Blackhat

BlackHat VegasI survived. Sleep was not an option.

This year's Blackhat conference was the best event i'll attend all year. It's awesome to see a whole track of presentations dedicated to web application security which has only been my life for the past 7 years. The highpoints for me were the talks by Jeremiah Grossman & TC Niedzialkowski of WhiteHat Security on hacking intranets using JavaScript malware and of course the talks by Billy Hoffman and Bob Auger of SPI Dynamics (my company) where we brought attention to RSS issues, discussed new AJAX threats and presented analysis on web worms and viruses. The events during the day were awesome, the crowds were intense and for those who fought their way through them to our demo booth, we salute you.

I also spent a day wandering around DefCon, which is definitely a different vibe than BlackHat. Post-apocalyptic technologic organic anarchy comes to mind. I enjoyed wandering around, hanging out in the CTF room for a bit and browsing the shops, I didn't get to see the talks I wanted to unfortunately. Despite all the technology IQ wandering around, event planning is a lost art at DefCon, you just have to go with the flow and I had a schedule to keep.

There was of course the fact that I was in Vegas with thousands of hackers and we were all hell bent on tearing up the town. After the sun went down the event parties kicked in. Leaving time travel for another time, I had to choose from many events, here are the reviews of the ones I attended.

Aug. 1st
Everyone... - Shadow Bar at Caesars

Ok, ok, this wasn't an event party, but after getting off the plane, and checking into Caesars it was off to Shadow Bar, drinks were not free nor cheap (rough!) but the night was well spent seeing old faces and meeting a few new ones. Shadow was IMHO a nice way to ease into Vegas, no lines, simple atmosphere and dancers wearing next to nothing behind shadow curtains.

Aug. 2nd
SPI LabsSPI Dynamics - Tao Nightclub at the Venetian

I'd be pretty remiss if I didn't go to my companies own party. Of course that means I can't give a unbiased review, but I bet if you ask someone who was there, they will tell you it rocked! If you were there, add your comments and let people know what you thought.

  Tipping Point - Body English at the Hard Rock

After all the fuss to get a pass, I didn't go! Well I got my Tipping Point collectors key ring, maybe next year guys! Instead I headed over to...heck I really can't remember...

Aug 3rd
Microsoft - the Pool at the Palms

Ok, despite the evil outdoor layout, the place was rocking. On arriving I ignored the "be careful around the pool warning" and I managed to step right into the crazy pool edges after receiving my first drink (damn sneaky 3 inch deep water "feature"!). I took my now soaked foot up to the SPI cabana, and quickly realized the amazing power of the dry Vegas heat to dry anything off in seconds. From there the drinks were flowing like water, the staff at the Palms was great and the Music was perfect. DJ Keith Myers rocks. Billy, thank you for his CD, I'm enjoying it right now.

Microsoft - After Party - RAIN at the Palms

The pool shutdown around 12:00, but with free entry into RAIN we decided to check it out. With fire shooting out above the dance floor so close I could have roasted marshmallows and a packed house I was impressed. Unfortunately there was some really annoying staff that kept on hitting people in the eyes with mag lights and overall RAIN was not the liquid experience I was hoping for. I bailed, and unfortunately a little too soon as KPMG showed up later and invited a bunch of the SPI folks up the VIP room. Next time, I'm listening to Caleb.

Aug 4th
Acuvant - The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay

The foundation room is the best club I've ever set foot in, period. Members only, except for Monday nights, The foundation room is considered one of the most exclusive clubs on the strip. The entrance, which is a pretty non-descript, was guarded by one guy and a list (you are on the list right?). Once past the entry way you find your way to an elevator with one button. The ride to the top of Mandalay Bay is swift, and soon you find yourself standing in a club where no detail has been overlooked. Private rooms with a dark middle eastern flair, plenty of spaces to relax and enjoy on comfortable leather couches or just as many places to be in the thick of things in the main room, talking with friends and strangers near the bar or outside on the patio that overlooks the strip. The foundation room is not a simple club, it a complex experience. As the evening unfolded the hackers of Blackhat and the high rollers of Vegas mixed it up and shared stories. In between conversations on web application security with Jeremiah, Billy, TC, Rsnake, Arian, Bob, Matt, Caleb and others were amazing conversations with Vegas locals like Ed and Isaac about what really goes on behind the scenes in Vegas (I'm sworn to secrecy). Be careful if your taxi starts heading out the desert - you might not be coming back.

End of the Road
On the 5th we downshifted and slept in, had lunch and wandered around the strip. We did the tourist thing and watched the fountains at the Bellagio, shopped for friends back home and hit the road to the airport. It was a week spent to its fullest, any longer and I might have just spontaneously combusted. BlackHat, I'll see you again next year.