7 Tips to Optimize Your Black Hat Experience
Whether you’re an executive transitioning into the dynamic cybersecurity industry, a seasoned cybersecurity practitioner finally touching down in Las Vegas, or joining your team after starting with a new security firm, you want to make the most of your time at Black Hat. More than just an information security conference, Black Hat has grown significantly each year over its 20 year history and boasts a business (exhibit) hall, world-class briefings, and technical training courses. This year at Black Hat 2017, the two-day conference portion of the show is expected to draw more than 15,000 security professionals. If you’re in cybersecurity, you’re certainly in the right place.
That said, registering for Black Hat is just the start. In order to make the most of your time, you’re going to need to follow these seven tips and tricks to squeeze as much value out of your time at Mandalay Bay.
1. Make A List
Look at the comprehensive list of briefings, including times, days, and rooms. Circle or highlight the ones that interest you the most, regardless of the day or time. Now, go back through and star each briefing that you absolutely do not want to miss. Prioritize these events and use the “track” delineations to find other briefings that may also be of interest. If you’re unsure about an event, do a bit of research on the presenter and the organization he or she represents. If you’re on the fence, consider missing the event in favor of a meeting because it can be difficult – or at least awkward – to exit a briefing that has already started.
2. Target Vendors Relevant To Your Needs
Outside of the briefings you’re going to want to leave yourself plenty of time to walk around the Business Hall. There are more than 150 vendors in Level One of the Business Hall so you might want to determine the companies you really want to interact with ahead of time. Maximize your networking opportunities by talking to relevant companies and get your name out there. When visiting a booth, the vast majority of vendors will ask to scan the RFID in your attendance badge. Vendors will be able to take notes on your interaction, so if you require a follow-up, be sure to request it as they scan your information. Handing out your business card is optional, but certainly not out of the ordinary. If it’s you who wants to do the follow up in the case of an employment, partnership, or sales inquiry, be sure to use the personal interaction with booth staff to identify your point of contact. Take advantage of the face-to-face interaction.
3. Work With (Not Against) The Crowd
Don’t wait to approach the speaker at the end of his or her presentation. The presenter will likely have a line of people waiting and you won’t get to spend much time with him or her. Instead, make an introduction before the start of the presentation when most attendees are more focused on sitting diligently in their respective seats. Exchange contact information through business cards and ask questions to determine the availability of the speaker throughout the rest of the show to coordinate a less-than-random rendezvous.
4. Make Allies
Go to the briefings that pique your interests or are related to your line of work. These talks will attract a pool of people who are interested in the same subjects as you – and for that reason alone you should go. Following the briefing, use the crowd to your benefit by finding other attendees who were interested in the content. This is a great chance to talk about this specific topic with others around you, make allies, and establish connections across the industry. Who knows – those contacts could be your next business partners.
5. Prepare for a Marathon of Walking
Briefings are spread out over a large complex at Mandalay Bay, so be sure to wear some comfortable kicks and be prepared to get in those 10,000 steps. Also, be sure to pack light and only pick up the materials or swag that you need. A back-pack isn’t a terrible idea. You won’t need anything else besides notebook, pens, and business cards. You’ll be getting a lot of pens.
6. Update Your Personal Security
Though it might seem obvious, you shouldn’t skimp on your personal security at one of the world’s largest security conferences. Not everyone is a white hat at Black Hat.
Devices: If you don’t need to bring your laptop, then leave it at home, in your hotel room, or turned completely off (not sleep mode) in your bag. The same advice goes for all unnecessary devices, including but not limited to your smartphones and tablets. Whenever possible, be sure to turn off your phone or put it in airplane mode.
RFID Blocking: Faraday sleeves for your electronics and your wallet aren’t a bad idea, either, especially if you’re going to make your way to DEF CON following Black Hat.
WiFi: At Black Hat, completely avoid the use of public WiFi connections. If you must connect to the Internet or use data make sure you are using your cellular network. If you do brave the public WiFi, at the very least, be sure to use a VPN. If you have auto login across any of your digital services or applications, make sure you fully log out of these services or apps (especially banking, mobile wallet, and anything having to do with money) ahead of the conference.
Charging Stations: Resist the temptation to use any mobile charging station, sponsored or otherwise, during your time at Black Hat. Fully charge your devices in your hotel room or bring a USB power pack to recharge.
Backup and Restore: Using wiped or “burner” devices might be overkill, but you will want to be smart about your devices from Jump Street. Before leaving for Black Hat, be sure to backup all of your devices before leaving home. Following the conference, it would be wise to roll back to a known clean backup. This will act to purge your devices of anything that might have slipped in unnoticed during your time in Las Vegas. If possible, reflash the firmware or BIOS.
7. Party Time
Black Hat has developed a bit of a reputation of being a bit more buttoned-up or corporate than some other security conferences, but don’t let that fool you. The week is filled with networking and happy hour events outside of Business Hall hours. See what events you’d like to attend, and be sure to register ahead of time to make sure your name is on the list.
Come and See Us!
While you’re making the most of your Black Hat 2017 experience, be sure to come by and say hello. CyberVista will be at booth #348 on Level One. We’ll be discussing our latest offerings in cybersecurity training from the board and executive team through entry-level practitioners.