I just returned from the 27th Defcon security conference. I’ve been attending for the last 12 or so years and it has been interesting and fun to see the conference grow and mature. Once intimidating due to the homogenous attendees, lewd contests, and a “Try Harder” mantra, it has now evolved into a great place to learn and meet new people.

Each year I speak at, or attend, a handful of security conferences. These range from the massive RSA Conference, where you can find hundreds of security vendors spending hundreds of thousand of dollars to hawk their latest security appliances, to small locally run, open source conferences that are run by engineers for engineers.

Defcon grew out of a true hacker ethos. Because of this history, many of the things that you might see at other conferences are missing, and there are things you’ll see at Defcon that you’ll see nowhere else. This unique mixture attracted 30,000 hackers to Las Vegas in the August heat, many for the first time.

Security is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, and the talent gap seems to widen every year. If we’re going to try to close the talent gap we must broaden our reach and educate and inspire new engineers into security from every background. This is where security conferences. Each year Defcon attracts more people, and each year it keeps these first time attendees busy with conference talks, hacking villages, contests, and more.

The talks are an opportunity to learn the new newest research and development. I’ve repeatedly seen the techniques, tools, and methodologies that were presented at Defcon adopted in the industry, either by defensive or offensive security teams, years later. Attending the Defcon talks is an incredible way to get your ear to the ground and know what you’ll be defending against in years to come.

The villages represent an opportunity to learn a new skill by learning from industry leading experts in a collaborative, safe, and supportive environment. Contests build engagement with the community by solving challenges and showing off skills and the other events encourage attendees to build their support group by finding likeminded individuals.

Finding a security conference is a great way to build knowledge in new or existing areas of expertise. The security industry is very large and deep. I’ve spent a career learning, and I’m always amazed at how much more there is to learn.

Defcon is a great conference that has taken strides to be inviting to all backgrounds. It represents the history of hacking and the future of security culture and research. It is a great place to learn a new topic and meet a supportive community to help guide a successful career.

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