On Attending DefCon

I’m on my third time attending DEF CON, and I felt it best to boil down my experiences into some quickly digestible bullets.

I’m certain there’s already a million posts about attending DEF CON and how daunting it may appear to first-timers.  Most people at the Con are friendly, but there are a few folks that like to push the boundaries and attempt to mess with your devices.

  • First and foremost: Maintain your personal hygiene.  Shower, and for everyone’s sake, wear deodorant.
  • Don’t forget to eat.  There’s tons of stuff to do at DEF CON/in Vegas.  It’s easy to forget we humans need food to keep going.
  • Have patience.  You’re gonna be stuck in lines (a lot) to get into talks/villages/events.  Talk to people or check twitter for parties.
  • Understand you’re not going to be able to see everything.  They record the talks at DEF CON and post them online, so check out the ones you really want to see now.
  • Don’t get belligerent with a Goon (DEF CON support personnel).
  • If you are going to bring a laptop:
    • Secure it with a VPN, if you are connecting to Wi-Fi.
    • Ensure your OS is up to date.
    • NEVER INSERT A USB/CD/DVD YOU FOUND AT THE CON INTO YOUR PERSONAL DEVICES!
    • Paranoid Mode: Wipe your laptop of any personal data before attending DEF CON.
    • Hyper Paranoid Mode: Disregard your laptop, bring a pen and paper.
    • Personal Suggestion: Get a cheap chromebook (with a throwaway gmail account) or laptop with a fresh linux distro installed.  It allows you to take notes and check out things online without risking much.
  • If you are going to bring your mobile device:
    • Secure with with a VPN.  Use it whenever you get near the DEF CON area.
    • Uninstall any unnecessary apps;  Reduce your attack surface.
    • Do not perform any app/system upgrades while near the DEF CON area.
    • Paranoid Mode: Buy a cheap burner phone with a pay-as-you-go plan.
    • Hyper Paranoid Mode: Carrier Pigeons.
    • Personal Suggestion: Consider installing Hacker Tracker ( Android | iOS ). It is a really useful way to identify and schedule talks you want to attend.
  • If you are going to bring wearables (android wear, apple watch, fitbit etc):
    • Disable any unnecessary means of access (Bluetooth, Wifi, etc)
    • People are likely going to try to mess with them, so be prepared.
  • Have a look at the villages.

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