quick Glimpse of the Thirty-Two Villages

September 25, 2023

There were Thirty-Two Villages at DefCon 31, each with their own mission and culture. Cybersecurity hackers from all over the world went in and out of these villages. It was a peaceful, controlled chaos of twenty-four thousand people, young and old, village people and nomads, punk and straight. In this fifth chronicle we provide a quick glimpse of the many Villages of DefCon.

Digital image of DefCon Villages by Ralph.

This is fifth DefCon Chronicle in the Series. Its began with Where Tech Elites, Aliens and Dogs Collide – Series Opener. The second chronicle was Hackers Response to President Biden’s Unprecedented Request to Come to DefCon to Hack the World for Fun and Profit. The third was my Village of special interest, the AI Village, described in Sven Cattell’s AI Village, ‘Hack the Future’ Pentest and His Unique Vision of Deep Learning and Cybersecurity. The fourth was The Hacker Olympics – ‘Capture The Flag’ Games with 1,828 Competing Teams.

Overview of All Thirty-Two Villages

The DefCon Villages include a variety of hacker sub-cultures and education opportunities. There was a Village for everyone. Here is a complete list of all 32 Villages in DefCon 31, including each village’s self-introduction; their words and icons, not my own.

Many Villages of DefCon. Digital image by Ralph.
A.I. Village A.I. Village. Come learn how ChatGPT, StableDiffusion, malware detectors, ML firewalls, and other AI based products work and how to break them. We will have talks sharing the latest research on these almost futuristic topics, as well as talks on developments in AI in traditional security. We will also host workshops for security experts new to AI to get you up to speed.
Misinformation Village Misinformation Village. We will apply our organizational skills and subject matter expertise to bring together experts from different professions, governments, civil society and private enterprise to come together and create a platform to define and combat misinformation, explore and align missions and tactics to achieve this goal.
XRVillage XRVillage. Provide access to XR devices and applications for the security community for vulnerability testing; provide guidance & collaborative recommendations back to Policy makers, legislators, law enforcement, vendors, users, and the world on best Security, Privacy, and Safety practices in XR.
DEFCON GROUPS VR (DCGVR) DEFCON GROUPS VR (DCGVR). DEF CON Groups VR brings hackers / DEF CON Groups together in Virtual Reality setting.
Blue Team Village Blue Team Village. Blue Team Village (BTV) is both a place and a community built for and by people who defend computer systems, networks, and people against cyber-attacks. It’s a place to gather, talk, share, and learn from each other about the latest tools, technologies, and tactics that our community can use to detect attackers and prevent them from achieving their goals.
Aerospace Village Aerospace Village. Through the Aerospace Village, the security research community invites industry leaders, researchers and academia interested in aviation and space security, safety, and resilience to attend, understand, collaborate together to achieve our common goals. The Aerospace Village welcomes those who seek to improve aviation and space security, safety, and resilience through positive, productive collaboration among all ecosystem stakeholders.
Biohacking Village Biohacking Village. The Biohacking Village brings forth compelling issues in emerging biotechnology, regulations, medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, cybersecurity, and citizen science. We have been a platform for pursuing greater depth in the bioeconomy, exploring new avenues for collaborations, and innovation.
Crypto & Privacy Village Crypto & Privacy Village. Crypto & Privacy Village (CPV) is a community-run village centered on privacy and cryptography that aims to educate and inform the general public, students, educators, hackers, security and privacy professionals, and policymakers.
Appsec Village Appsec Village. Come immerse yourself in everything the world of application security has to offer. Whether you are a red, blue, or purple teamer, come learn from the best of the best to exploit software vulnerabilities and secure software.
Blacks In Cyber Village Blacks In Cyber Village. The Blacks In Cybersecurity (B.I.C.) Village seeks to bring culturally diverse perspectives to the holistic Cybersecurity community; by way of a series of talks and a capture the flag event. In providing these activities, we hope to help highlight Black experiences, innovations in the field, Black culture and educate the community about Black history.
Carhacking Village Carhacking Village. The primary goal of the Car Hacking Village is to build a community around discovering weaknesses and exposing vulnerabilities that could significantly impact the safety and security of all drivers and passengers on the road today.
Cloud Village Cloud Village. Cloud village is an open platform for researchers interested in the area of cloud security. We plan to organize talks, tool demos, CTF and workshops around Cloud Security and advancements.
Data Duplication Village Data Duplication Village. If you’re looking for something to fill up all your unused storage, we have a few nice hash tables and all of the DefCon talks. Add to that just about every other security con talk known to human-kind! We provide a “free-to-you” service where of direct access to terabytes of useful data to help build those hacking skills.
Embedded Systems VillageEmbedded Systems Village. Embedded Systems Village advances the security of embedded systems by hosting hands-on hacking workshops, showcasing new security research demos, and organizing exciting hacking contests to educate attendees and manufacturers on the approach hackers use to attack these devices.
