I'm Alexander James Taylor, a former Graphic Designer turned Reverse Engineer and Hacker. All I want in life is to understand how everything works. And, I'll admit - it's mostly because I want to design something better.
Why did I give up being a Graphic Designer, you ask? Well, maybe you should try spending 8 hours a day painstakingly coloring advertisements red and green with only the hexadecimal codes to go by. And retouching grainy "beauty shots" of products taken by really poor photographers is like polishing a turd. Why even bother?
Don't get me wrong - pretending Photoshop was StarCraft with all those hotkeys I memorized was fun. But, I wasn't really cut out for the whole Graphic Design thing. That's why, in 2007, I graduated from High School, quit being a Graphic Designer, and attended the University of South Florida for Physics.
Despite spending my childhood trying to do the direct opposite of whatever my father did, I realized that, like him, my real passion in life was for electronics. I decided, then and there, that I wanted to design the next generation of processors - serious physics stuff. In 2009, I finally took "Computational Physics" as a course. Unfortunately, rather than being taught in C (as I'd been lead to believe by the professor who normally taught it), it was taught by someone else in Octave. I got an A, but it was a miserable experience (just like working with any other GNU project).
That's when I joined the Whitehatters Computer Security Club at USF and was introduced to the wild world of hacking into computers - without all the jail time. I switched majors to Computer Engineering, became president of WCSC, and helped qualify us for events like the CSAW 2010 Finals. I also spent time as an intern at Sypris Electronics doing Information Assurance work (which, I can assure you, is insanely boring) during my senior year.
As it turns out, most software is like those grainy photos I had to work with as a Graphic Designer. It's all just a pile of melting snowflakes everyone is feverishly trying, day in and day out, to turn into a proper working system. So, in 2011, I was hired full-time to reverse engineer a bunch of those half-baked systems and point out all their flaws. If you're reading between the lines here, this is exactly what it sounds like: I'm paid to be an asshole.
I'm apparently pretty good at it? I've been invited to two world-class hacking teams in the past: Hates Irony (2011-2013) and Men in Black Hats (2013-2015). As a result, I've played in the DEFCON CTF Finals 4 times now. I haven't won yet, but I did manage 2nd place in 2013! In 2012, I was invited to be a CSAW judge (no, my "recon" flag is not on this page) and in 2016 I was invited to run the DEFCON CTF Finals themselves! I also used to help run Ghost in the Shellcode from 2012-2015 as well. Playing and running these events is a large part of why I have my particular skill set.
Spending all day looking at code, schematics, and technical manuals is exhausting, though. That's why I've filled the rest of my life up with other, better-designed things! In 2011 I married the love of my life, Kestrel Michaud. We started dating in High School (2005), where we refereed soccer together. She's a magnificent illustrator and artist that specializes in Fabric Art.
We also have two wonderfully cute Tibetan
Terriers Terrors, Obi-Wan and Revan. I only ever had fish and birds
as pets growing up, most of which my mother inadvertently killed, but having dogs is pretty great! At least, it was,
before Kestrel taught them the command, "Go Wake Up Alex!" Translated into puppy-speak, this evidently means, "Go jump
on top of my lazy husband and lick his face until he physically rolls out of the bed and onto the floor." My personal
advice? Never marry someone who used to foster dogs - especially if they like waking up earlier than you do.
Kestrel also shares one of my other obsessions: Games! My earliest memories are of my mother and I playing The Legend of Zelda together on the NES (and yes, you've assumed correctly - my controller wasn't actually plugged in). I spent a ridiculous amount of my childhood playing card and video games. They've helped me through a lot in life. When I finally get bored with telling everyone they're wrong, I plan on releasing my own game some day. I'm also hoping to be a super-cool e-sports star, too, now that it's finally a thing. I got somewhere around 800th place in Smash 4 at CEO 2016, so clearly the only way to go is up!
In addition to the games themselves, I'm also obsessed with their music (and with music in general). I've spent a good chunk of time every year since 2005 trying to compose things. It's difficult, since I can't actually read music or play an instrument (yet), but I'm getting there! In 2015, I was given the opportunity to compose the soundtrack to Pwn Adventure Z - a zombie survival game for the NES. It was a wonderful experience and I can't wait to repeat it!
Anyway, all this stuff is pretty brain-intensive and usually involves a lot of personal stress. (And definitely not because of my poor time management skills.) That's why it's probably good that I'm also obsessed with tea, which other smart people tell me will help with that. I'm not sure if it does or not, but it tastes great! One day I'll probably kick back in the boonies somewhere and go start a tea plantation (like this one I visited in Charleston, South Carolina). But, I've got a lot left to accomplish before then.