GeekPwn 2016

I always wanted to write a blog post about the entire experience since so many people kept asking about the trip. I found some time to do so. I hope you find this blog post very interesting and fun to read!

GeekPwn Main Stage

Attacking power-wheelchairs

GeekPwn was my 2nd information security conference, but also the 1st international conference I went to while I was in my last semester at MSU Denver. From October 21st-26th 2016, I traveled to China, Shanghai for one of my most best memories and adventures I ever had in my life. This was going to be my first time outside my country and I didn’t know what to expect from this trip. It seemed very overwhelming at the time for a young person like me. If you asked me how would my life change in the last few months, I wouldn’t guessed I had presented at DEFCON 24 and got invited to GeekPwn the same year. I will probably write a post about DEF CON later.

With a big undertaking ahead of me, I didn’t want to go alone. Thankfully, I was able to bring some help with me. I traveled with Lani Rupp, she’s my partner in crime and security research assistant. I invited her to go with me. We are currently working on more exciting security research ideas and projects. If you want to read her side of the trip, you can read her LinkedIn blog post here.

Stephen and Lani

GeekPwn is an international security conference held in China, Shanghai. Focusing on smart device hacking and the I.T. industry. This is the second year for the event. Even though it’s very new, it has gained attention worldwide. I had so much fun there, so I think that it can become another cool hacker based event for everyone. The GeekPwn event is organized by Keen (Shanghai) Cloud Computing Technology Co., Ltd. It also has a smaller GeekPwn counterpart in Silicon Valley around the same time.

Keen (Shanghai) Cloud Computing appears to be one of the top China high-tech companies already, as it was only founded in June 2011. They are focusing on cloud computing and mobile security technologies. They have done research in the software and internet industries. And got sponsorship from Google, Tencent, Microsoft, Huawei, and Lenovo. Which is pretty cool.

After presenting my early power-wheelchair hacking research at DEF CON 24 in the IoT Village. I was approached by someone from the GeekPwn committee. The research became something bigger than I originally imagined. The talk was a great hit, and I had a full house on an early Saturday morning. Everyone liked my presentation. My live demo worked flawlessly even with the messy code used at the time. There were a few things I would change if I had the chance to redo it all again. But I’m not complaining as this was just the beginning in my presentation career. :)

After the DEFCON talk, I had a small Q/A, there were questions and I was flooded by people. I was happy about it! The research became something bigger than I originally imagined. People were interested in the research and immediately started using the code I released on GitHub. I had a lot of exposure to news outlets and from friends spreading the word. This was a new start to the awesome SmartWheels project that I partnered with some people at Berkeley. Check out the prototype video.

It was my first time flying out of my own country. And I did it with Lani, she became my partner in this talk and in all future work I will do. I am glad that I brought her on what I do. Now we are working on even bigger things. She is an amazing person with lots of talents, great public speaking skills, and has a creative mind. I always learn from her. She sees stuff in ways I couldn’t. She pushes me to do better. Two minds are always better than one mind. She likes to challenge status quos and look at things from a unique perspective. Her adventurous spirit and creativity allow her to take risks in exploring ideas and new technologies.

Lani Rupp holds a Master’s degree in Information Systems and Cyber Security and a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Computer Information Systems. We developed our own system when we work together. We did this in China, to make sure our ideas were visioned. This creates a team dynamic and communication style; We need to effectively exchange ideas with minimal verbal cues. I can’t talk verbally if you can’t already tell. This creates a problem for me while presenting. However, we use this to our advantage! We make an appealing team because of the uniqueness we have. We have interesting stories to tell in the research we do.

This post is long so I’m ending it here. Technical stuff on my research will come later in a new post.

GeekPwn Invitation

GeekPwn Award

Award Winners

GeekPwn 2016 Talk

Stephen Chavez
Cyber Security Researcher

Cyber security researcher; Takes world adventures with friends. Focusing on malware development and analysis.