Cybersecurity is about protecting society from malicious activities in the digital world. What do criminals want? Ransom, reputational damages, shutting down systems, and more.
Whenever people ask me how I got into cybersecurity, I take them through a journey starting from my senior year in high school. I didn’t understand the concept at the time besides having to change computer settings to score higher on the security scoreboard. Capture the flag competitions became my thing throughout college. I played to learn and eventually landed my first cybersecurity job right after graduating from college. Here I am, 11 years later, since that first cybersecurity competition.
Last month, I went to Las Vegas… AGAIN, for the annual Hacker’s convention: Def Con.
Basic Things to Know
After years of experience and observations, here are some things to know before going to Def Con.
- Network: Meet people and finesse your way into events. There are company-sponsored events, and you can meet professionals to grow your network… And enhance your social engineering skills.
- Safety: Be cautious about your surroundings and be aware of your belongings. Everyone, no matter who you are, can get targeted for malicious purposes.
- Personal Security: Don’t be that person who connects to the free wifi. Get a VPN for the weekend. This is where the ultimate hackers go. Use RFID protection for your credit cards and personal badges.
- Cost: There are many hotels along the strip that can serve your budget. If you have to, check out the hotel block rates. Vegas does not have to be expensive unless you’re bougie.
- Comfortable Shoes: Expect A LOT of walking. You can walk about 9 miles per day on average. Add that with Vegas’ summer heat, your best bet is to wear comfortable running shoes. My feet were hurting to the point where I had to do a hot bath for my feet at night.
- BadgeCon: This literally a meme, but people line up for a badge similar to Black Friday. If you’re going with a group, have a designated duo. If you have a friend who happens to be a Goon… Skip the line.
- Bright and Early: If you plan to join some hot topic sessions, line up early. It was ridiculous how long lines can get. Seats fill up quickly because there are over 30,000 people in attendance.
- Diversity: Def Con is known for its diversity. There is a village for everyone. At the same time, some people will, unfortunately, harass you. Do not be afraid to report unsafe behavior.
- Self-Care: Wear deodorant. Shower daily.
- Swag: There will be a lot of free stickers and other free goodies. Be sure to bring a bag. When it comes to buying gear, I honestly recommend buying them online. It’s too much of a hassle having to carry things around.
A Hacker Homecoming
Right before Def Con, BlackHat, a formalized corporate version, took place. In all honesty, I like events more organized and feel like BlackHat is more my vibe. At the same time, I spent my earlier years downloading all of these hacker tools to learn for fun. In order to protect the good, you need to run in the shoes of the bad. To be honest, I get excited about cracking passwords and gaining access to systems.