~$ I went to DEFCON31!

Posted on Aug. 20th, 2023. | Est. reading time: 8 minutes

Tags:Information SecurityConferenceTravelCyber Security

Recently, I had the pleasure of going to the 31st edition of DEFCON, one of the worlds' largest hacker conferences. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I went to DEFCON30 last year (see related blogpost here), and have a vague idea of what it is about.

For new readers: imagine a place where 30'000 hackers (and hacker adjacent beings, or hobbyists, developers, etc.) congregate to listen to find out what is new and shiny in the industry... before promptly getting bored, meeting up with friends and going out for parties and drinks all the while playing "Spot the Fed". πŸ˜…


Day 0: Getting to DEFCON

So my Wednesday started like not that many others, being that I was in London with two of my friends (which will remain nameless), and that I had tickets to go from Heathrow to Las Vegas by plane.

Of course, it being me, I had a moment of panic when I couldn't find our passports (which I'd stashed in the "secret pouch" of my shoulder bag), oops πŸ˜….

Our travel started in Heathrow and brought us to SEATAC, where we went through the lovely ritual of U.S. Customs, and then onto a local flight to Las Vegas.

One short - for the U.S. (in reality 40 minutes) - Uber Trip later and we were all set to checkin to the Flamingo hotel.

When heading to my room, I bumped into the Zerocopter team in the Flamingo's sports bar. As such I quickly unpacked and headed back down to share a few beers with Edwin van Ansel, Chantal, Wietse and other people from the Dutch infosec scene.

Day 1: Boots on the ground, boots in linecon...

On the first day of DEFCON is when Christmas comes early 30'000 hackers stand in a bloody line to get their event badges. This is the event most commonly known as "linecon".

Now usually, I would get a pre-registration ticket, which would mean that I would not have had to carry USD 440 in cash and stand in the slower line. This would not have been a problem had I been sourcing my own tickets, but that was not the case this time around.

But on the plus side, someone in line in front of me had bought a coffee for their non-coffee drinking friend, so that meant I got a free coffee for my troubles.

The badge this year was quite disappointing, as due to supply chain issues the non-preregistration badge was a paper badge. Them's the breaks to be honest.

Once that linecon was done, I had the joy of waiting in a somehow even longer line, specifically the swag line.

And that is where something fantastic happened: When I got the end of that line, I saw that one Hazy was part of the Merch goons. After some masterful bargaining with the person filtering the crowd to a Merch goon (I asked nicely), we were able to meet face to face for the first time since the last DEFCON, and set up a meet for later that day.

One of my friends I had met online, Miana, was giving a talk about biohacking (the implants kind) on one of the main stages.

On the way there, I ran into Katelyn Bowden (aka. medus4 from BADASS and the CDC), where I got sidetracked with a taster of Malort (as generously provided by TC), which was definitely... an experience.

A selfie with Katelyn Bowden and myself.A selfie with @medus4.

Anyhoo, I arrived on time for the talk, however not in time enough to be able to make it into the conference room. So I ended up watching it live on Twitch from 100 meters away, which - if you ask me - is quite silly.

After that, I linked up with Miana, we chatted for a while and then headed to the Queercon mixer, where I managed to have a fun conversation with Shawn (who gifted me the last QueerCon badge last year) and catch-up. We also saw a wild The Dark Tangent (aka. Jeff Moss), who was exploring the event.

Day 2: Meeting with friends and parties.

The core point of the second day involved me checking out the Application Security Village's CTF (as I was involved in judging it last year, and was curious), then exploring, linking up with Agi, doing some [REDACTED] things, then readying up for the QueerCon and GothCon parties.

I ended up spending most of the parties outside with Hazy and Endsu, chatting the night away whilst sipping on drinks in the dry desert air.

Day 3: Hurty feet.

On the third day of DEFCON, my feet were pretty much on fire. I ended up hanging out in one or two locations, and hanging out (separately) with Hazy, Agi and friends!

I also attended the final QueerCon mixer, which was a very fun experience.

At this point, I do have to admit my social battery was a bit sapped, so I was not as "out there" as I would usually have been. Them's the spoons - or lack thereof - I guess.

Day 4: Packing up and heading back.

The last day of DEFCON is always a bittersweet one, because almost everyone is packing up.

As it turns out, so were we, as we had a plane to catch to get back to Heathrow.

After some shenanigans such as the Uber dropping us off at the wrong terminal, as well as a lovely conversation with an agency representative at the ticket counter, and the joys of going through airport security, we were wheels up.

Once we had landed, I had a few hours to get to home base, hotswap the contents of my suitcase, and heading out to Chaos Computer Camp in Germany.

But that, is a story for another blogpost.