Conferences are pivotal in various professional domains, serving as vital hubs for knowledge exchange, networking and skill development. In the realm of cybersecurity, these gatherings hold exceptional value. They provide platforms to stay abreast of swiftly evolving threats and vulnerabilities, offering opportunities to hone technical skills through workshops and hands-on training. Collaborating with peers and industry experts at conferences facilitates knowledge sharing, empowering professionals to effectively address intricate cybersecurity challenges. Furthermore, exposure to cutting-edge technologies, insights from keynote speakers and updates on regulatory compliance contribute to the continuous growth and career progression of cybersecurity practitioners.
One of the preeminent cybersecurity conferences is DEFCON, named after the defense readiness strategy featured in the iconic hacking film, “WarGames.” DEFCON’s mission is to foster connections among ethical hackers, encouraging the sharing of knowledge and skills within a secure and supportive environment. The conference boasts a diverse array of presentations, workshops and hacking competitions, all set within a relaxed and informal atmosphere that promotes networking and collaboration. DEFCON stands as one of the most, if not the most, popular global cybersecurity conferences. Recognizing its immense value to cybersecurity students and professionals, Boise State University’s Institute for Pervasive Cybersecurity selected two students from the cyber operations and resilience program to sponsor their attendance at DEFCON.
History of DEFCON
The DEFCON conference, founded by Jeff Moss (known by his hacker alias “Dark Tangent”) in 1993, has a fascinating history. What began in a small Las Vegas hotel room with only a handful of attendees as a farewell party from one of Moss’s friends has evolved into one of the world’s largest and most renowned hacker conventions. DEFCON has maintained its permanent residency in Las Vegas and has played a central role in shaping the cybersecurity landscape.
Over the years, DEFCON has provided hackers and security professionals with a vital platform for knowledge exchange, discussions on vulnerabilities and demonstrations of cutting-edge techniques. It has also cultivated a unique hacker culture that places a strong emphasis on ethical hacking and responsible disclosure while simultaneously challenging the established norms in cybersecurity. Today, DEFCON remains a thriving annual event, drawing thousands of participants from around the globe and significantly contributing to the advancement of cybersecurity practices and awareness.
Institute of Persuasive Cybersecurity Sponsors Cameron and Kacey
Two outstanding cyber operations and resilience students, Cameron White (undergraduate) and Kacey Wheeler (graduate), were the fortunate recipients of scholarships to attend DEFCON. Remarkably, DEFCON 2023 marked their inaugural experience at this renowned cybersecurity conference. Both White and Wheeler expressed their enthusiasm and the wealth of knowledge they gained during the event.
Wheeler’s DEFCON journey led her to a captivating involvement in the biohacking village, where she interacted with professionals in the cybersecurity healthcare sector, engaging in insightful conversations and attending enlightening talks. She even had the opportunity to participate in an incident response process, broadening her practical experience.
White, on the other hand, found DEFCON to be a treasure trove of security principles, novel ideas and innovative techniques utilizing existing technology. He was particularly impressed by the ingenious ways attendees harnessed existing resources, such as using the power LED on a device to extract cyber-related data. This exposure fueled his entrepreneurial spirit, igniting a belief in his ability to realize his dream of becoming an entrepreneur in the cybersecurity domain.
Wheeler’s Journey Towards Healthcare Cybersecurity
Wheeler’s experience at DEFCON inspired her to explore the realm of cybersecurity in health care. She recognized the critical significance of safeguarding sensitive health care data and patient well-being in the face of system vulnerabilities. From securing a hospital’s network to ensuring the integrity of medical device code, she understood the multifaceted nature of health care cybersecurity. Her experience at the biohacking village left her excited about the prospect of a career in health care-related cybersecurity.
White’s Entrepreneurial Aspirations
DEFCON’s impact on White was equally transformative. His experience at the conference solidified his belief that he could transform his passion and cybersecurity education into a meaningful entrepreneurial endeavor. He envisions building a platform, business or product that aligns with his values and that he will wholeheartedly love working on. White highlighted the incredible presentations at DEFCON, covering diverse topics such as offensive drone use in warfare, discussions on AI, including large language models like ChatGPT, and explorations of hardware exploits.
White and Wheeler’s journeys at DEFCON have opened up exciting career paths and entrepreneurial opportunities in the cybersecurity domain. Their experiences underscore the transformative potential of attending DEFCON, where knowledge, inspiration and practical insights are abundant, paving the way for future cybersecurity leaders and innovators.
Looking Ahead to 2024
White and Wheeler’s positive DEFCON 2023 experience has left them eager to return for future editions. This sentiment resonates with many of Boise State’s cyber operations and resilience program alumni and students who find themselves returning to participate, volunteer and further their learning. Beyond the conference, attendees can explore the vibrant attractions that Las Vegas has to offer, as illustrated by White’s helicopter ride over the city.
The cyber operations and resilience program at Boise State provides numerous opportunities for students to nurture their growth, including complimentary extended learning courses from Palo Alto and Cisco, along with the chance to compete for prize money in Boise State’s Venture College challenges. This program consistently seeks additional avenues for students to enhance their careers and expand their potential as cybersecurity practitioners. Prioritizing student investment has always been at the heart of this program’s mission.
For those intrigued by Boise State’s cyber operations and resilience program, it’s recommended to explore the program’s website and engage with an advisor to determine if it aligns with your goals. If you’ve reached this point in the article, it’s a strong indicator that the program could be an excellent fit for you.
By Ranier Lieberman