Ham Radio Village Ham Radio Village. Continuing this pioneer spirit, Ham Radio Village is here to support advancement of the hobby with a cybersecurity slant.
Hardware Hacking Village & Soldering Skills Village Hardware Hacking Village & Soldering Skills Village. Come discover hardware hacking tricks and tips regain some of that capacity, and make your own use for things! We have interactive demos to help you learn new skills.
ICS Village ICS Village. ICS Village is a non-profit organization with the purpose of providing education and awareness of Industrial Control System security.
Lockpick Village Lockpick Village. Want to tinker with locks and tools the likes of which you’ve only seen in movies featuring secret agents, daring heists, or covert entry teams? Then come on by the Lockpick Village, run by The Open Organization Of Lockpickers, where you will have the opportunity to learn hands-on how the fundamental hardware of physical security operates and how it can be compromised.
IoT VillageIoT Village. IoT Village advocates for advancing security in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry through bringing researchers and industry together.
Packet Hacking Village Packet Hacking Village. The Packet Hacking Village is where you’ll find network shenanigans and a whole lot more. There’s exciting events, live music, competitions with awesome prizes, and tons of giveaways.
Payment Village Payment Village. Come to the Payment Village and learn about the history of payments. We’ll teach you how hackers gain access to banking endpoints, bypass fraud detection mechanisms, and ultimately, grab the money!
Physical Security Village Physical Security Village. The Physical Security Village explores the world of hardware bypasses and techniques generally outside of the realm of cyber-security and lock-picking. Come learn some of these bypasses, how to fix them, and have the opportunity to try them out for yourself.
Password Village Password Village. The Password Village provides training, discussion, and hands-on access to hardware and techniques utilized in modern password cracking, with an emphasis on how password cracking relates to your job function and the real world .
Quantum Village Quantum Village. We are committed to helping raise awareness and involvement in the quantum industry and with quantum technologies.
Policy@DEFCON Policy@DEFCON. Policy will build connections across and between technical and policy experts and provide opportunities for attendees interested in learning more about how policy and technology intersect and to examine the challenges at this intersection.
Radio Frequency Village Radio Frequency Village. The Radio Frequency Village is an environment where people come to learn about the security of radio frequency (RF) transmissions, which includes wireless technology, applications of software defined radio (SDR), Bluetooth (BT), Zigbee, WiFi, Z-wave, RFID, IR and other protocols within the usable RF spectrum.
Telecom Village. The Telecom Village’s primary focus is around Telecom Security. We plan to host multiple hands on events as part of the village so as to give participants an overview security specific challenges in a Telcom Network.
Tamper Evident Village. The goal of the TEV is to teach attendees how these technologies work and how many can be tampered with without leaving evidence.
Recon Village Recon Village. Recon Village is an Open Space with Talks, Live Demos, Workshops, Discussions, CTFs, etc., with a common focus on Reconnaissance. The core objective of this village is to spread awareness about the importance of reconnaissance and open-source intelligence (OSINT) and demonstrate how even a small piece of information about a target can cause catastrophic damage to individuals and organizations.
Red Team Village Red Team Village. The Red Team Village is focused on training the art of critical thinking, collaboration, and strategy in offensive security. The RTV brings together information security professionals to share new tactics and techniques in offensive security. Hundreds of volunteers from around the world generate and share content with other offensively minded individuals in our workshops, trainings, talks, and conferences.
Social Engineering Community Village Social Engineering Community Village. We plan to use this opportunity at DEF CON to present a community space that offers those elements through panels, presentations, research opportunities, and contests in order to act as a catalyst to foster discussion, advance the craft and create a space for individuals to expand their network. DEF CON attendees can either participate in these events (watch for our Call for Papers, Call for Contestants, Call for Research, etc.), or they can watch the events unfold and learn about Social Engineering as an audience member.
Voting Village Voting Village. Voting Village is an interactive educational environment that provides the public with the unique opportunity to have a hands-on experience with our current Election Infrastructure. Attendees will be able to interact with multiple different types of voting systems, all of which are currently in use across the country today.
DefCon 31 Village Descriptions

For a glimpse of the culture of one village, which everyone seemed to like, the Red Team Village, consider its introduction above. It uses words that best describes Hacker culture as I know it. It says the Red Team Village is focused on training the art of critical thinking, collaboration, and strategy in offensive security. That is the Hacker Way: training, critical thinking, collaboration and strategy.

