As described at dcdark.net:
The DarkNet was inspired by a community concept of the same name presented in Daniel Suarez’s seminal books, “Daemon” and “Freedom.” In it, an autonomous artificial intelligence implemented by the visionary Matthew A. Sobol and activated by news of his death comes to “life” and begins recruiting people to embark on a mission that will change humanity forever. Sobol foresaw a clash between those who would use technology to centralize power in an elite few and those who would use it to empower individuals to maintain their autonomy, power and rights in an increasingly complex world.
At DefCon, the DarkNet Project team has come together to inspire the hacker and maker communities. Our primary goals are to promote community efforts in learning new technology and promoting good information security practices. We hold an event every year that challenges our agents to gather knowledge from all across the conference, from villages to other events to communities like DeafCon, and use it to compete for the top honor our community members can achieve. Just as in Sobol’s and Suarez’s vision, the highest form of competition does not merely consist in excellent individual achievement, but the degree to which an agent can help and raise up her fellow agents.
The 2017 DEFCON Darknet challenge involved binary exploitation, web exploitation, solving cryptography and logic puzzles, blockchain analysis, open source intelligence gathering, game hacking, WiFi cracking, hardware soldering and assembly, and very little sleep.
Participant: Benjamin Holland
Ranking: 14th/564 competitors (top 3%)
Example teaser puzzle from https://twitter.com/p4xm9z74/status/888875673623773184.
Solving the puzzle above and tracking down a stranger on Twitter to a hotel in Vegas rewarded players with tokens and a passphrase to attend a secret party the night before the competition.
This year’s DEFCON did not have an electronic badge, but the Darknet challenge did. Only you were required to assemble it yourself!
The completed badge is used to solve additional competition challenges and forms an ad hoc network with neighboring competitors.
The puzzles and scoreboard will remain live until next year’s competition. So if you missed out and still want to give it a try then head on over to dcdark.net.