I just got back from my first Black Hat conference! This may seem strange, that I've never been, but it always seemed to expensive and many of the talks were repeated at DefCon. My first DefCon was DC2 - I was still basically a kid. I could not drink nor gamble, but I had a blast year after year meeting super bright folks and learning neat hacks. Learning what I did at DefCon has definitely shaped my career - there's no way I would've ended up in a more than two decades long career in computer security without it.
Did DC have it's down sides? Yes, definitely. As noted by a woman on the "Beyond the Gender Gap" panel, it gets tiring "proving it again" (and again) every time I would walk into the room at DefCon. "Who's your boyfriend?" "I'm single" "Or, so you're a scene whore?" "No" "Oh, then you're a fed!"
Then I would have to proceed to prove my technical prowess over and over again. (best advice for men came from that panel: never start with "who are you here with?", but rather "What do you do?") [Note: I did have a boyfriend my first couple of DefCons, and later a husband - who did not come, as he wasn't interested in the con, but I was at other times single.]
DefCon also had amazing moments - here we are at DC9 in 2001. Babies! (I don't seem to have older pictures on my site - but I was there, usually with Artimage and Angus).
But, that didn't happen at Black Hat. Folks (men and women) spoke to me like a human. It was really nice. Other than when I went to the bar to meet one of my friends Tuesday night, nobody started at my chest. I was able to attend two women focused luncheons and meet lots of interesting and smart security focused women. Black Hat USA has a Code of Conduct, lots of staff, and plenty of time between sessions to network, charge batteries or go pee.
I want to thank Runa Sandvick who first of all gave an awesome talk on a wifi rifle (you know, we all need one) and gave me the free pass to attend!
Still surprising to see people drinking at 7:30 in the morning, and drinking EVERYWHERE (in the elevator a lot). Coming from California, all the smoking was strange, too. A guy sat next to me in a session "vaping" pot - really? Can't wait until break? Fortunately, the conference halls were non-smoking, so I escaped an asthma attack.
Overall, a very informative conference! I would highly recommend, for the very high caliber, true research talks.
Did you have a good time? Any stories to share?
Getting A Bad Vibe Here - Attn Parents: This post is not appropriate for young children. Or adults, really, but I won't tell if you won't. Since I know you're curious about the ...