It’s August, I’m in Vegas, and I’m bringing you an ITOPS view of DEFCON 24. Every year I get back to my sysadmin roots and attend DEFCON. No, I’m not a hacker, but these are some IT ops people should get exited about DEFCON.

You are forced to go off the grid.

I’m not a hacker, but most everyone else who attends the show will actively be hacking. This means no using WI-FI, being careful of using data and even cell signals (yes cell towers can be spoofed). It means no bluetooth. It means being careful using ATMs or other card payments. Using any of these can make you a target to those wanted to test their hacking skills.

It is pretty great to be forced to disconnect.

Defcon Villages

Defcon is an incredible place to learn about all angles of security. These are the villages this year: IoT, Biohacking, Packet Hacking, Crypto & Privacy, White Hat, Lockpicking, Hardware Hacking, Social Engineer, Tamper Evident, Data Duplication, Deaf Con, Recon, Soldering Skills, Vote Hacking, AI, DroneWarz, BCOS/Monero (blockchain), VX (chip-off), Mobile Museum, Ethics, Laser Cutting, Sky Talks, Cannabis, CAAD (AI Security), Blue Team, ICS, and Car Hacking.

There is also Rootz for little hackers, people bring their kids to learn and there is a cool age-appropriate space for them to experiment too.

The villages are manned by SMEs in their areas, and there are so many opportunities to learn! I’m looking forward to visiting the IoT, Biohacking, Social Engineer (one of my favorites), Ethics, Cannabis, CAAD, ICS, and Car Hacking Villages.

You can read all of the Village descriptions here.


Workshops are a killer way to get your learn on at DEFCON. From pentesting to hacking things powered by machine learning to hardware hacking basics, these are hands-on workshops led by experts. The full list of workshops is here.

Unfortunately, you must register for these and I missed that window.


There are so many crazy and silly ways to connect with people at DEFCON. This year there is Jeopardy in the AI village. You get a docker image with datasets and instructions to work through challenges about AI. There is a chess tournament. There is a Ham radio fox hunting contest. There are all sorts of trivia, hacker jeopardy, and hacker karaoke.

Then there are individual parties, dinners, and conversations in the hotel bars. It’s just a great place to connect and geek out.

I always say the best way to learn something is to break it. That’s one reason hackers are so important, they teach us to think about all the ways things can be broken. They show us when important parts of our electronic ecosystem (like voting, AI, blockchain) so that those responsible for maintaining the systems can be held accountable for fixing them. I highly recommend all IT ops people to plan to come to at least one DefCon, to get you back to your roots and help you administer your systems more systematically and safely.