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The Innocents Abroad - 14 Observations on DEFCON 21 from Duo Interns

The Duo summer interns, Robbie, Jack, David and Quentin would like to offer a counterpoint to all the FUD stories the mainstream media is pushing about DEFCON 21.

In what is becoming a yearly tradition at Duo Security, we flew our interns out to Vegas to experience the total immersion in hacker/security culture that is DEFCON. After they shook off the jet lag they offered these observations:

  1. After all the stories we heard about antics at DEFCON we were expecting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Not to throw down the gauntlet or anything, but DEFCON 21 really was not as crazy as we thought it would be. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that we were too young to get into any of the parties. We even got carded when trying to get a glass of water!
  2. You can hack anything -- even Rascal scooters!
  3. Turns out our bosses, Jon Oberheide and Dug Song are hacker celebs. Who knew?
  4. The Wall of Sheep demonstrated why you shouldn’t use free WiFi at DEFCON. We thought we were safe tethering to our phones, then we found out someone had deployed a fake 4G network.
  5. Most people at DEFCON aren’t real fans of the government.
  6. We loved seeing more and more people wearing our bright green Duo shirts as time went on. After a while you couldn’t go into a session without seeing a few green shirts peppered among the crowd.
  7. The level of creativity was incredible. We saw some amazing stuff -- backpacks with antenna arrays, a briefcase BitCoin converter, vests loaded with hardware, a pretty impressive beer cooling contest.
  8. There are a lot of Duo fans out there—even the admins of other authentication services!
  9. Cab drivers were a constant source of entertainment—Also, cab rides cost more than our hotel room.
  10. DEFCON 21 = World Class People Watching.
  11. Mudge’s talk was great because it created a bridge between hackers and the government.
  12. The antics around the Mudge talk were amazing. Seeing Mudge’s face as a sea of green Duo shirts rushed the stage at the end, showered him with confetti and presented him with the trophy Duo made for him. It was actually a very emotional moment.
  13. We loved how DEFCON gives all kinds of innovators a chance to speak to the world, not just people who can write software. One of our favorites were a pair of Italian high school students who figured out a way to hack the transportation cards in Turin so they could ride free.
  14. For us DEFCON 21 exemplified the ideal of using tech beyond its intended purpose and thinking out of the box about what can be accomplished with technology of any kind.