~$ I went to C3Camp!

Posted on Aug. 21st, 2023. | Est. reading time: 12 minutes

Tags:Information SecurityConferenceTravelCyber Security

The Chaos Computer Club is an entity the name of which many people recognize in the industry, as it is Europe's largest association of hackers, as well as one of the longest lasting, having been founded in 1981.

If you have not heard of it, the CCC - as it is commonly abbreviated - describes itself as a galactic community of life forms, independent of age, sex, race or societal orientation, which strives across borders for freedom of information.... If that sounds like an anarchist hacker collective, you wouldn't be that far off. You can read more about the CCC here.

Needless to say, the CCC is an organisation which - although I am not a member - does represent my ideals.

So when the CCC organizes a camp (abbreviated C3Camp), in the same vein as the MCH camp I attended last year (see related blogpost here), you bet I'm going to show up.

However as most of the event is quite chaotic (see what I did there?), I would rather not serialize the narrative, and will address points in a more thematic fashion!


Getting to the middle of nowhere, Germany, aka. Ziegeleipark Mildenberg.

The one major crimp in my plan for attending C3Camp was the timing, as it took place from the 15th of August to the 19th of August. This is mainly because I had planned to be in Las Vegas until the 13th, attending DEFCON31 (see related blogpost here), which is approximately 8926.99 km away (or 5546.97 miles away - in freedom units).

My plane landed in Heathrow late in the morning on the 14th, and my plane to Berlin was scheduled to depart a few hours later from London City Airport. So I went to a friend's apartment that they sometimes let me sleep at, and hotswapped the clothes in my suitcase before heading to the airport and catching my flight.

Once I'd landed in Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) - and waited for a full hour for my suitcase to come out of the plane - I took the S9 S-Bahn to central Berlin, where I crashed at a hotel.

The next day, I linked up with a friend that was also headed to C3Camp, and we took the Regio up to Gransee, where a shuttle picked us up to head to Ziegeleipark Mildenberg, where camp was taking place.

Setting up camp.

As we got into camp, we realized that we were going to run into several problems, namely that a lot of spots were taken, and also that not everywhere had reliable electricity.

Given we had two tents to setup, we originally found a calm place near the water (location [1] on the map below). However, this location was unpowered, and (as every map failed to indicate), was reserved for people having reserved some space with boats.

We then started looking for a second spot, and found a yet unclaimed spot where we managed to negotiate with a person the ability to have enough space to setup our tents (location [2]). In the 15 minutes it took us to get our stuff, they had moved their tent to fully encroach the space we had planned to setup (dick move), leaving us to hunt for yet another location.

The last location (location [3]) was a bit far from power, but was of yet unclaimed, so we reserved a big enough square for all our stuff and started setting up my tent once more.

In a fun turn of events, it turns out the dicks from location [2] were forced to move as the were in fact in the middle of a mapped out footpath. Ha, karma.

C3Camp mapThe map of C3Camp.

After having been Deutsche-Bahn'ed, the last two friends we were waiting for arrived at camp, and we were able to setup their tent and start exploring some more.

What we would discover that night, is that the organizing team and all the volunteers had turned this somewhat peaceful space in the middle of nowhere into a bastion of outdoors night life and fun!

Amenities and the joys of tschunk.

The camp itself had many tents which weren't specifically "sleeping" tents, but rather event tents, such as the ever present c3woc (read ce-wok, aka. the waffle operations center, yes... seriously), food maker tents, music tents, robotics tents, the Chaos post tent and more!

Listing everyone and everything there would take a lot of time, but let's just say there was a great diversity at play and something for every single being that would wind up at camp.

I will however mention that there was a small train.

A picture of the small train.Noot, Noot!

What really got some of the beings in my group going was that vegan food was the norm on the main "market", with everyone from vegan omelettes, vegan burritos, vegan pizza, etc.! All of which I happily sampled as it tasted really good.

It being a CCC event, the hacker's prime brain juice was available at the main bar for most of the event (despite punctual shortages due to high demand).

What prime brain juice, you ask? Well it's not coffee, nor Red Bull, nor Monster Ultra nor anything of the like.

It's MATE (read m-ah-t-eh).

