when: August 11-14, 2022
where: Caesars Forum
       + Flamingo Las Vegas
       + Harrah's Las Vegas
       + The Linq Las Vegas
  web: https://defcon.org
tweet: @defcon

DEF CON 2022 Background

The DEF CON (@defcon) conference began in 1993 as a party to celebrate the closing of a popular online network. The party got out of hand before it even started, as dozens of other groups were invited, and the organizers remodeled it based on other hacker conferences that had come before. The talks at the first event resemble what you might hear today: Talks from lawyers and law enforcement, gender and social issues in technology, technical explainers, and warnings about issues that would manifest in the future. DEF CON remains an open space for intellectual exploration, open to all those who want to participate in good faith.

Now in its 30th year, DEF CON draws 25,000-30,000 people and is usually held the first full weekend in August, is unlike typical conventions or trade shows.

  • The DEF CON “Villages” are self-contained spaces dedicated to single issues, such as privacy, social engineering, lockpicking, voting machines, and vehicles - that tend toward highly interactive demonstrations and hands-on hacking.
  • The vendor hall is more akin to a techno-bazaar than a trade show floor, with storefronts selling tools or knowledge, civil society groups engaging directly with their stakeholders, and universities recruiting students.
  • DEF CON is one of the few conferences that drafts its own all-volunteer security staff from among its attendees, called the Goons, who always wear red shirts for easy identification.
  • Conference admission is cash-only, and comes with a custom designed badge, unique each year.
  • The art and effort that have gone into the official badges have spawned a cultural trend called #badgelife, where dozens of unofficial electronic badges and digital ecosystems have sprung up. Badgelife describes the grueling experience of creating a piece of hardware from concept to completion in 8-10 months.

In their own words

“DEF CON is a hacker con, not an InfoSec conference. Hackers are more focused on the joy of discovery, irreverence, novel if impractical approaches. They are makers and breakers. InfoSec is more focused on enterprise, frameworks, and protecting the interests of share holders. There is great value in both types of content, but our con is a hacker con by design.”

How did DEF CON start?

Originally started in 1993, it was a meant to be a party for member of “Platinum Net”, a Fido protocol based hacking network out of Canada. As the main U.S. hub I was helping the Platinum Net organizer (I forget his name) plan a closing party for all the member BBS systems and their users. He was going to shut down the network when his dad took a new job and had to move away. We talking about where we might hold it, when all of a sudden he left early and disappeared. I was just planning a party for a network that was shut down, except for my U.S. nodes. I decided what the hell, I’ll invite the members of all the other networks my BBS (A Dark Tangent System) system was a part of including Cyber Crime International (CCI), Hit Net, Tired of Protection (ToP), and like 8 others I can’t remember. Why not invite everyone on #hack? Good idea!

Where did the name come from?

The short answer is a combination of places. There as a SummerCon in the summer, a HoHoCon in the winter, a PumpCon during Halloween, etc. I didn’t want any association with a time of year. If you are a Phreak, or just use your phone a lot you’ll notes “DEF” is #3 on the phone. If you are into military lingo DEF CON is short for “Defense Condition.” Now being a fan of the movie War Games I took note that the main character, David Lightman, lived in Seattle, as I do, and chose to nuke Las Vegas with W.O.P.R. when given the chance. Well I knew I was doing a con in Vegas, so it all just sort of worked out.

Do criminals go to DEF CON?

Yes. They also go to high school, college, work in your workplace, and the government. There are also lawyers, law enforcement agents, civil libertarians, cryptographers, and hackers in attendance. Ssshhh. Don’t tell anyone.

What are Goons?

They are the staff at DEF CON. They have many roles including safety, speaker coordination, vendor room coordination, network operations, et cetera… Please try to be helpful to them if they make requests of you. If any goon tells you to move, please do so immediately as there may be safety issues they are attempting to address.

DEF CON Health Policy

DEF CON will have a mask requirement, but it will not check proof of vaccination. Learn more…

DEF CON Resources