My Amazing Road to Defcon

WISP (Women in Security & Privacy) is a program that helps to advance women’s roles in IT through networking, mentorship, and education. It promotes various initiatives to help inspire women to be active in the community.

This year, WISP set up a Defcon sponsorship that provided winners with tickets to the convention, with a stipend, and in a show of amazing support, that number jumped from 2 women, to 57 within a week.  I was lucky number 57.  I recently got laid off, so I didn’t have to worry about the PTO to make the trip and managed to have enough money to book a room with 5 other winners and have a blast!

Prior to leaving, I decided to dedicate my time to doing as much as humanly possible, so I signed up to volunteer at both the Hacking Diversity event, and the newly created Blue Team village.  After packing my things, I left early morning and naturally brought my favorite button bag with me to Las Vegas! After arriving, I managed to find a shuttle for $9 to Caesar’s Palace and listened to the driver tell us all about about where Tupac Shakur was shot as we passed the location.  I had some time to kill before I was able to drop off my bags, so I hung out on the strip, so I wandered around taking random selfies/pictures, like any other completely obvious tourist.

Later on that evening, I dropped my stuff off, met up with a few women eating at Johnny Rockets, and made some new acquaintances while sh-moo-zing about life.  I met a friend from Discord who I had known for a while there, and when the volunteer call came, we headed over to purchase food from Walmart and she offered to schlep & prep with me (I cannot thank her enough for her help), before calling it a night.

The next day I dropped food off, hung out with the Hacking Diversity crew, met more of my roommates, and caught up with a few friends to say hello.  I also got to be the lucky winner of the Maneki-Neko cat GIF contest on Twitter and received a cat badge from the makers!

The first day of con was when things had begun to get hectic.  I came in early, met up with the WISP ladies and picked up my badge. The badges this year were quite unique, as you could connect the badge with others and play the little game on the board by plugging it into a machine and opening up a minicom terminal.  Each role had a different color, so if you connected with these roles, you got perks in the game.  For anyone who is having trouble: There is apparently a firmware update that may be needed on some of them.

Then, wearing my newly donned blue team shirt, I met up with the rest of the team and worked the insane crowd, by shuffling people in and out of the village like cattle, handing out swag and answering any questions people had.  Props to the amazing people over at the Blue Team village who really went above and beyond to make this a huge success! They put a lot of hard work, dedication and time into making this a go-to spot at the con.

I took a brief respite to watch the Teddy Ruxpin reverse engineering talk, which was great and we all got some stickers and a an SD-eMMC adapter (pictured below). I signed off my shift, snuck into the women’s Cyberjitsu meetup, met Shannon Morse from Hak5 in person, spoke with fellow WISP members about all manner of IT related things and hit up the vendor area for Georgia Weidman’s book signing and grabbed a copy of PoC or GTFO II, along with some official Defcon swag.

Later on that evening, we attended the Hacker One event that WISP members were able to go to, and I met a fellow WISP’er who asked if me and one of my roommates wanted to sit with her.  We ate, had great conversation and we became insta-friends! Since I had my laptop, we participated in the miniCTF challenge, which my new friend absolutely destroyed! We grabbed some awesome swag from downstairs and called it a night, since we had a meetup to attend the next morning.

The next morning, my roommates and I rushed to meetup with other women to have waffles and take pictures of the crew that was brought to Defcon, before I hit as many villages and talks as I could for the day.  The photo shoot was awesome and it was a great experience to talk with so many others about the things we were interested in, the fields we worked, or went to school for and where we wanted to go career wise.

After this, I quickly headed to every village I possibly could, checked out the Diana Initiative and mobile museum (yes, that’s me posing in front of an Apple IIe), found the WiFi cactus, voted in the vote hacking village and attended a talk on NFC relay/replay attacks (it was pretty good too).

Later on in the day, I met up with The Many Hats Club for food and shenanigans, and got to meet many of the people I speak with daily on Discord and had a blast!

I would have to say that the highlight of my trip, was getting to participate in my first CTF and seeing the girlstakingover group go nuts capturing flags in such a super awesome, fun and collaborative environment. The group nailed 10th place in the openCTF, and Tinker Fairy took the #2 slot for best write-up! It was completely awe inspiring and has changed my outlook on a lot of things.  I’ve decided to dedicate my blog to many more projects and work, and I definitely want to be much more active in the community as a result.  I couldn’t and still cannot get over my excitement over the ordeal, and I’m so proud and happy to have been allowed to be a part of it! Ian Coldwater managed to inspire an entire group of women and bring everyone together. She was so kind and considerate to everyone’s needs as well! I feel like I really made some friends out of this too! Thank you for sharing your experience, knowledge and wisdom with me!

Lastly, before leaving and between all the craziness, I managed to visit the Telephreak party and had an amazing time! Props to ch0l0man and all the volunteers who did an amazing job putting everything together! The views from the party were beautiful and everyone was really nice! We even got to meet some of the people who created the challenges from the CTF! I also managed to get my awkward hug from Jayson Street yey!

Thank you so much to everyone who worked so hard to put this together! It’s an experience I will never forget!