Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Security Conference Wrap-Up

Summer is here and with it are a variety of hacker conferences. We’ve got Defcon, Black Hat, and my favorite The Last HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth, run by 2600).

Defcon is the longest running of the conferences, having been in Vegas since 1993, and having long been an interesting mix of the Hacker community and Law Enforcement. It’s three days of intense learning, hacking contests, games, all sorts of hacking related stuff, and that’s just the advertised events. I’ve heard a lot of stories of people going to Def Con and seeing things like cell-phone scanning going on behind closed doors. And it’s only $120 for the conference. Cheap as shit. I’m going to have to try to go next year.

Black Hat bills itself at “The World’s Premiere Techincal Security Conference”, and I’ll be honest there are some pretty intense sessions. Like the FasTrak system I discussed last week. My big problem with Black Hat is that it’s gotten to be too damn commercial, or maybe it always sort of was. It costs a few thousand to go, and that’s before Vegas hotel rates. Plus, they actually kicked out reporters for allegedly hacking. At a hacking conference. This would never happen at a real hackers conference. Might as well go to RSA, if you’re looking for such a watered down hacker environment.

Which brings me to HOPE. I talked about The Last HOPE a while back, expressing my dismay at possibly missing the last HOPE conference ever. Luckily, the owners of the Hotel Pennsylvania have been convinced not to raze the hotel, and The Next HOPE has been scheduled for 2010. My only complaint is that they didn’t make the obvious Star Wars joke.

Even better though, is that 2600 has made the audio of all the talks from The Last HOPE available for free download. I’m working my way through them, all 2.4 GiB (my ISP is going to be so pissed). But you can easily just pick and choose. When the video comes available, I’ll have to buy some of my favorite sessions.

This is why I love HOPE and Def Con. They’re more open than anything else, they exist to share knowledge, and they try to do it at as low a cost as possible. They’re about teaching and they’re about knowledge. I encourage everyone to download the talks from The Last HOPE. You’re bound to learn something, and that’s ultimately the whole point.