This DEF CON Badge Has a Classic 'Contra' Easter Egg

The hacker convention has a tradition of mystery badge puzzles.


DEF CON’s official convention badge is a treasure trove of mysteries. Attendees at this weekend’s Las Vegas hacking convention received a skull-shaped badge, complete with a mini processor, buttons, and printed codes. What’s more, the skull seems to respond to the Konami code, the famous cheat for getting more lives on 1987 game Contra.

Each year, community member 1o57 designs a new badge, which functions as both the attendees’ pass into the convention and a complicated puzzle-solving game. Groups of attendees form teams and race to be the first ones to solve the puzzle.

The previous convention’s winners were team Council of Nine, when the convention badge was a vinyl recording of a man’s voice reading out the Hacker’s Manifesto, among other clues. Council of Nine went on a wild adventure around the conference to try and claim victory, eventually managing to break a cryptograph and retrieve an email address, completing the challenge.

Like many that came before them, Council of Nine were awarded the DEF CON black badge, a coveted trophy that grants the holder free lifetime access to all future events. Described as a “powerful talisman,” the black badge is awarded to winners of certain elite competitions, but which competitions are eligible varies from year to year. Winning the badge contest does not guarantee victory.

This year’s badge looks set to continue the tradition. HackADay discovered that the badge contains a computer processor, complete with tiny amounts of storage, RAM, and a battery. Inside the copper layer is some indecipherable text.

The skull also seems to recognize the Konami code, which can be performed on simple six-button controllers like those on Gameboys or early video game consoles by pressing UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, and then, if applicable, START:

But this is just the beginning. On the DEF CON media site, under a folder named “DEF CON 24 badge contest,” there are two files. One is named “Origin-Story.txt,” and inside the file is the winning short story entry for a DEF CON forum competition. The winner received a free badge and entry to the convention.

The other, named “1o57.rar,” (remember that name?) is a compressed file at around 3 megabytes. Opening the file with The Unarchiver, a free app for Mac, reveals a password box. Attempting to guess the password appears to be fruitless. The app complains that the file is incomplete. The same two files appear in the convention’s materials torrent, under the file path “/Extras/1o57.”

What does it all mean? Nobody knows, but with some of the best minds in solving riddles attending the show, it may not be long before all is revealed.

DEF CON 24 is currently underway until August 7, at Paris and Bally’s in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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