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24 hours in Serbia at Balkan hacker conference BalCCon

This weekend the Balkan Computer Congress BalCCon: First Contact is putting Balkan hackers center stage with international hackers at the first-ever Balkan hacker conference.

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Topic: Security
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1 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

BalCCon 2013: First Contact

This weekend ZDNet is in Serbia for BalCCon 2013: First Contact - called this as the first official hacker conference in the Balkans - and it is organized by LUGoNS/Linux Users of Novi Sad, Serbia.

BalCCon's co-organizer Jelena Georgijevic told me,

 

We have gone back and forth through the wars and crisis. This [BalCCon] is one of the healing processes that will help reunite our region in one industry.

We want BalCCon to be a catalyst for numerous other projects, to inspire people to hack more, to discover more, and to be more curious.

We want this conference to be the place of gathering for everyone from this region, and to kind of unite all dissolved parts.

Follow BalCCon on Twitter, and the event hashtag #BalCCon.

Read more about BalCCon .

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2 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Nikola Tesla - Belgrade Airport

Upon arrival for the conference into Serbia's Belgrade airport, hackers were greeted with their very first billboard seen on entry: a tribute to the scientific pride of Serbia, Nikola Tesla.

Tesla is also on the Serbian Dinar 100 RSD.

Read more about BalCCon .

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3 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Serbian hacker culture

As seen in this traditional Serbian restaurant where the first assembly of early arrivals for the conference met for local food and drink, its culture has a rich and storied (and tragic) history. Much of the country is poor and still recovering from the brutal 1999 NATO bombings - which put Serbian hackers in the news for the first time when they took out NATO's servers with a weeklong DDoS in a push back to stop the bombings.

Novi Sad, where BalCCon is having its first hacker Congress, was punished beyond the pale in NATO's aggression. This made for a determined hacker population that had no out-of-the-box computing like many other hacker cultures, and shapes the views of Balkan hackers to make them like no other hacker population on Earth.

But like most hackers, generalizing does them a disservice, and at BalCCon we've seen the gamut, from Linux evangelists and hacktivists to science hackers,  hackers-for-good - and, of course, black hats with 'crew' names.

Much of Novi Sad is "under repair" - this house matches all the ones on its block, just across the street from where a 5-star hotel is, and half a block another is being constructed:

Read more about BalCCon .

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4 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

First Balkan Hacker Conference

BalCCon's co-organizer Jelena Georgijevic explained that while there have been a few hacking-related gatherings and interest in establishing a Balkan Hackerspaces culture (there is only currently one Hackerspace in Belgrade), this event is the first official, large-scale hacker conference in the region.

In the interest of reflecting the talks, workshops, hardware hacking, skill sharing and community growing for hackers of all interests and intents as seen in conferences such as Germany's CCC, America's Defcon and Holland's Ohm, in the past 24 hours BalCCon has offered the start of all these things, and more.

Read more about BalCCon .

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5 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Balkan computer history on display

At BalCCon, there is a large area where vintage, still-working computers and various boxes are on display. A table of sweet, historic, computers has been set up so attendees can play retro video games on them - which has been going on nonstop.

Read more about BalCCon .

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6 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Hacker "flag"

The enormous BalCCon conference hall is decorated with all kinds of hacker trimmings; this is one of two giant 'flags' made from appropriately themed shirts.

Yesterday, the conference's first day, over 40 local teenagers (a group of fantastically mixed gender) descended on the conference, some of whom posed for photos in front of the flags.

Read more about BalCCon .

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7 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Maja Asanovic presents at BalCCon

The second inagural speaker to BalCCon's stage was Maja Asanovic, digital privacy and human rights activist and one of the founders of Serbia's Pirate Movement.

Her talk encapsulated the context of BalCCon as not just a time to hack and learn but to look at what is happening in the United States with both its disturbingly flawed computer laws and NSA spying revelations.

This, she said, meant that since Serbia is still behind the times in both regards that there are big opportunities happening now for Serbian hackers to learn from America's problems and work to establish computer laws and policies that respect and strengthen human rights.

Read more about BalCCon .

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8 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Travis Goodspeed and his Satellite Dish

Charismatic American hacker Travis Goodspeed took BalCCon's late night stage to present Portscanning Low Earth Orbit, a talk about having fun with satellite dishes and... other related activities.

Read more about BalCCon .

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9 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Greenhouse control

On display in BalCCon's vendor area: a DIY mini greenhouse and its makers, answering all questions on how to hack one together.

Read more about BalCCon .

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10 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

DIY controlled greenhouse

Another view of the greenhouse.

Read more about BalCCon .

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11 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Portscanning Low Earth Orbit

A slide from Travis Goodspeed's talk, Portscanning Low Earth Orbit. He described,

(...) how to take an old telecom dish from a Navy ship, rewire it for computer control, and then target moving satellites.

All targeting is performed by a collection of Unix daemons, and all reception is performed by a flexible software defined radio.

Read more about BalCCon .

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12 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Hardware hacking station

Like all other large-scale hacker conferences, BalCCon had tables dedicated to hardware hacking and people on hand to skillshare with anyone interested.

Read more about BalCCon .

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13 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

On display at BalCCon

An example of the many vintage and hacked Balkan computers collected for preservation, on display across several tables in the BalCCon community area.

Read more about BalCCon .

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14 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

Beyond Arduino Linux workshop

We spotted a Defcon t-shirt on a presenter in the Development environment for atmel processors (beyond arduino) on linux workshop by Miha Kitič (MiKi) and Žiga Mlinar (zxy_64).

Read more about BalCCon .

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15 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

On display at BalCCon

In the room next to where this ZDNet post is being typed, these beauties are ready to go hands-on with all attendees - and they're getting lots of playtime.

Read more about BalCCon .

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16 of 16 Violet Blue/ZDNet

BalCCon workshop: standing room only

In progress as we're about to publish this gallery, BalCCon's large workshop room is currently standing room only, with a jubilant vibe - and full of more smiles than I've seen yet in Serbia - for BalCCon's hands-on Day 2 Physical Security Workshop.

We'll be bringing you more hacker news from Serbia in the next 24 hours.

Follow BalCCon on Twitter, and the event hashtag #BalCCon.

Read more about BalCCon .

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