So I’ve returned from Blackhat & Defcon 2012, and I’ve had a week to let it all sink in. I met more people than I can recall, and most of the people on my “must meet” list. I came away with some good and some bad things from the trip, including the city, sites, and people I interacted with.
The trip started off pretty tame, made it to Vegas, deplaned, and noticed that there were slot machines in the airport. Not unexpected, but what was unexpected was the long lines I was to encounter for most of my trip. After I left the baggage claim, there were lines for cabs, lines to check in the hotel, lines for lines. It was crazy. Being someone that doesn’t do well in crushing amounts of people, I was a little unnerved. I headed to Blackhat and my first time in Vegas, first time at a major conference, after the keynote speech ended, there was a mass of people trying to get to their next talk/meeting/vendor discussion. It took me a few days (read: until Defcon) to realize that unless you *really* have to see some talk, if you don’t make it, you don’t. Hallway con is definitely worth it as an alternate. You get to meet quite a few interesting people, and make some connections that continue via social media after the conference. Defcon was definitely a better time for me. I felt more relaxed, I didn’t feel like I was going to wander into the wrong area, and could just soak in the atmosphere.
Another thing that shocked this kid from the South-side of Chicago is the prices for everything. My company put me in the Bellagio for the week, and the food and drinks they had were through the roof! I’m used to hitting the local McD’s if I need breakfast. I went to the local Cafe there, and I could have eaten fast-food breakfast for a week on the cost of one meal. I finally did find some lesser expensive things to eat, but it was a shock to the system.
The big thing that I would tell to someone going to Blackhat, Defcon, or BsidesLV for the first time though, is meet people. I finally got to meet some of the big names in our infosec community and they are an amazing group of people. They were extremely helpful, and even just sitting and talking with them gives you a sense that our industry is heading in the right direction. I won’t name everyone that I was impressed by because there are too many, but the thing that I was most thankful for, was that I didn’t meet any “rockstars”. Everyone was willing to take the time and say “hi, glad you made it”, talk for a few minutes, etc. Even those people who were working at one of the conferences were friendly and approachable. I love this industry and hope to be working in it until someone kicks me out 🙂