LAS VEGAS— Sin City has the greatest density of surveillance cameras per square mile anywhere outside the Pentagon, and that fact makes Vegas an appropriate host for both Black Hat and Def Con, the yin and yang of information security conferences. The two have become the anchors for a collection of security events here every summer (including BsidesLV and PasswordsCon) that results in a week-long festival of infosec overload so scary, it’s now even more frightening to use hotel Wi-Fi.

While Jeff Moss, aka “TheDarkTangent,” is the founder of both Black Hat and Def Con, the two events have continued to diverge. This year, however, they carried a very similar message: security has reached a critical point, and the people gathered at both events have never been more relevant to society as a whole, for better or worse. “This is our moment right now,” Moss said during the introduction of his Black Hat keynote. “When was the last time we were this relevant and this in demand? I would say during the dot com (boom)… but if you think about it, all you needed was green hair to get a job back then.”

Moss challenged attendees at Black Hat to do something real in the coming year. “I have the sense that we don’t have unlimited time,” he warned. “If we’re going to make some moves, we’re going to have to make them soon.” The message at Def Con was similar—a call to action in a world where state actors and other maleficent forces are taking advantage of an ever-growing number of vulnerabilities in systems ranging from mobile applications to “Internet of Things” devices. The looming threat of surveillance makes it increasingly difficult to live a private life.

It’s clear that there’s a ton of money being dumped on the corporate information security market right now. Black Hat may become this decade’s version of Networld-Interop as a result, albeit one with a certain bad-ass swagger. Def Con, however, is also increasingly relevant to anyone who cares about personal privacy and being able to live safely and securely online. Edward Snowden was a hero at Def Con, while, for many at Black Hat, he was the primary example for “insider threat” mitigation software.

Sean Gallagher

Black Hat moved to the Mandalay Bay convention center this year after years at Caesar’s Palace, mostly for the space. One attendee joked that it also meant all the nation-state listening devices had to be moved.

  1. Sean Gallagher

    Black Hat moved to the Mandalay Bay convention center this year after years at Caesar’s Palace, mostly for the space. One attendee joked that it also meant all the nation-state listening devices had to be moved.

  2. Jeff Moss, aka “TheDarkTangent,” coming out on stage at Black Hat’s keynote to a techno beat. There were nearly 10,000 attendees at Black Hat, spanning 91 different countries.

  3. Sean Gallagher

    With the extra space, Black Hat took on a distinctly more traditional trade show feel.

  4. Sean Gallagher

    Kevin Mitnick drew long lines at both Black Hat and Def Con as he signed his latest book. John McAffee was also on hand at B-Sides and Def Con, but he evaded our camera.

  5. Sean Gallagher

    A couple of network security professionals at the booth of Norse, the attack intelligence sensor company.

  6. Wheel… of… swag!

  7. Sean Gallagher

    Access Data had a cigar roller on hand to lure corporate customers to the company’s booth at Black Hat.

  8. Software error or elevator hack? This message was stuck on the screen of the elevator at Mandalay Bay.

  9. An Internet kiosk at Mandalay Bay? Or a Black Hat honeypot? You decide.

  10. Sean Gallagher

    Piles of swag in the official Black Hat store.

  11. Someone let the Wild Things in.

  12. The faces of Def Con…

  13. …and those faces IRL.

  14. At Def Con you could buy a variety of hardware…

  15. … including smart meters…

  16. … various tools…

  17. … and hacking shirts.

  18. The marketing and branding possibilities are truly endless at a tech conference.

  19. The Wall of Sheep displayed the usernames and partial passwords of victims of the Packet Capture Village.

  20. At the Hackers for Charity auction, bids are taken for a Blackphone autographed by PGP creator (and Silent Circle/Blackphone exec) Phil Zimmermann. NSA “challenge” coins were also up for sale.