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CalPoly News: Cal Poly to Bring Learn by Doing to Global Hacker Convention in August

Updated: Jun 17, 2021

California Cybersecurity Institute Designs Immersive Training Environment for Biohacking Village at DEF CON 27 (

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly’s California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI) and global healthcare company Abbott will bring a hands-on experience to this year’s Biohacking Village at DEF CON, one of the world’s largest hacker conventions, Aug. 8-11 in Las Vegas. 

With funding and technical support from Abbott, CCI will design an immersive hospital set with separate rooms for radiology and a picture archiving and communication system, a pharmacy, laboratory, surgical room, and patient/ICU/neonatal unit. Conference attendees will be challenged to defend the hospital from a cyberattack through “Capture the Flag” exercises that ultimately aim to find solutions to cybersecurity risks in the public healthcare system. 

“Cal Poly students, faculty and staff are excited to participate in this year’s conference and bring Learn by Doing into an immersive, medical set design that will be featured at one of the world’s premier cyber conferences,” CCI Program Manager Martin Minnich said.

The Biohacking Village seeks to preserve human life, patient safety and trustworthiness of medical devices by building a high-trust, high-collaboration environment among willing allies across healthcare.

“The best way to strengthen the security of connected medical devices is for all of us in the healthcare community to work together,” said Abbott Divisional Vice President, Product Security Chris Tyberg . “Abbott is proud to partner with Cal Poly at DEF CON in support of the Biohacking Village and the #WeHeartHackers initiative, launched earlier this year by FDA and I Am the Cavalry. Collaboration between security researchers, the FDA, hospitals and manufacturers is critical as we work to bring the most secure medical devices to patients.”

Cal Poly students helped to create the set design and a digital comic book-style story that will be handed out to DEF CON attendees who visit the Biohacking Village. Last year, over 5,000 visitors attended the Biohacking Village at DEF CON with interests in security, medical, technology, engineering, devices, and fabrication. 

“My involvement with the CCI, the Biohacking Village and DEF CON has been amazing,” said Jess MacMillan, a liberal arts and engineering studies major who helped coordinate the story and set design for the CCI. “During this experience, I have increased my cyber fluency and gained insight to the many challenges that exist in the medical environment.” 

Learn more about the Biohacking Village at Learn more about Cal Poly’s CCI at Media are invited to view the set design from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at Camp San Luis Obispo. To gain access to the base, contact CCI Director for Industry Outreach Jimmy Baker at or 805-756-2948.

Photo information: Cal Poly’s Cybersecurity Institute, with funding and technical support from global healthcare company Abbott, bring an immersive hospital set for one of the world’s largest hacker conventions from Aug. 8-11 in Las Vegas. The set includes a detailed laboratory and a surgical room, shown in these photos.

Contact: Jimmy Baker  805-756-2948;

Aug. 1, 2019

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