The dust has settled and Def Con 26 is officially over. This year was my first time attending, and I thought I’d share with you 10 things to know before you go to Def Con 27 next year, if you’re a N00b like me.
1. The Last Temptation
As soon as you land in Vegas the temptation to gamble will descend upon you like a hacker finding an application with a “hidden” back door to exploit. Beware, slot machines are strategically placed throughout the airport to help relieve you of your funds. But, don’t do it! You’ll need that cash later to pay for entrance to Def Con and all the swag, badges, booze.
2. Hot Stuff
It’s super hot and humid in Las Vegas. So be sure to dress for the 100+ degree weather. They have water coolers at various locations at #defcon, but you might want to take a water bottle with you to fill up on the go.
3. Getting Around
Think you’ll need to rent a car or catch Uber to get around to #Defcon, #BSidesLV or #Blackhat? Think again! BSidesLV provides a bus that picks you up from the airport and transports you between all of the hotels for the entire #HackerSummerCamp week. It’s FREE! But you’re on your own for your return trip to the airport. Take Uber though, it’s much cheaper than the taxis.
4. Are We There Yet?
Defcon is a huge conference with up to 25,000 attendees each year. That means it is really crowded and held at large hotels that can accommodate a lot of people. And because it usually takes place at more than one hotel, you will be doing a lot of walking to get to wherever you are going whether it be a village talk, CTF or a Demo Lab. Make sure you take comfy shoes.
5. No Free Lunch
For your $280+ entrance free you get a nifty badge, BUT, lunch is not included. And, you don’t get a t-shirt either (or a receipt). However, you do get to stand in the extra long swag line for 30-60+ minutes (depending on when you go) and buy one. The hotel will of course have some food for sale, but it will be of low quality and super pricey. If your company is footing the bill, then no biggie. But if you’re there on your own dime, make sure you budget accordingly, or pack a lunch each day – if you dare.
6. Lines, Lines and More Lines
No matter where you go, or what you do at #defcon, you will inevitably have to stand in line. And not just any lines; excruciatingly long lines whether it is for food, swag, workshops or talks. The only place that there was no line was the women’s restroom – which was very telling.
7. What to Do? What to Do?
With all of the stuff going on at Defcon, there is no way you will be able to see it all. Oftentimes it’s because the venue is just too darn crowded. Because you don’t register for Defcon; just show up with cash in hand, the lines for talks, workshops, demos etc. are way too long. And so, if you don’t get in line early enough, you will not get into the event. There really should be a cap on attendance.
The best way to proceed is to plan to attend Defcon main stage, and maybe one or two villages, tops. You can probably find a little time to stand in the swag line between talks as well. If you choose to participate in one of the CTF challenges or workshops, then that will take up most of your time, and you may not be able to attend any of the other [daytime] events.
8. Swanky “Swag”
The Defcon swag is a little pricy with mugs starting at $20 and T-shirts $25 and up. The bags were $30-60. If you really want a souvenir from Def Con, go early because they sell out of the popular stuff quickly. Some of the villages had badges for sale as low as $20, while others were upwards of $300-400. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need no stinking badges!
9. Weird Is the New Normal
Beaver Cleaver is out, and the Munsters are in like flint! Remember how all the wacky looking members of the Munster family treated the “normal” looking blonde niece named Marilyn like she was the freak of the family? Welcome to Defcon, where the eccentric rule and you non-pink haired, non-tattooed, geeks are well..not cool. Just kidding! All are welcome at Defcon (and I do mean all). But if you are the skittish type around the um, interesting and unconventional, then you might just want to sit this one out. But, isn’t it great? Nowadays, everyday is Halloween!
10. Don’t Be Scared
There is a lot of hype around using burner phones and laptops at Defcon because the wifi network is “hostile.” Relax. No need to buy new toys because at the end of the day, as long as you are up-to-date on patches, disable wifi and bluetooth, and use a VPN, you should be good to go. Of course if you are super paranoid, by all means get yourself a throw away phone and an old laptop and head off to the greatest show on earth. #Defcon 27.