I’ve just recently returned from REcon 2012 and while I heard a couple people express that they had “heard” that some people were more disappointed with this year’s conference compared to prior ones, I personally really enjoyed it and felt it was the best one yet. I saw and enjoyed more of the lectures this year than I have in the past and seemed to have better interactions with the other conference attendees, better conversations, and generally enjoyed myself more than years past. Perhaps it was because this year Montreal wasn’t in the middle of a heat wave with no air conditioning in the hotel and the conference hotel didn’t catch fire (:
Archive for the ‘conference’ Category
A couple of weekends ago I hosted my first information security and hacking conference called InfoSec Southwest here in Austin, Texas. Having been attending such conferences for over fifteen years, and being involved with those in such capacities as speaker, volunteer, and sponsor, I had a general idea of the amount of work that this undertaking would be and luckily I wasn’t too far off in my estimation. Had this been much more work than I had expected, I just might have keeled over and died from over-stimulation and exhaustion…
A few years ago, the idea came up at our local AHA! meeting that our group should host an information security and/or hacking conference here in Austin, Texas. Some venue ideas were tossed around, some preliminary cost research done, but the idea never went much beyond that due to a number of reasons, foremost of which is that AHA! folk are very, very busy people, myself included. Back then, none of us simply had the time or resources to make such an undertaking happen. Fortunately, while I still don’t really have the time personally, I now have the resources in the way of paid staff that I can have plan and execute such an event, so mid-2011 or so I decided to do so.
Yes, that’s right… After many, many years of wanting to attend this conference, I finally made it. CanSecWest has been heralded as one of the best, top-quality security conferences that you can attend, and while I actually made it across the pond a few years ago to speak at EUSecWest, the logistics for getting up to CanSecWest just never worked out for me… until this year.
After a two year absence due to unavoidable other obligations like good friends’ weddings, I finally made it back to one of my favorite hacker conferences, Toorcon. San Diego is always beautiful when I happen to be there with nice weather and a cool mix of people, both locals and visitors who are there for the conference, and this year was no exception.
This last weekend I took a trip up to Montreal for REcon. If you’re unfamiliar with REcon, it’s a small security conference focused on topics most interesting to reverse engineers. As such, the talks are more technical than you will find at other more mainstream conferences like BlackHat or DEFCON, and generally require a certain level of expertise as a baseline. If you don’t understand assembly language, you’ll probably not get much out of at least half of the lectures.
After staying with some of my local Vegas friends during BlackHat, I went over and checked into the Riviera for DEFCON 17 on Thursday afternoon. After dropping my bags in my room and getting my temporary paper badge because they were already out of the electronic badges, I ran back up to my room for a bit and then headed over to the Microsoft party which I already wrote about in my BlackHat USA 2009 post. After an extremely long night I crashed in the early morning and slept through most of the first day of DEFCON talks. I did however catch Richard Thieme’s talk about UFOlogy, which was one of the talks I really wanted to see.
Shortly after Richard’s talk and some discussion with friends about what to do for dinner, I started not feeling well so I went back up to my room. After an hour or two I knew I really was sick because I started getting the fever sweats, cold chills, and headache, so I ordered some room service since I probably needed to eat, called it a night and went to sleep. I stayed in bed pretty much all day Saturday and only came downstairs once in the afternoon during the conference to speak during the Metasploit track, and then went right back upstairs to my room. By then I had a horrible cough and chest congestion, but was feeling much better regardless, so I decided to take a walk for a couple hours and let the dry desert air into my lungs for a bit.
I hadn’t yet walked the length of the Strip this visit, and also hadn’t eaten a FatBurger, both of which are personal Vegas traditions. Since I was running out of days in Vegas during which to accomplish these, I decided to walk from the Riviera up on the North end of the Strip all the way down to FatBurger which is near the South end of the strip, get a burger, and then walk back, which took around 2.5 hours and immensely helped my lungs and cough.
By the time I got back to the Riviera, I was feeling well enough to attend some parties, so I went up to the Penthouse for a while to check out the IOActive Freak Show party for a bit. It was similar to last year’s party, but had some new attractions so that wasn’t too bad. I tried to dance for a bit but my chest cold was severely holding me back since I could only dance for a few minutes before not being able to breathe. I left that party shortly after Keith went on since I couldn’t really dance and he started off with tracks that were a little too glitchy for my taste anyhow. Unfortunately I missed the fire dancer at the IOActive party who had a fire hoop like my friend Angi’s, but living in Austin surrounded by burners I think I’m a bit spoiled regarding fire spinning/dancing/performance anyhow. After leaving the Penthouse I took the Ninja Shuttle over to the Ninja Party and hung out there for a few hours talking to friends and waiting in line at the bar until I decided not to push my recent health luck and went back to my room at the Riviera and went to sleep.
On Sunday I slept a little late still trying to fully recover until I needed to check out of my room. Unfortunately this meant that I missed Richard Thieme’s other talk on BioHacking, but I did manage to catch a few more of the talks before I had to head to the airport to catch my plane back to Austin. You can read my thoughts on the talks that I saw below:
Last week and through the weekend I was in Las Vegas for this year’s annual block of hacker conferences, BlackHat USA and DEFCON. This year was a bit different for me as my employer no longer covers conference expenses (even if you’re speaking!), so since I was there not representing a company and entirely on my own dime, I stayed with some local friends for the first half of my stay and did a lot less gambling… none actually. My gracious hosts did a lot of ferrying me around for the first half of my stay as well to help me avoid cab fares.
One of the highlights of BlackHat was obviously the Pwnie Awards. This industry awards ceremony, highlighting the successes and failures of the security industry of the past year, has quickly become one of my favorite parts of BlackHat. If you’re interested, you can find this year’s nominees and winners listed over at the Pwnie Awards website. The impromptu dinner afterward was very enjoyable as well, where I shared a meal with the likes of the lovely Shyama Rose, that beef-hunk (nsfw) Alex Sotirov, Pusscat, who needs no introduction, the code machine I call a boss, HD Moore, some d00d from Rhode Island, slow, and a slew of other interesting and intelligent people.
I didn’t make it to many parties this year, but one of the few BlackHat parties that I did make it to was the Microsoft party over at Treasure Island. An awesome mix of people made for some good conversations, but the music indoors was horrible… The DJ was playing all kinds of early-90’s tunes like Bel Biv Devoe, Boys II Men, etc. Outside the music was much better (house!) except that the DJ kept having to stop the music for any number of reasons, the longest of which being the Pirate show going off just outside the balcony on the waterfront between the club and the street.
Overall BlackHat was a fairly enjoyable experience. I would have liked to have seen more of the presentations but due to an extremely late night Wednesday night culminating in my friend locking himself out of his hotel suite, soaking wet, in his boxers, I ended up sleeping late on Thursday and then attempted to get over to DEFCON early to get registered and get one of the electronic badges to play with. You can however read my thoughts on the various presentations I did see below:
So apparently quite a few people have come to expect and enjoy my summaries of conferences I’ve attended, because I’ve already gotten a number of inquiries as to why I haven’t yet posted about this last weekend’s ToorCon. In short, it’s because I wasn’t there!
DEFCON is always entertaining as it’s the largest hacker conference in North America. Back to back with it’s corporate counterpart, Black Hat, it generally draws thousands of hacker-type people to Las Vegas every summer. The related parties, shenanigans, and drama surrounding it are legendary, and this year was no different.
Below are my thoughts on the talks I was able to attend.