The one thing new to me at the time, was that hackers are... undecided when it comes to the brand of mate they like. I was convinced for the longest time that it was Club-Mate, but after having sampled Flora-Mate at C3Camp... I'm not so sure anymore.

But it turns out that Mate isn't an end product... at least not at C3Camp, where it is used as an ingredient for one of the most dangerous drinks around... the tschunk (read t-ch-ooh-nk).

What is a tschunk you ask? It's a mixer drink that follows the following recipe:

  • Crushed ice.
  • Cane sugar.
  • Lime.
  • About 5 seconds pour of rhum.
  • Top-off with the Mate of your choice.

That penultimate part is... debatable. It's 5 passes in a circle with the bottle and one of those fancy bar bottle caps that pour, however many circles per second ends up being the remit of the person preparing the drink πŸ˜….

Wait, I should probably talk more about the event itself.

Now that I've addressed the physical aspects of camp, I probably should mention that it being C3Camp, there were many stages upon which talks were held.

This year, having been the year of the death of Twitter and the popularization of the Fediverse (at least in the hacker community), many talks were focused on that topic. Other topics at play included democracy, data privacy, and more!

One of the main issues is that, although similar in size to MCH, C3Camp had many more stages. However, a stage requires many volunteers (called angels) at any given time, for recording people on camera, doing the video and audio mixing, announcing the speaker and handling the Q&A, etc.

And instead of there being 3 stages plus some other mostly self-maintained places, all of these places required angels, which spread an already usually overstretched human resource requirement to a breaking point.

I myself was originally motivated to do angeling, but after seeing the chaos (and also recovering from my flights, etc.) just could not bring myself to do it beyond a few shifts, as I lacked the spoons.

Let's partay!

The nightlife of camp is where the camp really excelled, be it the music stages, the mood lighting, the social gatherings, the meeting gathering of hackers and entering into deep conversations about the state of tech and the world.

A picture of some lit shroom sculpture with a disco ball above.Lit shrooms in the foresty bits.
A tower of mirrors being hit by purple/blue and pink light beams, reflecting them all over the placeLight refraction tower.

Specifically, my friend Rin was hosting a mix one of the evenings, which was quite banger.

It turns out however, that I was not the only person that aligned both DEFCON and C3Camp, as MC Ohm-I was also present (and was also giving a performance on the center stage). In addition to dropping some fantastic bars such as "I've not been camping ever in my life." and "Ich spreche kein Deutsch" ("I don't speak any German", in German), he found out the hard way that Germans are uhhhh... not genial at call and response.

An exchange on Twitter with @mcohmi.An exchange on Twitter with @mcohmi.

I did end up bumping into him at another party in the Culture Club, where we chatted for a while before the Club ended up closing, sometime near 5:00 in the morning πŸ˜….

Hygiene and health.

So yeah, shove a few thousand hackers into a field, you may have the usual question of hygiene.

To start with - and I am not lacking blame in this department - there were a lot of people that weren't masking against COVID (more on this here).

One of the fantastic parts of the event was the availability of showers (and that people actually used them). The problem was that there weren't that many showers, and that the water pressure was lacking at high-activity times.

I ended up flipping my shower schedule from pre-sleep to early-wake-up (7:00) shower, even if I then napped for 2 more hours after, as that was when there was sufficient water pressure and warm water available. I also enjoyed that FLINTA showers were available to use.

Sunscreen was sorely needed, and uhhhh, I definitely did not apply it enough and ended up mildly sunburnt, although not too much.

I'm not having fun when I'm not shenanigan-ing...

One of the things I enjoyed doing was playing around with the C3Camp flower badge, which was super diverse in its abilities. Mad props to the badge team.

Sometime during the event, I got a postcard (via Chaos Post) from my friend Bonzi.

A postcard signed bonzi, saying 'Hello, I'm writing today to discuss your cars extended warranty'Bonzi-mail.

This... gave me some ideas. Not necessarily good ideas, but ideas nonetheless.

I figured that, well, if you can send spam over Chaos Post, as well as git commits (yes, this happened), why not... something else. Why not war crimes? Why not TCP/IP packets? Why not both?

