How to Survive and Thrive at DEFCON: Part 1
First a little background:
My Name is Gater_Byte and this is my opinion on how to do DEFCON Right!
The first DEFCON I attended was 17 and haven’t missed one since,
and I have been helping out with the DCDARK.NET group for the last 4 years.
So I am going to impart some con wisdom that I have learned over the years.
If this is your first DEFCON, you are in for a treat, It’s the 25th anniversary of DEFCON!
This is a condensed list of things to help you get started.
#1 Find out how many days you want to be in Vegas.
BSides LV is on July 25 – July 26, DEFCON is officially from July 27 – July 30. For those who have deep pockets or get your corporate overlords to pay for your trip, you can get into Blackhat before DEFCON.
#2 Hotel: If you haven’t got a room yet, you need to.
For DEFCON, the sooner you get the room the better. Some folks get the room booked for the next year at the end of the con. If you are on a budget, there are plenty of option, including splitting a room. You do not have to stay at the con hotel, but someplace within 20 minute walking distance is a good idea. You still might be able to use the DEFCON block rate in one of their partnered casinos.
#3 Flight or car rental
After you have Hotel booked plan your travel to get to the con in time, with some extra time for any unplanned issues. A cheap way to get there is to carpool with other folks that are interested in going. On Flights, book as early as you can. In my case I have started the trip the day before, and then rested up once I got there, and plan on heading home the day after to miss the major traffic. You are NOT GOING TO GET OUT OF VEGAS QUICKLY if you are driving back home on Sunday afternoon. Everyone and their Grandmother is trying to get back home for the work week on Sunday evening.
#4 Look at the schedule
Right about this time, 2 months before the con, they start announcing more of the talks. Look at which talks you really want to see. I would strongly suggest, don’t go booking all your time in talks. They are important, but most of them will be online with-in a few months on youtube or you can buy the “boxed set” and have it 2 weeks after the con. I would suggest you go to the villages, workshops, contest, Hallcon (Waiting to get into a room) and the few talks that are not recorded Like SKYTALKS. If you are looking to get a little bit of everything, you will want to checkout the DEFCON 101 Track and the DCDARK.NET contest.
#5 Get the time off
Next you will need to clear with your employer, Significant other, Parents or whoever to make sure you can go. I would strongly suggest using a template like RSA or BLACKHAT justification letters you plan to make a request for your work to pay for it. Why do I say to do this after booking? Those other parts go by fast, and if you can’t make it to DEFCON, there is a high probability that someone else who you know is going.
#6 Know how much cash you need to have on hand
Just to get into the con you will need to fork up $260 CASH, No Debit, No Credit, No Bitcoin, cold hard cash. You might want to get DEFCON Swag, which is also cash only, if you are looking for prices, look at the DEFCON Ebay page and get an idea of what things will cost. Vendors inside of the con don’t get opened to the Public until Friday morning. Some take Plastic, but again, Cash is king.
#7 You need to eat
If you are going on a budget, you can pack High Protein Energy Bars, Beef Jerky, & Nuts instead of going out to eat. There are some great places to eat, Like one of my personal favorites, Burger Brasserie in Paris. I make it a point to go each year, amazing burgers and killer milkshakes.
Yes this is a hacker con, so there will be lots of drinking. I have talked with the staff of the different casinos over the years, and they have told me that We are some of the best behaved from a lot of conferences. But if the Bar scene isn’t your thing, an ice chest in your room with your own boo’s is just as good with a few friends.
#9 Get involved
DEFCON is, what you put into it. Talk to other people in line ( aka #LINECON), because you will be in lines one way or another. If you talk to someone, you have made an acquaintance, if you buy someone a drink, you have made a friend. This is by far the most important thing to do at the con. If you Lurk, and don’t engage, you will not have the full con experience. Stay humble in this crowd, if you don’t know about something, ask questions instead of faking it. There are a lot of people willing to teach you something new. Don’t spoil that opportunity by acting like a know-it-all (1337 h4x0r attitude). Come to learn something.
This is barely scrapping the surface,
but there is the “3-2-1 RULE” at DEFCON.
You need at least:
3 hours of sleep
2 meals a day
There is more to cover but for now, I’ll leave you with both the
Till I See You Online,