If you work in InfoSec or consider yourself a hacker, then attending a conference is a great way to network with like-minded people, and sharpen your hacking skills with contests. Attending conferences can put you in touch with people you otherwise wouldn’t have met, and potentially elevate your career.
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
When: August 8 – 11 2019
DEF CON started in 1992 and is one of the oldest continuously running hacker conventions around, and also one of the largest. DEF CON features lots of speeches by industry professionals, as well as contests and even live music shows at night. It is a highly social event where talking to likeminded hackers will be a major part of the experience. Another interesting quirk is that you can only pay for tickets in cash since the attendees don’t want a paper trail to identify them.
From Reddit, and us here are some ‘Tips for a First Timer’ at DEF CON
- Don’t be afraid to talk to people
- User Reddit user MrKatov says: focus on the villages and the people. Almost all of the talks will be on youtube later (except the sky talks) so take advantage of the things you can’t get after defcon.
- Do a little homework by visiting the DEF CON website. The website has an FAQ section, with some very informative, as well as humorous responses. For example, in the ‘rules of DEF CON’ it states “Please refrain from doing anything that might jeopardize the conference or attendees such as lighting your hair on fire or throwing lit road flares in elevators.”
- Stay Hydrated, it is summer in Vegas so temperatures will be high and alcohol will be flowing, which will dehydrate you.
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
When: August 3-8 2019
Black Hat has often been nicknamed as the corporate version of DEF CON. DEF CON is aimed at all hackers, whether that’s a high up IT professional, or unknown script kiddies, as such, it is more informal. DEF CON charges a cheap flat rate for everyone on the door. Black Hat has a considerably higher price and is aimed at professionals. Federal agents and major corporations attend Black Hat, making it a great place to network for professionals.
Security Entrepreneur Phil Zimmerman defined the difference between the two conferences as follows. At Black Hat, you’d find lots of people who consider Edward Snowdon a traitor for his actions against the NSA. At DEF CON you’re more likely to hear “I think he broke the law, but I don’t think he is a traitor,”
There is also a Black Hat in Asia every year, held in Singapore.
Where: Louisville, Kentucky, USA
when: Sept 6-8 2019
DerbyCon has amassed a following of hackers, and is often called “baby DEF CON”. The talks at DerbyCon tend to be more on the technical side that the other two conferences, so it’s a good idea to know your stuff, rather than be a hacking tourist for this one. If you want to attend DerbyCon, this is your last year to do so, they put up a statement earlier this month saying that this will be their last year.
Reddit user dremspider gave his opinion on the conference:
“IMHO, it is my favorite conference. I have been to the first one and only missed one year. It is basically Defcon without the massive amount of people, long waits and having to snake through the casinos. The talks are always great and it is rare you can’t get in one if you want to see it. The CTFs and other challenges are top notch. Louisville is a fun place to visit for a week.”
Wild West Hackin’ Fest
Where: Deadwood, South Dakota, USA
When: (Unconfirmed): October 23-25 2019
This one is a little more fun and informal than others on the list, but provides lots of hands-on hacking as well as talks. Wild West Hackin’ Fest started in 2017 and has been steadily growing each year. If you visit the website you can see plenty of photos of the conference and the kind of fun to be had.
Where: Southfield, Michigan, USA
When: May 3 – 5 2019
Penguicon is a convention in southeastern Michigan designed originally to mix the communities of the science fiction fandom and Linux user groups. Penguicon has been described as a place where “hackers, makers, foodies, open source software junkies, anime buffs, and science fiction fans of all ages and backgrounds come together in a hotel for a weekend and totally blow the roof off.”
Honorable Mention: ShmooCon
ShmooCon, like Black Hat and DEF CON, is one of the bigger hacker conferences. It is also cheaper than the other two and is held in Washington DC every year. Unfortunately, the conference is held around 18 January, so 2020 will be the next conference.