Blackhat & DefCon

I spent the past week attending two sweet network security conferences in Las Vegas, BlackHat and DefCon respectively.  Essentially these are conferences for hackers.  It was a great time and revealing to say the least. 

First, you need to secure your networks and your computer.  Use anti-virus, firewalls, crowbars, chastity belts, or whatever it takes.  Check to see what ports are open on computer, and close all but the essential ones that you need.  Download tools to help you monitor your network traffic like Wireshark.  Avoid social networking sites, or at least clicking on videos or even images. 

However, all is not dire.  If you are sufficiently secured, you can still do all the fun stuff you like to do on the internet.  Additionally, things are getting harder and harder for hackers to force their way onto your system, arguably the most effective system intrusions occur by you “inviting” them…e.g. opening an infected video, opening an email attachement from someone you don’t know, or browsing to sketchy sites. Now, I am not an expert on network security in any sense of the imagination.  But I do know that simple defenses can make a world difference.  So apply them. 

So onto my observations from the conferences.  BlackHat and DefCon are two completely distinct and different conferences despite essentially covering the same information.  BlackHat is held at Ceasers Palace, costs an arm and a leg, offers training courses, and has a more professional feel.  It is marketed to professional network security people. 

DefCon, on the other hand, is exactly what most people think of when you think of hackers, or at least I do.  It is like a big party.  It is held in the Riviera Hotel, largely a dive of a hotel (although they did remodel the rooms and my room was quite nice, although my bathroom licked).  There were people walking around with full bottles of Jack Daniels, people straight out of the Matrix, presenters cursing at the crowd, and various hacking contests (which were pretty sweet!).  DefCon is perfect for people watching.  It is like having the locals of Santa Cruz all piled together in one hotel.  Oh, and DefCon is dirt cheap, only $250.00 for 3 days! 

I highly recommend these conferences to anyone who works in IT.  A whole week of this stuff was a lot, almost too much, but it was a great experience.  I learned more at BlackHat, but DefCon was way more fun. 

To the organizers:  Keep up the good work!  You do a fantastic job.


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