So i just finished my whirlwind tour of two major cities: Vegas and New York. Hope of course was hosted at Hotel Pensylvaina in New York and Defcon in Las Vegas.
Hope was an interesting and very laid back conference. Lots of phone phreaking discussions, some talks on old stuff and some political agendas. Don't expect an ass ton of information to smack you in the face if you go. Its also a smaller conference, i would say 1,500 to 2,000 people show up. There may be more, but that would mean that most of them missed the majority of the talks. For the record, i dont plan on attending next time, atleast not on the companies dime.
Defcon was the usual packed event, lots of good talks and late night fun. For those who dont know, Defcon occurs right after Black Hat. I hope to attend Black Hat next few years in leu of Hope which occurs every 2 years.
I think if you can get your company to pay for it, its well worth going to Black Hat and staying for Defcon. Also keep in mind that alot of stuff that comes out at Black Hat is also presented in some way at Defcon. So in the very least, try to get away for Defcon.
Just like any conference, Defcon has some issues: Sometimes talks fill up, while they have gotten pretty good a dealing with the order of things, it seems overflow rooms are not on their todo list. While overflow rooms wouldnt give you direct access to the speaker, atleast attendees could see the presentation live if its really popular. Now of course for those who have missed the talks, there are online videos you can watch, but i guess thats not the point of my complaint. Personally i missed four talks due to over crowded rooms. I will also say that i did see them try to swap rooms once, that didnt go so well and they didnt repeat that move. Guys! overflow rooms! Just do it!
I can say i like the fact that they made the vendor room larger and moved the most traffic'ed areas to the front of the conference area where easy access could be had. No more lines for the talks getting in the way of people moving around the CTF/OCTF, retro, meeting and vendor rooms. The speaker Q/A rooms that were added last year were also a great thing. So not all is bad. :)
Few talks i would like to highlight:
Katana Tools release: Great little all in one tool set. Not complete by any stretch but on its way.
Razorback: Its a better implementation of snort with many plug-ins and better flow. Essentially an all in one capture/analysis tool that goes from A to Z automatically for you. They are still working on it, but it looks very promising.
GSM Easedropping: Wow, this one is quite dangerous. While i wouldnt recommend going out and assembling a similar demo, it definitely opened my eyes to holes in the cellular network. I seriously hope this will push cell carriers to employ more security, though i hope it doesnt affect functionality.
Hardware Hacking for Software Guys: Very interesting talk on piecing together pre-fab boards with a small amount of soddering and some basic programming( not basic the language ) to make things that might be useful.
EFF: I saw two talks they did, very good stuff on how to protect your data from seizure without warrants. I was also interested to find out that you do not have to give them your password, since it could be self incriminating. The second talk had to do with handling police and arrests for stuff you didnt do. Also note that they can search your stuff at the border without a warrant or cause. Granted you dont have to give them the password NOR can they take your stuff for extended periods of time.
DNS: Talks were a bit boring, but did highlight the need for secure updates and the great new system they have to ensure who you are talking to is who you wanted to talk to.