Red Team Icon


We conclude with a video recap by the RedTeam Village. Note the diversity of the Village people and the emphasis on hands-on training and good times. Like many of the Villages of DefCon, RedTeam has their YouTube page. Unfortunately, we missed picking up any of their swag, but they do have a store. As you will see on the video, the Red Team Village had their own, very intense Capture The Flag tournament. They awarded $25,000 worth of prizes to the top three teams. The winning team actually started as a lone hacker on day one, but he was later joined by two others in the second and third day. That is incredible. Reminds me of the CTF tournament scene in the great tv show, Mr. Robot, where Elliot Alderson easily wins the CTF with his next-level skills.

Digital Image by Ralph of a CTF Red Team winner inspired by Mr. Robot.

The big RedTeam CTF contest had many sponsors and was open to anyone without pre-event qualifications. Mr. Robot could have walked in and proven his leet status.

Red Team Village Video

The red Team CTF is unlike the main CTF at DefCon, which took place all year long and had 1,828 teams. It had no cash prizes, just bragging rights, which, frankly, is worth its weight in gold. These are the best cybersecurity experts in the world. DefCon Chronicles: The Hacker Olympics – ‘Capture The Flag’ Games with 1,828 Competing Teams.

Finally, I’d like to point out that many of the Villages had education and places and events for kids too. See this DefCon 31 description.

DefCon 31 Brochure Description

I’d guess that a slim majority of hackers attending DefCon were parents. Although not that many were like me, and brought a kid along, but some did. In one village a Dad and son were greeters at the door and both seemed to be having a great time. I know that my daughter and I did, although she is no child!

Ralph’s photo of his daughter with cosmic enhancements at DefCon 31.

It takes a village to raise a child. Eventually, if the DefCon hacker villages prevail, and governments continue to help, we will make cyberspace a free and safe place for kids of all ages to play and learn.

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023 – All Rights Reserved – Does not include RedTeam Village videos and DefCon Village descriptions.

DefCon Chronicles: Where Tech Elites, Aliens and Dogs Collide – Series Opener

August 21, 2023

From Boris to Bots: Our First Dive into the DefCon Universe. This begins a series of blogs chronicling the infamous DefCon event in Las Vegas. The next installment will cover President Biden’s unprecedented request for hackers to attend DefCon to hack AI, and the hackers enthusiastic response, including reporter-AI-hacker Ralph Losey, to break existing AI software in an open contest. In addition, nearly all of the top cybersecurity leadership of the White House and Department of Homeland Security personally attended DefCon, including the Homeland Security Department Secretary himself, Alejandro Mayorkas. They came to help officially open the conference and stayed to give multiple policy statements and answer all hacker questions. It was a true breakthrough moment in cyber history.

Boris seems unimpressed by his official DefCon Dog award

I attended DefCon 31, on August 10-15, 2023, as independent Press, accompanied by my co-reporter daughter, a former lobbyist with an English Lit background, and her dog, Boris. Our press status with special green badge had a high price tag, but it gave us priority access to everything. It also facilitated our interaction with notable figures, from the White House Science Advisor, Arati Prabhakar, to DefCon’s enigmatic founder, Dark Tangent.

DefCon is the world’s largest tech hacker “conference” – more like a inter-dimensional portal at the Caesars Forum. When we first checked in, we happened to meet the leader of DefCon Press and P.R. She fell for little Boris in a handbag, and declared him the official DefCon 31 dog! What an honor. Way to go Boris, who everyone thinks is a Chihuahua, but is really a Russian Terrier. Nothing is as it seems at DefCon. The guy you see walking around in shorts, who looks like a bearded punk rocker, may actually be a senior NSA fed. We will tell you why the NSA was there later in this series.

