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MozFest: Keeping the Internet Free!

Mozfest is a three-day festival which takes place in London each year, founded by Mozilla -  the champions of the Internet. Mozilla are a not-for-profit organisation who have a mission to keep the internet ‘healthy, open and accessible to all’ and that mission is nowhere seen more evidently than at Mozfest: three days of code, tech, toys and hacking – all in the spirit of openness, sharing knowledge and making the Information Age a better place for everyone.  I had the privilege of escorting a crew of HackLab Sidekicks over the course of the weekend while they ran amok, checked out as many futuristic and far-out internet technologies as they could, and even led some workshops themselves; teaching others to create with code and lending the benefit of their knowledge to those who were seeking it. It was a wholly positive experience for everyone who was involved.

We spent the first afternoon of the festival preparing for the doors to open on the main event on Saturday morning; one of the jobs we were given was to create posters and advertising for our workshops and place them around the building where people could see them. The guys wasted no time in creating a range of ads for their sessions and sticking them up in the elevators, on the stairs…even in the toilets! We managed to find some time in the afternoon to dig up a notepad and fold several of those little paper helicopters you used to create at school. We all took the lift to the highest balcony overlooking the main entry hall and released our pile of paper on the unsuspecting crown in the entry hall– the looks of wonderment on the faces of the people below as they watched a cloud of colourful paper flowers delicately spinning their way to the floor was priceless.

The group of us who went down consisted of TheHolyRobin, Elliot Payne and S3th The Script Kiddie – three of our sidekicks who have some knowhow in varied and different parts of the tech industry, which was really apparent in the workshops they chose to deliver.

Elliot ran a group of people of all ages through the easiest way to create a Pirate Radio Station using a Raspberry Pi: we had a few technical hitches through the day due to running a different distro of Raspbian than we were used to at the festival, so the group of us were hunkered down in a small room we commandeered in the ‘Youth Zone’ to try and debug the issue. It took us a little while, but before long, the lads had created a 5 metre antenna from jumper cables and had linked it into one of the building’s Ethernet ports to try and boost their signal through the wiring in the walls. As it turns out, that worked a treat! The boys spent an hour or so finding every nook and cranny in the awesome Ravensbourne building to check whether their signal reached the highest landing and the lowest cupboard…and you know what? It did!

S3th, HackLab’s newest Sidekick, wanted to teach the peeps how to break into a protected Wi-Fi router using Kali Linux and Fern. The advertising the guys had done the previous day had clearly done it’s job - there was a buzz all over the festival about the kid who was going to teach people how to crack Wi-Fi! Typically, we also had difficulties with getting his workshop to work (we had it working the day before…we swear!) so he though quickly on his feet and changed up his workshop to be about using Kali NetHunter to run a Man In The Middle Attack on everyone connected to the network by creating an ‘evil access point’ with his phone. He cast his phone display to the main screen in the room and showed his audience all of their IP addresses and web traffic in real time. Needless to say; the adults who came to see the (suddenly notorious) hackerkid were sufficiently impressed and terrified at his tech-fu.

TheHolyRobin, as always, was on top form and supplying the morale for the whole crew. I’ll let him speak for himself on MozFest:

“What was good about MozFest? Well, the general atmosphere of the place was phenomenal! People going ‘round being themselves, helping friends out, helping strangers out and having a laugh whilst also getting their work done. I found it awesome how you could learn so much about the future of technology and VR in such a short time. It was, overall, an awesome experience! Funny story actually; we (HackLab) made loads of paper helicopters and dropped them from the top level of the building! The guys hosting MozFest were super chill about it too! It was hilarious to see the people below take out their phones, gasp and start videoing it.”

If you haven’t been to MozFest before, I can highly recommend it. If you’re a teacher – they have school group support, if you’re a parent – they can help you get to grips with all the newfangled gizmo-whatsits and tech that your kids are always on about, and if you’re a kid – it’s the best fun you can have whilst learning! Get amongst it!