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Information Security Demo on TI-99/4a? You bet!

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I am really excited to have stumbled across this part of the AA forums (and the sub over on Reddit). I wanted to share something of interest with the group.

I work in the information security office at a college in North Carolina, and we have an annual event called “Securitycon” that involves guest speakers, panels, hacking challenges, lock picking, and a network capture the flag (CTF) competition. Over the last year or so (partly in thanks to Ready Player One) a number of students that intern in our department became interested in exploring older tech. I’ve demoed some systems and games for them but couldn’t figure out a way to merge their enthusiasm with modern information security projects. We had the idea of having a table or two with retro tech at the next iteration of Securitycon just as a curiosity to encourage kids to explore/preserve older tech, but it still didn’t line up with information security….Well then I found the recent Wagner Tech Talk on surfing the web with a TI-99/4a, which brought me here.

I realized that using the TIPI/FinalGROM/Stuarts Browser combo that I could have students follow clues to explore the use of covert channels with the specialized TI-99 markup language, “play” with old computers, and add a unique challenge to the CTF that requires the competitor to get up from the air-gapped CTF workstation, walk across the event to the retro computing table and interact with systems they otherwise might not.

So far I have acquired a functioning beige system, and have pre-ordered the FinalGROM from Arcade Shopper (big thanks for his communications, made it easy to find what I need). I still need to find a TIPI/32k sidecar combo, but the event isn’t until October, so I think my runway is long enough to make it happen.

Big thanks to this community for the work put in preserving the TI-99/4a and the continued development of new and exciting ways to enjoy the platform! I hope to use that work and development to hook some new fans :)

TL/DR: Using the TI-99/4a to demonstrate the use of covert channels at an upcoming information security event for college students. Hoping to also encourage interest from retro-enthused college kids in the platform and tech preservation. HUGE thanks to Jedimatt42 for the work he does, and thanks to Wagners Tech Talk for the high quality demonstrations!

Edited by themewsh
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We had our event on October 9 (https://securitycon.unc.edu) and it went really well. We had a little vintage computing lineup with some TRS-80s (Model 1, CoCo 1 & 2), and of course the TIPI connected TI-99. We used 99ml pages as an analog for the dark web and made one of the flags for the hacking competition a file on the TIPI web interface to illustrate how old systems can be serving up data you don't really realize and creating exposure.


The faculty and staff were more into the vintage computing than the students at the event, but the students from our office and the ones that did interact with it were having a blast playing with old hardware. Thanks for all the support here on the forums, I suspect the interns that haven't graduated by next year's event will want to do something again :)

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