Introduction: DefCon vs. BSides Las Vegas
If you're a cyber security enthusiast or professional, you've likely heard of the two premier hacking conferences in Las Vegas: DefCon and BSides Las Vegas. While these events share a common goal of promoting knowledge and community within the cyber security world, they differ in several key aspects. In this article, we'll compare and contrast the two conferences to help you decide which event is right for you or perhaps attend both.
The Origins of DefCon and BSides Las Vegas
DefCon: Where It All Began
DefCon was founded in 1993 by Jeff Moss as a party for members of "Platinum Net," a Fido protocol-based hacking network. Over the years, DefCon has grown into one of the largest and most well-known hacking conferences globally, attracting tens of thousands of attendees each year.
BSides Las Vegas: A Grassroots Alternative
BSides Las Vegas was born in 2009 as a community-driven alternative to mainstream security conferences. Created by Mike Dahn, Jack Daniel, and Chris Nickerson, BSides provides a platform for underrepresented voices in the cyber security community to share their ideas, research, and experiences.
Conference Size and Attendee Profiles
DefCon: Massive and Diverse
DefCon boasts a massive and diverse crowd, with attendance in the tens of thousands. Participants range from cyber security professionals and researchers to hobbyist hackers and even government agents. The conference is known for its lively atmosphere and chaotic energy, which can be both exhilarating and overwhelming for first-time attendees.
BSides Las Vegas: Smaller and Community-Focused
BSides Las Vegas is a smaller, more intimate conference, with a few thousand attendees. The event is community-driven and focused on providing a collaborative, inclusive environment for sharing ideas and learning. BSides Las Vegas attracts a diverse crowd of cyber security enthusiasts, but its smaller size allows for more personal connections and in-depth discussions.
Event Formats and Schedules
DefCon: A Mix of Talks, Contests, and Workshops
DefCon offers a wide variety of events, including talks, workshops, contests, and Capture the Flag (CTF) competitions. The conference also features several "villages," where participants can focus on specific areas of interest, such as hardware hacking, lockpicking, or social engineering.
BSides Las Vegas: A Focus on Talks and Collaboration
BSides Las Vegas primarily features talks and panel discussions, with a smaller selection of workshops and contests. The conference emphasizes collaboration, with many events designed to foster conversation and idea-sharing among attendees.
Ticket Prices and Accessibility
DefCon: Cash-Only Entry and Limited Availability
DefCon tickets are notoriously difficult to obtain, as they are only available for purchase on-site, and attendees must pay in cash. This system, while unconventional, is designed to maintain attendees' privacy and security. DefCon's popularity can also lead to long lines and limited availability of tickets.
BSides Las Vegas: Affordable and Pre-Registered
BSides Las Vegas tickets are more accessible and affordable than DefCon. They can be purchased online in advance, with various ticket tiers available, including discounted rates for students and early bird pricing. The conference's lower cost and ease of registration make it an attractive option for those on a budget or looking for a more relaxed experience.
Networking Opportunities and Social Events
DefCon: Parties, Meetups, and Serendipitous Encounters
Networking opportunities abound at DefCon, with numerous parties, meetups, and informal gatherings taking place throughout the conference. The event's massive scale and diverse attendee base make it possible to meet people from all corners of the cyber security world. However, the sheer size of DefCon can make it challenging to connect with specific individuals or groups.
BSides Las Vegas: Intimate Networking and Collaboration
BSides Las Vegas offers a more intimate setting for networking and collaboration. The smaller event size allows attendees to connect more easily and form lasting relationships. BSides also provides unique opportunities for mentorship and learning from seasoned professionals in the cyber security field.
The Takeaway: Which Conference is Right for You?
Ultimately, choosing between DefCon and BSides Las Vegas depends on your preferences and goals as a cyber security enthusiast or professional. If you're looking for a high-energy, large-scale event with a diverse array of activities and opportunities, DefCon may be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a smaller, more intimate conference focused on collaboration and learning, BSides Las Vegas could be a better fit.
Why Not Attend Both?
Many cyber security professionals and enthusiasts choose to attend both DefCon and BSides Las Vegas, taking advantage of the unique experiences each event offers. By attending both conferences, you can immerse yourself in the full spectrum of the cyber security community and gain valuable insights from a wide range of perspectives.
Conclusion: Embracing the Best of Both Worlds
Whether you decide to attend DefCon, BSides Las Vegas, or both, you're sure to have an unforgettable experience and come away with valuable knowledge, connections, and memories. By understanding the differences between these two premier cyber security events, you can make the most of your time in Las Vegas and ensure a fulfilling and enriching experience.