DEFCON 23 was an outstanding event this year. I was not originally planning to attend Black Hat or DEFCON this year. As it usually happens, the event begins to draw near, I start receiving the vendor invites. Then my friends start making arrangements to meet. At the last minute, I cave in, make reservations, book a flight, and I’m on my way. I should know better by now and plan on attending Black HatDEFCON and RSA every year.
This is the first time I purchased tickets directly at DEFCON as opposed to purchasing them at Black Hat electronically. When you purchase tickets at the event you must wait in line and it’s cash only. The line took me about 1.5 hours or so. I was surprised the line went so efficiently since there were about 14,000 attendees. I also made a few friends in line. Always love to talk to people and learn what interests them, listen to their security war stories.
The start of the conference was chaotic. The halls were super crowed. Goons (crowd control) were screaming at the top of their lungs to establish rules of the road for the hall ways, stay to the right, pass to the left. Although within a short amount of time order was established and the crowds moved efficiently between sessions. In previous years the event was held at the Rio. This year DEFCON was held at Bally’s and Paris. I expected some confusion but the event was very efficient given the changes and number of people. The Caesars venue would be better but it would be tough to keep the prices of the tickets down. A DEFCON 23 ticket this year sets you back $230 US, a bargain for a technology conference these days.
Most of the value of the conference to me is spending time with my friends. I follow the news and current events pretty closely so there’s not a lot that surprises me at conferences these days. However, I’m always learning new things from my colleagues. If you ever think your an expert, and you may be, you will be humbled when you meet other experts in their field at these events. This was the case for me when I got to meet Renderman this year. Renderman presented on ADS-B, an air traffic telemetry protocol, in a DEFCON 20 session entitled, “DEFCON 20: Hacker + Airplanes = No Good Can Come Of This”. His work was particularly interesting to me since I did a similar project on the Raspberry PI platform, “Tracking Aircraft on the Raspberry PI”. At the time I did my project I didn’t know about Renderman’s project. Anyway, I got to meet Renderman and he introduced me to his friends. I was shit tons of fun to hang at his table for a few mins and meet his friends. That’s what DEFCON’s all about to me. Meeting old friends, making new friends, and learning some new stuff. I made another new friend purely by chance, Adam Shostack, Photo 2.
I also meet several vendors like Whitehat, Denim, and Cigital, and more. Robert Hansen, Photo 3, works for Whitehat these days but I’ve know him for years. Interesting to learn about the projects and challenges everyone’s working on. In a conversation with another unnamed researcher, I mentioned how I didn’t appreciate the US government using security conferences as a platform to push their political security agendas. The researcher mentioned that he understood but said that many of the researchers are working or have worked for the government. In fact, darktangent, the conference founder works for DARPA a government group. Also that the government is comprised of many different agencies, each with different viewpoints and moral compasses. There really is no single point of view. He makes a good point but I’m not sure I subscribe. Still we can’t give up on our government and we can’t acquiesce. Security and privacy is one of the largest unrecognized social concerns of today.
As I mentioned I did not attend Black Hat this year but I did find the keynote online. Interesting listening to darktangent and Jennifer Granick talk about the larger social issues around security and privacy.
There also a DEFCON documentary you may want to see. Next, is probably the worlds shittest horror movie ever. After returning from the conference I turned on the TV. Purely by chance my TV was tuned to Chiller Tv and Feast 3: The Happy Finish (jump to 26:00mins) was playing. How do you unwatch something? Please tell me. ;o)