The Topsy Project for DEFCON 30

  • Mike
  • September 4, 2022

This year at DEFCON, the hacker convention, I joined the Hard Hat Brigade with Topsy, a hard hat that entertains while scanning the wifi environment.

Here’s a video I made walking through the basics:

I didn’t cover it specifically in the video, but you might be asking: “Um, why?” My answer is: “Why not?!” For starters DEFCON is the perfect place to rock a weird hard hat that is scanning the wifi, which is what the guys with the Hard Hat Brigade have been doing for years. Additionally, I think it’s really important to make weird stuff! Building weird stuff stretches your skill level to new and unexpected places in a fun and relaxed way.

Here’s a few additional details:

  • The Adafruit project I mentioned in the video can be found here. I used their 3d printed designs, and then modified them after the fact to add set screws and mount them to the hard hat.
  • When Topsy isn’t around a trusted wifi network, such as my home network, it emits a very low signal wifi network of its own. Why? It allows me to access and push code tweaks to the Raspberry Pi while I’m out and about (I used this a few times at Defcon) and it also allows me to access the remote control interface so I can override the current logic and control the eyes. You can see a video of me doing that on my Twitter profile.
  • Yes, the mustache helps.
  • The wifi adapter is an Alfa AC1200 (AWUS036ACM)
  • The GPS adapter is this generic one.

Topsy the hard hat was really successful. I had so many great reactions and quick conversations with a ton of different people and I will certainly bring him back (in a 2.0 version) next year!


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