At DefCon, we immersed ourselves in a diverse crowd of over 24,000 elite tech experts from across the globe. This included renowned names in Cybersecurity, notably the formidable red team professionals. Most of these hackers are law-abiding entrepreneurs, as well as members of top corporate and federal red and blue teams. Several thousand were there just to answer President Biden’s call for hackers everywhere to come to DefCon to compete to break AI. Such a request had never been made before. Much more on this later, including my joining in the AI competition.

The tech experts, hackers all, came together for the thirty-first year of DefCon. We were drawn to participate, and in our case, also report on, the hundreds of large and small lectures and other educational events, demonstrations and vendor exhibitions. In addition, the really big draw was, as usual, the dazzling array of hacker challenges and competitions. Some of these are quiet serious with major prizes and rep at stake, and required pre-qualifications and success in entry rounds. But most were open to all who showed up.

Picture walking into a football stadium, but in place of athletes, you’re surrounded by the world’s tech elite, each donning distinctive hacker attire. As we flooded in by the thousands, it was a blend of seasoned pros and enthusiastic fans. I counted myself among the fans, yet I eagerly took on several challenges, such as the AI red team event. The sheer diversity and expertise of all participants was impressive.

The entrance boasted a towering, thirty-foot neon sparkling mural that caught my eye immediately. I’ve refined the photo to focus on the mural, removing the surrounding crowds. And, just for fun, there’s an alien addition.

Ralph entering Defcon 31

The open competitions came in all shapes and sizes: hacker vs. computers and machines of all types, including voting machines, satellites and cars; hacker vs. hacker contests; and hacker teams against hacker teams in capture the flag type contests. An article will be devoted to these many competitions, not just the hacker vs. AI contest that I entered.

There was even a writing contest before the event to compete for the best hacker-themed short story, with the winner announced at DefCon. I did not win, but had fun trying. My story followed the designated theme, was set in part in Defcon, and was a kind of sci-fi, cyber dystopia involving mass shootings with AI and gun control to the rescue. The DefCon rules did not allow illustrations, just text, but, of course, I later had to add pictures, one of which is shown below. I’ll write another article on that fiction writing contest too. There were many submissions, most were farther-out and better than my humble effort. After submission, I was told that most seemed to involve Ai in some manner. It’s in the air.

Operation Veritas - short story by R. Losey
Illustration by Ralph for his first attempt at writing fiction, submitted for judging in the DefCon 31 writing competition.

So many ideas and writing projects are now in our head from these four days in Vegas. One of my favorite lectures, which I will certainly write about, was by a French hacker, who shared that he is in charge of cybersecurity for a nuclear power plant. He presented in a heavy French accent to a large crowd on a study he led on Science Fiction. It included statistical analysis of genres, and how often sci-fi predictions come true. All of DefCon seemed like a living sci-fi novel to us, and I am pretty sure there were multiple aliens safely mingling with the crowd.

We provide this first Defcon 31 chronicle as an appetizer for many more blogs to come. This opening provides just a glimpse of the total mind-blowing experience. The official DefCon 31 welcome trailer does a good job of setting the tone for the event. Enlarge to full screen and turn up the volume for best affects!

DefCon 31 official welcome video

Next, is a brief teaser description and image of our encounter with the White House Science Advisor, Dr. Arati Prabhakar. She and her government cyber and AI experts convinced President Biden to issue a call for hackers to come to Defcon, to try to break (hack) the new AI products. This kind of red team effort is needed to help keep us all safe. The response from tech experts worldwide was incredible, over a thousand hackers waited in a long line every day for a chance to hack the AI, myself included.

We signed a release form and were then led to one of fifty or more restricted computers. There we read the secret contest instructions, started the timer, and tried to jail break the AI in multiple scenarios. In quiet solo efforts, with no outside tools allowed and constant monitoring to prevent cheating, we tried to prompt ChatGPT4 and other software to say or do something wrong, to make errors and hallucinate. I had one success. The testing of AI vulnerabilities is very helpful to AI companies, including OpenAI. I will write about this is in much greater detail in a later article, as AI and Policy were my favorite of the dozens of tracks at DefCon.

