On Surviving Black Hat

Friday, August 03, 2012

Tripwire Inc


Article by Nicole Andergard

As I re-enter life post Black Hat 2012, I’m trying to best articulate my Vegas experience this year.

As always, I was faced with information overload from every direction. Not only were there difficult decisions regarding which sessions to attend, there was also a busy vendor show floor that needed my attention, and of course  I had to make time for my favorite non-event event, Security BSides Las Vegas.

However this year the sessions felt somewhat lack-luster to me – as if a lot of what I was hearing had been said before. Many of the conversations were consistent with other 2012 events and even the topics felt replayed.

For me the big impact of Black Hat was the social experience that can’t be duplicated in any other way other than forcing myself to walk through smoky casinos and pay for over-priced and somewhat watered down drinks.

For the week, Caesar’s Palace turned into the place to be for our industry. I couldn’t walk down the hall without running into someone important, someone recognizable or someone I just needed to meet.

The horrifically long coffee queue at Starbucks provided me with ample time to people watch, here are my Black Hat 2012 observations:

  • The more influential the person, the more people will be physically following them down the hallway. Even if you don’t recognize a person at the front of such a group, you can be assured they are someone you need to meet. It was as if I were watching an episode of “Entourage” when I saw @alexhutton striding down the hallway with an entire army of followers close at his heels. They would pause when he paused and walk when he walked. It was quite fascinating. Alas, no one was following me down the hallway, I obviously need to work on my Black  Hat entourage for 2013.
  • Even the most important people dress down for Black Hat. Clever/witty t-shirts were the preferred way to make statements at this event. If you wanted to step it up a notch, the outfit du jour was an ironic t-shirt WITH a blazer. And of course practical shoes. Always practical shoes. Once again, I did not meet expectations here as I have yet to find a cute hacker t-shirt in a fitted women’s size (trust me, men’s size small does not count), and I never wear comfortable shoes.
  • If you want any hope of having an actual engaging conversation without being interrupted – get off the strip. Thankfully @ThatDwayne and @RealGeneKim treated me to the best little Off-Vegas-Strip meal where we were served great food at reasonable prices and in a timely fashion. But the best part was that there were no  interrupters trying to steal my dinner guests away. I won’t divulge the name of this secret little hotspot but everyone needs one of these restaurants in their rolodex just to be able to get in some uninterrupted quality time with your dinner guests.
  • If you are needing to fill your dance card – skip the big sensationalized parties at the big fancy club casinos. Get yourself to the events where people are having real conversations on real topics of value – the #BSidesLV after party is a great example of such an event. Everyone there is worth getting to know better and the location can’t be beat. Plus you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the likes of @jack_daniel and @MikD and you can’t go wrong with that caliber of people. What if you aren’t sticking around for the after party? Attend the actual Security BSidesLV event – you won’t be disappointed in the quality of content and conversation found here.

In a nutshell – this year’s Black Hat event was all about the people for me. I found there were great connections to be made and brilliant people to engage. I only wish there would have been a few more hours in every day because even in Vegas we are still only allotted 24. I suppose there is always next year!

Cross-posted from Tripwire's State of Security

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