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A Guide to Your First DEF CON

Left side dark background with title A Guide to Your First DEF CON right side images of DEF CON 30 badges in teal outline


DEF CON 30 is almost here, and it's your first time attending Hacker Summer Camp! You’ve packed your bags and made plans to connect with friends and colleagues, but you're still not sure how to navigate the maze of villages, presentations, workshops, social events, and more. You're in luck because DEF CON is part of our favorite week of the year. We’ve gathered our recommendations to get the most from your first DEF CON experience.

Know the Presentations

DEF CON has A LOT of presenters because it is one of the largest annual (and arguably most famous) hacker gatherings in the world. So, while it is great to wander the floor, explore, and see where the day takes you, it is equally smart to make a tentative schedule for presentations that you would like to catch in person. Check here to start planning.

Immerse Yourself in the Villages

DEF CON 30 has over 30 villages specializing in all different types of hacking! This is a great opportunity to connect more deeply with your current passions while exploring new topics that you’ve been intrigued by. Don’t forget to stop by the Red Team and Recon Villages where Bishop Fox is a sponsor.

Use Apps and Social Media

There is no shortage of online discussions about every aspect of DEF CON, including your first visit. Look at online communities like Reddit, Discord, Twitter, Telegram, and Slack for real-time information about DEF CON 30. Many villages have unique communication channels to follow, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Another way to prepare for your first DEF CON is to catch up on previous events from previous years; you can dive into DEF CON history online via social media channels. Another great familiarization resource is the DEF CON Forums app available on Google Play and the App Store to talk with hackers and others in the infosec communities about DEF CON.

Join a DEF CON Contest

One of the great things about DEF CON is the variety of contests that you can join! Interested in testing your skills at a capture the flag (CTF) event? Not only is there the main DEF CON CTF, but many villages sponsor specialized CTF events for things like car hacking, autonomous driving, Kubernetes, IoT, and Red Teaming to name a few. There are many other types of contests that span a wide range of topics, so make sure to find something that piques your interest. Maybe you will find your niche with the beverage cooling contraption or hospital under siege contests.

Adjust Your Electronics Accordingly

Most of us, especially in the security industry, can rarely be found without multiple devices alongside us – phones, laptops, tablets, eBook readers, you name it. However, DEF CON presents a serious exception to the rule for electronics. Here are a few words of wisdom for your consideration on your first DEF CON trek.

  • Make sure that any electronics you bring are running with the most current system versions and patches.
  • If you must bring a laptop to Las Vegas, plan how to maintain your digital privacy as much as possible depending on where you plan to use the laptop.
  • You are probably bringing a cell phone, so turning off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is the safest option at least in and around the DEF CON area.
  • Be wary of random QR codes that seem enticing to scan with your phone and that isn’t from a legitimate source, and don’t plug it in to untrusted power sources (i.e., avoid the convenient USB charging cables as SWAG, take-home items).
  • Better yet, if you have heightened security concerns, bring a burner phone or just shut down your cell phone all together in the vicinity of the DEF CON venues.

Bring Cash - Leave the Credit Cards At Home

DEF CON organizers recommend cash-only registrations at the door... we too recommend that you only bring cash to Vegas. This protects your privacy and is one less way to put yourself at risk for wireless identity theft. Since you are already bringing cash for your badge, consider bringing enough to cover anything you need in and around the venue to avoid using personal credit cards AND ATMs.

Be Comfortable

It probably goes without saying, but Las Vegas is very hot and dry outside in August which means it is very cold inside with air conditioning. Pack clothes to be comfortable in both scenarios to have the best time. You will likely be walking for prolonged periods because there is so much to explore at DEF CON, so wear good walking shoes. DEF CON is a pretty casual environment; be your most comfortable self to make the most of your time. Don’t forget to stay hydrated as that will also keep you more comfortable (and reduce your risk of heat-related illnesses).

Happy DEF CON to You!

We would love to be a part of your first DEF CON journey; check out a few ways to connect with Bishop Fox at DEF CON 30:

  • Visit the Red Team and Recon Villages
  • See Justin Rhinehart present “Private” Repos and You in the Recon Village on Aug 13 at 4:45 p.m.
  • Tune in on Bishop Fox social media channels for our first-ever livestream Event on Friday Aug 12

We wish you a fantastic inaugural DEF CON journey. But don’t forget that you are in Vegas, so be safe (i.e., use a buddy system, don’t leave drinks unattended, and double check your Uber/Lyft pickup driver), make smart choices, and most importantly – soak up all the hacker fun!

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Britt kemp

About the author, Britt Kemp

Community Manager

Britt Kemp is a Community Manager at Bishop Fox. Britt has been involved with the content, social media, and digital programs at the firm for the past several years. She has helped with some of the most popular Bishop Fox blog posts to date.

More by Britt

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