Preparing for your first DefCon

Riviera Hotel at Night

DefCon is a hard experience to describe. Imagine a world where nerdy computer types run Vegas like big shots. DefCon IS that. Over 9,000 hackers made it to DefCon 17, even in the midst of a recession. As a first-timer, you’ll never be mentally be prepared for the conference. However, there’s no reason you can’t be prepared with the items you’ll need for the trip. I’ve included a few tips that should help you get through this digital tour de force.

The Strip at Night

Need to know what to pack for the trip?

Just keep this handy checklist in mind:

  • 2 shirts, 4 days everything else (You’ll buy t-shirts there, trust me.)
  • Toiletries
  • Prepaid credit card
  • Notepad
  • Cash (At least $300 - the tickets are $120, and they don’t accept credit cards at the door!)

When you get to Vegas

Once you get to Vegas, there’s a Wal-Mart close to the strip that you can pick up the rest of the stuff you’ll want at the conference:

  • Pay-as-you-go phone (I got a Verizon phone with unlimited network calls for 20 bucks! If you convince your friends to get the same phone, it’s easy to keep in touch)
  • Super-food (You’ll be drinking enough that you’ll want to stock up on fruit bars and other stuff that crams in the nutrients. Just remember that if you are staying at the Riviera they charge extra if they find food in your room!)
  • RFID Wallet (The merch tables at DefCon have them - if your passport has an RFID chip, you will want this)

Wall of Sheep

Keeping your laptop secure

By the way, if you plan on bringing your laptop (and you will), here’s a few things to keep you secure

  • Turn off infrared, Bluetooth, and wireless when you aren’t using them.
  • Don’t log into any web site with plain-text authentication (e.g. non-SSL websites), and don’t ignore any exceptions.
  • Consider using Live CD’s and no hard drive.