Hacking from Paradise: Attending IETF Hackathon Remotely

While the onsite participants were working under snowy conditions, we had great weather in Mauritius!

By: Loganaden Velvindron

Date: March 29, 2018

line break image

The IETF 101 hackathon had a record number of participants. We reached around 250 participants in total! The spread of the Internet around the world has made it possible for almost anybody with the required skills to get involved. We believe that many people underestimate the benefits of remote participation in events such as this and I’d like to share our experience.

Before IETF 101 took place, we had exchanges with the Transport Layer Security (TLS) working group regarding TLS 1.3. We decided to try to lead a TLS 1.3 hackathon remotely. After speaking to the organiser of the IETF hackathon, we made a request for the creation of a jabber channel and fleshed out the objectives on the wiki. Additionally, we made a call for participants on the hackathon mailing list, as well as the AFNOG and IETF-Africa mailing list. One of the mistakes we made was making the call late. This did not allow much time for potential participants to get ready – we will do our best to co-ordinate better next time!

We were able to gather 8 participants from Mauritius for our TLS 1.3 project: Pirabarlen Cheenaramen, Nitin J Mutkawoa, Codarren Velvindron, Muzzafar Auhammud, Yasir Auleear, Rahul Golam, Nigel Yong Sao Young, Yash Paupiah and myself. Many of us are from a Mauritian group known as hackers.mu. One participant from Mauritius – Akhil Maulloo – worked on an http451 module for Drupal, and I dedicated half of my time to the DNS Private Exchange (DPRIVE) project.

The work accomplished during the IETF 101 hackathon spanned across development libraries such as Eclipse Paho (an IoT library for secure machine-to-machine communication), development tools such as git and mercurial, and popular https implementations such as aria2 and wget. Additionally, we worked on TLS proxies such as Hitch, and enterprise tools that lacked TLS 1.3 support such as the nagios plugins collection. We updated benchmarking tools such as httperf to ship with TLS 1.3 support. Several commits have been reviewed and merged by upstream projects, while others are currently pending reviews. I spent some of my time working on EDNS(0) padding support for pydig. Akhil Maulloo worked on an initial http451 module for Drupal, which still needs more work to reach feature parity with the WordPress http451 module.

We faced some interesting challenges with the TLS 1.3 handshake with code that would at times change cipher configuration in ways that would cause handshakes to fail. Thanks to Wireshark, we were able to nail down some of those issues, and come up with appropriate patches.

While the onsite participants were working under snowy conditions, we had great weather in Mauritius! We were worried about the possibility of poor quality audio during our presentation to the group. Despite some issues at the beginning, we were able to present remotely. With the possibility of rising IETF participation fees, remote participation will continue to grow in importance for engineers, students, and geeks from emerging countries wishing to participate in the IETF. This is a testament to how the growth of the Internet allows engineers from emerging countries to get involved in the IETF at very low cost and with productive results.