Well, DC12 came along and yet again this year, DC719 was running the lock pick contest. After the fun and success from DC11's contest I immediately signed up when they announced the contest on the Defcon forums.
I'd been practicing off and on through the year. Usually padlocks and thanks to a very cool donation from a guy named Austin, a whole box of old door locks. I've become quite proficient at the locks I had, but I think that may have worked against me
The story actually starts a couple days before the contest.
Myself and Panthera took our road trip down through Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado to spend a couple days in Colorado springs with Jeff Duntemann (author of The Drive-By Wi-fi guide) and to meet up with the DC719 crew to join their caravan for the final leg of the journey through the dreaded state of Utah, the logic being that if I had a car in front and a car behind, that either they would hit the deer first, or be able to scrape my corpse off the highway if another deer played kamikaze on me
We met up with Lil_freak first who was kind enough to provide me with some very nice handcuffs and keys that I had requested. She was very cool to provide those for me, getting such things in Canada is a pain. We followed her to the DC719 secret meeting place where they were working on the pick boards for the contest (keep in mind this is about a day before we are supposed to leave for the conference!). They did a really good job on the practice boards and the amount and variety of locks was impressive. I spent most of my time fiddling with my newly aquired cuffs.
After hanging out there for a bit, and keeping myself away from any of the competition locks to avoid any accusations, we went for dinner where I learned an amazing amount of info about locks, and just security in general. It's interesting the difference in viewpoints you get from people in a city that is in the shadow of Norad.
The Caravan to Vegas was fairly un-eventful, thank god
The usual insanity in the opening days of pre-parties before con and the toxic BBQ. It was pretty wild how many people recognized me from the contest last year. Everyone seemed to be rooting for me and encouraging me to do good this year. Gee, no pressure.
I spend part of Friday morning working on the practice boards that DC719 made up. The previous nights insanity by pool 2 till 4 or 5am left me in a less than stellar condition that morning and I was trying to get rid of a case of the shakes. None of the locks were being kind to me. Nothing was opening for me and I was getting freaked.
Friday afternoon rolls around and the contest starts. The first round is a door knob lock (the kind with the keyway in the middle of the knob). It's a fairly easy looking lock. I sit down at my assigned position (second from the far left), and take out my tools. A tension wrench and my good old, home made snake. Trying not to freak out as everyone is watching me and people are cheering for me, I setup everything as they are about to start. Tension wrench in left hand, pick in the right, *GO*, I jam everything in place and start to rake. I pop the lock in about 12 seconds, achieving first place in my heat (though it's a time trial so winning the heat doesn't matter). Another guy pops his a few seconds later and another one a bit after that. The guy on my right is having real trouble and after about 3 minutes of sitting there watching him work away at this thing, I offered him my home made snake to try since he was switching tools constantly. It had been good to me, might as well share the love. He got it about 20 seconds after I gave him the snake to the amusement of the assembled crowd.
A few more minutes go by and the guy on my left is still working away. He says that he's from Sweden and that they don't use pin-tumbler locks there, so he only knows the theory. I offer some friendly tips, and pass the snake over to him. Another minute goes by and he's able to finally get it. The last guy gets his moments later.
We leave the stage and I watch a few other rounds while fielding questions and congratulations from friends and spectators. I see a few guys beat my time, but I'm not worried, since it's not cumulative time.
Feeling pretty good, I wander over to the other lock pick event, the obstacle course. This is a new event where they have a variety of different locks and the challenge is to pick as many as possible. Tubular locks, combination locks, a padlock, you name it, if it was a weird lock, it was there.
I sit down at a very simple, very small pin lock (I think it was a gun lock), and decide to give it a go. I worked on that thing for 5 minutes, only 3 freaking pins, however the small size was throwing me because my tools were too big to manipulate the pins individually. I got it eventually after about 5 minutes, but I was not impressed with myself.
After a walk around I decided to do another lock, a normal size padlock. Not a Master brand, but some unknown one, though similar in appearance.
I worked on that thing for a freaking 30 minutes with no luck. It was incredibly frustrating for me because such locks are usually a 5-10 minute job. Later one of the DC719 guys told me that their best pick artist spent almost 45 minutes with it the first time and that it was a right bitch of a lock. After that I gave up on the obstacle course and devoted my attention to the speed contest and the wardriving contest.
Saturday rolled around and the second round was starting at 2pm. The wardriving 'Running Man' contest was running from 1-2pm, so there was no problems with scheduling which was cool.
I came out to the contest room wearing the Warpack on my back. We ran off and did our thing which is best summarized by This watchguard article.
After the numerous extensions and the resulting hardware fiasco, I was exhausted and had been carrying the pack for quite a while. One of the lock pick organizers says I should get up there right away as they are nearing the end of the second round, so I literally walked to the stage, took off the pack, sat down and got out my tools. The exertion and heat had taken their toll. I was shaking more than a virgin on her wedding night. *GO* and I went to work. This lock was a dead bolt, nothing special but seemed to be either worn, or using squared off pins that were not very responsive to raking. Took me about 48 seconds to get that one open, much longer than some of the other competitors and well beyond the cut off point to advance which was about 12 seconds. I gave it a go, had a blast, but the 'Running Man' took too much away from my hands and they weren't working right.
Over the rest of the day and Sunday I poked my head in to see how the 3rd round was going. It was quite the impressive board they were using with people literally crawling all over it to get at some of the locks.
In the end, for me, it was yet another great Defcon experience. I didn't win that contest, but hey that's not the point now is it.