A lot of walking was required to attend the event and a large chill-out room provided a welcome reprieve. They played music there with DJs, usually as a quiet background. There were a hundred decorated tables to sit down, relax, and if you felt like it, chat, eat and drink. The company was good, everyone was courteous to me, even though I was press. The food was pretty good too. I also had the joy of someone “paying it forward” in the food line, which was a first for me. Here is a glimpse of the chill out scene from the official video by Defcon Arts and Entertainment. Feel it. As the song says, “no one wants laws on their body.” Again, go full screen with volume up for this great production,

Defcon 31 Chill Out room, open all day, with video by Defcon Arts and Entertainment,

As a final teaser for our DefCon chronicles, check out my Ai enhanced photo of Arati Prabhakar, whose official title is Director of the Office of Science and Technology. She is a close advisor of the President and member of the Cabinet. Yes, that means she has seen all of the still top secret UFO files. In her position, and with her long DOD history, she knows as much as anyone in the world about the very real dangers posed by ongoing cyber-attacks and the seemingly MAD race to weaponize AI. Yet, somehow, she keeps smiling and portrays an aura of restrained confidence, albeit she did seem somewhat skeptical at times of her bizarre surroundings at DefCon, and who knows what other sights she has been privy too. Some of the questions she was asked about AI did seem strange and alien to me.

Arati Prabhakar speaking on artificial intelligence, its benefits and dangers, Photoshop, beta version, enhancements by Ralph Losey

Stay tuned for more chronicles. Our heads are exploding with new visuals, feelings, intuitions and ideas. They are starting to come together as new connections are made in our brains’ neural networks. Even a GPT-5 could not predict exactly what we will write and illustrate next. All we know for certain is that these ongoing chronicles will include video tapes of our interviews, presentations attended, including two mock trials of hackers, as well as our transcripts, notes, impressions and many more AI enhanced photos. All videos and photos will, of course, have full privacy protection of other participants who do not consent, which the strict rules of Def Con require. If you are a human, Ai or alien, and feel that your privacy rights have been violated by any of this content, please let us know and we will fuzz you out fast.

DefCon 31 entrance photo by Def Con taken before event started

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023 (excluding the two videos, photo and mural art, which are Def Con productions).

Creativity Test of GPT’s Story Telling Ability Based on an Image Alone

July 20, 2023

The iPhone App using ChatGPT-4 that was previously evaluated here as best in class, AI Smith (aka Chat Bot), recently announced many new features, including one involving creativity. Review of Open AI’s New iPhone Version App and Three New Third Party Apps for Use of ChatGPT-4. AI Smith claimed it was now able to write a “fascinating story” based on submission of a picture alone. This is not something you can do on ChatGPT, at least not without this phone application. So tests followed to continue previously reported research on the creativity of Generative AI. Creativity and How Anyone Can Adjust ChatGPT’s Creativity Settings To Limit Its Mistakes and Hallucinations.

Here is the image submitted, previously prepared with Midjourney.

Image by Losey using Midjourney

After the image was uploaded to AI Smith, the following 429 word story was immediately created.

In a world dominated by high technology where artificial intelligence had been seamlessly integrated into the fabric of daily life, sat David – a thinker, tinkerer, and long-time robotics engineer. Sitting in the quiet dimness of his cluttered, tech-filled office, he surveyed an unusual spectacle before him. It was a robot, but not just any robot – this one was special.

At his wooden desk, silhouetted by the faint hues of the evening creeping in through the window, sat a humanoid robot; its metallic silhouette futuristic. Cold yet oddly familiar. This was not merely a machine. It was the culmination of David’s decade-long research, his creation – the one many in his field had said was impossible.

The robot sat there, humanoid in shape, a mesmerizing blend of polished chrome and matte black. Its human-like eyes, orbs of bioluminescent crystal, twinkled with curious intelligence. Atlas, as David lovingly christened it, was the epitome of technological sophistication.

David adjusted his thick-rimmed glasses, rotated his swivel chair to face Atlas, and said, “Today is a big day, my friend.”

Atlas responded with an inflection and rhythm uncharacteristic of a traditional AI, “Yes, David. It is indeed.”

David’s fingers hovered momentarily over the motherboard that was patched into Atlas. It was an interface of myriad colorful wires, blinking LED lights, a wild jungle held together by David’s technical know-how. The man-machine connection was both strange and beautiful.

To inject personality into a robot was audacious, but David had loftier ambitions—he sought to imbue empathy. David aimed to create a mechanical being capable of genuine human interaction, understanding emotions, sarcasm, and even humor, a revolutionary leap in the domain of artificial intelligence.

The final test had arrived. David, a hint of anticipation in his voice, told a joke. It was delightfully silly, absurd enough to test Atlas’s grasp on nonsensical humor.

Without a beat, Atlas broke the room’s silence with a laughter that resonated metallic, pure—and perhaps, just perhaps, genuinely amused. It was the revered ‘aha’ moment. David leaned back in his chair and smiled triumphantly at his exceptional creation, realization shining in his eyes- he had done it.

