DEFCON Turns 20

DEFCON, the annual hacker bacchanal, billed as the world’s largest gathering of hackers grew up a little more this year as it entered its 3rd decade.   It’s still one of the wildest, quirkiest, geekiest tech conferences you’ll ever go to; one third party, one third big mind meet-up, one third hacker bragfest; like me, it’s definitely not a teenager anymore.   The convention has evolved over the years, become a little more like its more well-heeled cousin Blackhat and a little less like the anarchist, how to dodge the feds Con that it started as 20 years ago.   I’ve only been coming for a little over half of that; DEFCON 9 was my first, but I feel like I’ve grown up with it in my profession along with a nascent industry.   One of the notable differences in tone is the presence on the schedule of more official US government speakers.  This year, one of the keynotes was given by the director of the NSA, unthinkable by both the conference organizers and the agency back in the day.  You definitely get the feel that many of the attendees have evolved their views on Big Brother and Big Business, many of them are now working for the same and not as open to unfettered piracy of their work and pilfering of their networks.  Here is a list of other things that have changed and some that stayed the same at DEFCON:

Still there:  boring, monotonic speakers about interesting subjects

Gone:  Drunk Speakers (least as far as I could tell)

Still there:  Who-Concert like crowds in the hallways

Gone:  Heat stroke inducing temperatures in the session rooms

Still there:  Expensive food

Gone:  Bad, expensive food

Still there:  Goons (the redshirted security guys) yelling

Gone:  Goons beating up unruly attendees

Still there:  lots of spooky types (NSA, CIA, etc.)

Gone:  Spot the Fed contest (just go to their booth)

 

More dispatches from the front as the con goes on…

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Tony Howlett

Tony Howlett is CTO of Network Security Services, a network consulting firm. He is a CISSP and a GSNA.
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