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Industry Events

DEFCON 21: Operation Gatorfetti

A Second-by-Second Breakdown of the Mission to Present an Award to @Mudge While Showering Him with Confetti


OBSERVERS: ZOE LINDSEY and REGIS WAKEFIELD

ELEMENT: DUOSEC, BHDC DIVISION

OBSERVER PRIORITY TASKS: COVERTLY DELIVER PAYLOAD,

CODENAME "GATORFETTI"

ACTION DATE: 1700, 8/2/13

OBSERVER'S FIELD NOTES FOLLOW.

1642: ZOE AND REGIS RENDEZVOUS W. JON OBERHEIDE AND JOSH DAYMONT FOR ORDERS. RECEIVE MISSION BRIEFING AND “GATORFETTI.”

REGIS: The plan is simple in theory. After the applause begins following Peiter “Mudge” Zatko’s Defcon talk, rush the stage, hand Mudge a trophy and tell him to “hold his breath,” as they dump a gatorade cooler full of confetti on his head. Simple, in theory. We had assembled the “Mudge Squad,” a motley crew of Cyber Fast Trackers and Mrs. Mudge herself, all wearing bright green WWMD (What Would Mudge Do?) shirts in the front row to assist in carrying out the operation. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Zoe and Josh heading to the back of the room with the cooler. The pieces are falling into place.

1700: MUDGE COMMENCES TALK. RADIO SILENCE.

1740: DEPART W. JOSH FOR PAYLOAD DELIVERY. EXIT MUDGE'S

PRESENTATION THROUGH REAR TRACK 1 DOORS, CARRYING PAYLOAD BETWEEN US.

REGIS: The whole audience is captivated by Mudge as he speaks of his time in DARPA but, admittedly, I am a little distracted. Behind me, Zoe disappears through a door. Timing, here, is of the essence and the margin of error is small. If they head backstage too early, it is likely they will be discovered by the Goons and turned away. If they arrive too late, they might miss the whole thing. Jon fiddles with his phone, “They are headed back stage now.” I nod and turn back to Mudge, listening and watching the clock tick down.

ZOE: Josh and I carry the Gatorade cooler between us through the convention center hallway. "Act natural," he says. "Just walk normally, eyes ahead, you know where you're going and you're supposed to be there." As we pass a staff corridor entrance, we quickly scan for anyone watching us and quickly veer left to enter.

1742: ENTER HOT ZONE

ZOE: We traverse the length of the corridor; circling around the back of the stage and very quietly settling down out of view stage-right. Mudge's talk is a bit harder to hear -- however, we have no trouble hearing the footsteps of people passing through the corridor while we sit less than a foot out of their field of view (and without authorization.)

REGIS: The CFT crowd is restless; they can sense that the talk is coming to an end. It is almost time. I tap the trophy nervously with my foot, waiting for applause and wondering how Zoe and Josh are holding up backstage.

1754: ENCOUNTER GOON PATROL

ZOE: A few minutes before the talk wraps up, a Goon checks inside the doorway and starts when he sees the two of us waiting there. "Hey, what are you two doing?"

Telling mostly-the-truth, I whisper, "Oh, we're here for the award presentation," and hope he doesn’t ask why that involved a Gatorade cooler.

Seemingly satisfied, he pauses again. "Ok, but how did you get back HERE?"

"We got walked back. Tall-ish guy, darker hair, kind of a goatee sorta thing going on?" (A good percentage of the con staff falls under this description, so I figure we’re safe from being called out on it.) The Goon was satisfied, and continues his patrol.

1803: MUDGE FINISHES. JON AND REGIS PRESENT TROPHY.

REGIS: At the sound of applause, Jon and I spring into action. We are out of our seats and up onto the stage in just a few seconds. Mudge is distracted by our arrival, looking confused yet amused, and doesn’t seem to notice as the CFTs follow suit. As Jon claps Mudge on the back, I shove the trophy into his hand and tell him to hold his breath, as the confetti is dusty. Mudge looks at me.

“They are going to dump confetti on your head. You should hold your breath.” Mudge smiles and nods. I see Zoe creeping up behind Mudge from behind the stage with the cooler. “Ok now! It’s about to happen. Hold your breath!”

1805: PAYLOAD DELIVERY

ZOE: As Regis leans in to warn him, we lift the cooler and dump it. Rainbow colored streamers, shredded paper, and brightly-colored powder went everywhere, momentarily giving Mudge a technicolor halo. To his credit, he doesn’t miss a beat and continues with his thanks as he brushes confetti off his face and shoulders. The room, which stood as one to applaud him as he was given his trophy, remains silently standing to listen to him.

ZOE & REGIS: We stand back and watch as, one by one, CFT performers stand at the podium and share stories and congratulations. It’s difficult to not get emotional as we listen to their accounts of how Mudge made an impact on the study of security and the lives of these researchers. We look at each other, grinning. The admiration and respect in the room is infectious, and it feels really good to be a part of it all.

Quotes from CFTs spoken during presentation:

"Mudge has said for as long as I can remember that we are here to make a dent in the universe, and it's safe to say he's lived that himself."

"I cannot overstate how many researchers have been able to continue and fund research they otherwise wouldn't have had the resources for, thanks to the CFT program." "There are very, very few people that I trust to tell me what to do. Mudge is one of those people."

1810: MISSION COMPLETE