The war crimes bit may have gotten your mind spinning and asking "wait, the fuck is she on about?", but if you have been keeping up with this blog, you may remember my talk at SteelCon in July (see related blogpost here). So yes, sending JSFuck by Chaos Post.

However! This was not enough. Just sending JSFuck over the post is not funny enough. So why not encode it in a TCP/IP packet and encode it as hex? Well that is what I thought, and what my friend Scott McGready ended up getting in the mail (see below).

```text 00 1C 73 00 11 99 60 E9 AA 1D 2D 33 08 00 45 00 00 A8 00 01 00 00 40 06 27 28 B9 C7 6C 99 AC 43 80 83 01 BB 01 BB 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 50 02 20 00 B1 73 00 00 28 21 5B 5D 2B 5B 5D 29 5B 21 2B 5B 5D 2B 21 2B 5B 5D 5D 2B 28 21 21 5B 5D 2B 5B 5D 5B 28 21 5B 5D 2B 5B 5D 29 5B 2B 5B 5D 5D 2B 28 21 5B 5D 2B 5B 5D 29 5B 21 2B 5B 5D 2B 21 2B 5B 5D 5D 2B 28 21 5B 5D 2B 5B 5D 29 5B 2B 21 2B 5B 5D 5D 2B 28 21 21 5B 5D 2B 5B 5D 29 5B 2B 5B 5D 5D 5D 29 5B 2B 21 2B 5B 5D 2B 5B 2B 5B 5D 5D 5D 2B 28 21 5B 5D 2B 5B 5D 29 5B 21 2B 5B 5D 2B 21 2B 5B 5D 5D ```

Other friends of mine got other (non JSFuck) TCP/IP packets over Chaos Post, because I am a bit unapologetically silly like that πŸ˜….

One of the cool things of Camp is that the C3POC (CCC Phone Operations Center) usually sets up a DECT phone network, and they did so this time around as well. A DECT phone, for those of you that haven't experienced them, is a phone that ties into a local base station and allows you to call other phones registered to that same station. This essentially provides free camp-wide telephony.

Plenty of shenanigans can arise with the DECT phone network, because it allows you to choose a custom 4 digit number, and the ability to set up a message if you don't answer. So for example, dialing WEED (9333) links you to the Bushmann (you won't believe what he does). Dialing SAUL (7286) gets you a voice mail from Saul (from the "Breaking Bad" and "Better call Saul" TV series). And many more fun jokes of the sort.

Although I think what really cemented the overall inanity (yes, I spellt that correctly), of the whole event ended up being cpli, Shift and myself sitting on a couch at silly hours of the morning (9:00) in the middle of the main plaza and having one of the most "out there" conversations of my life. I barely remember what we talked about, beyond what the deal was with airplane food, how the fact Australia shares a border with Germany explains its involvement in Eurovision (this is untrue), with the occasional interruption by some impromptu beatboxing by cpli.

Let's talk about the not so good bits too...

There were however some issues with C3Camp, although most of them had nothing to do with the organizers or the event themselves.

In fact, the only main negative about C3Camp that had to do with the organizers was how the distribution of power was managed, as until day 2 or 3 of camp, certain zones, including ours, remained unpowered.

Another point, and this is what I mentioned earlier, is that very few people were masking. This wouldn't be as much of an issue if most people had been vaccinated and were up to date on boosters.

However, German healthcare has made it complicated for people to get boosters. This means that - statistically speaking - an event attended by many Germans is more likely to have high rates of COVID spread. About 2-3 days into camp, CERT (the Camp Emergency Response Team) had erected a quarantine around their area, and set up a COVID testing facility. COVID basically tore through camp.

TW: Trafficking mention (hover/click to reveal)
Around day 3 of camp I saw someone in line at the market with a Bitcoin shirt that asked "How much for your daughter?". This was immediately escalated (via social media) to c3awareness, who found the individual and reprimanded them.

TW: Predator mention (hover/click to reveal)
A few nights into camp, I'd learned that certain of the exits of camp were to be closed as a predator was active on camp and had roofied and abused a person by leading them out of camp. Not sure what happened because of that, but it definitely was unnerving.

And last but not least, and this has nothing to do with camp, but we got Deutsche-Bahn'ed on the way back to Berlin.