David and Atlas, man and machine, sat there in reverence of the moment. Their one fleeting moment of breakthrough, echoed in the quiet hush of the dim-lit room, reflected in the ambiance of rustling papers, soldering irons, and the woody smell of an old desk. The image of a man sitting with his robot, just told itself an extraordinary story, one of perseverance, innovation, and the incredible potential of the man-machine relationship.

AI Smith Using ChatGPT-4

Note how the story incorporates many details from the image. Did you find it interesting as promised? Here is the “movie” version, created using Python coding abilities of ChatGPT-4, which is not something that AI Smith can do, yet. To help create the video the cool zoom-out feature of Midjourney was used, along with a little Photoshop and iMovie work; a good example of hybrid multimodal. For best results click on the lower right corner and zoom out to full screen to view, sound on.

Video of AI Smith’s Story “Teaching a Robot to Laugh”

The research concluded with a new request of AI Smith to create a story based on the final zoom out screen. This was a new chat so there was no carryover memory of the last image or story. Again, AI Smith used ChatGPT-4 with the rather high, default temperature setting of 0.7. Creativity and How Anyone Can Adjust ChatGPT’s Creativity Settings To Limit Its Mistakes and Hallucinations. Here is the result.

Amidst the obscurity of an unlit room, there echoed a peculiar symphony of clicking keyboards, whirring computer fans, and an intermittent hum of casual discussion. The room where the glowing screens were the only source of illumination, casting an ethereal glow over the faces of its occupants. They were a group of individuals banded together by their unparalleled knack for technical acuity—a crew of prodigious minds who called themselves ‘The Illuminators.’

The Illuminators weren’t just any ordinary tech enthusiasts or software engineers. These were the elites, the crème de la crème of the digital world—the hackers. Their playground was a realm of cyberspace where only the fittest survived, and they didn’t just survive, they thrived.

Assembled from various walks of life and diverse backgrounds, they each had a unique story. There was Piper, the former cybersecurity expert for a clandestine government agency, using her experience now for more globally beneficial ends. Ajay was an international puzzle champion with a soft spot for cryptography; his algorithms were capable of decrypting most advanced systems. Then there was Yara, a former pro gamer with reflexes as impressive as her coding prowess.

In the center of the room, under the focus of multiple screens, sat their leader, Orion—a prodigy turned renegade, disillusioned from corporate greed and misuse of technology. Their cause was their bond, a shared vision to create an unbiased and equal digital world to protect the vulnerable from the wolves of cyber predation.

Each night was a new mission, a new challenge. To outsiders, their world came across as a sequence of unintelligible letters, numbers, and symbols strewn across the eerie blue glow of their screens. But to them, it was poetry—a language they loved, a language they understood better than their own mother-tongue.

Tonight, they were summoning a digital storm against a pharmaceutical giant involved in a controversial data privacy violation. The Illuminators had the evidences, they had the know-how. All they needed was the right pressure point in a maze of labyrinthine firewalls.

As their fingers danced on the keyboards, the room echoed with their unsaid unity, a harmony between hearts and minds resonating in the darkness, punctuated by the rhythm of their singular purpose. The scent of freshly brewed coffee filled the air, reminding them of the long night ahead.

Each stroke, every command indented was like a well-orchestrated symphony, slowly and surely converging into a climax that was yet unseen. They were poets of the virtual world, their sonnet weaved in lines of intricate code as they collectively shouldered the responsibility of their elucidating mission.

The muted hum of the computers suddenly surged into a crescendo as the final line of code was executed. A triumphant smile tugged on Orion’s lips as he confirmed with a single word that reverberated warmly in the dim room: “In.”

For those in that room, the world might have been dark, but the work they did was irrefutably radiant—a testament to the power of shared goals, knowledge, and their unabiding faith in the justice of their cause. The Illuminators weren’t just emissaries in the digital space. They were its guardians—turning darkness into light, one line of code at a time.

AI Smith’s Story of “The Illuminators” e-Discovery Team using ChatGPT-4

It was a slightly longer story this time, 534 words. Interesting coincidence, I suppose, that AI Smith chose a justice, investigatory theme by an e-discovery team of elite hackers. Could just be a prejudice on my part, but seems to me like another “fascinating story” as promised.

Ralph Losey Copyright 2023. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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