A Pen Tester's Guide to Hacker Summer Camp

By Phillip Wylie | July 28, 2022

Hacker Summer Camp is on the top of most cybersecurity professionals list of conferences, including mine. For those that haven’t heard of the term “Hacker Summer Camp”, here is a primer on what it is and what I’m looking forward to this year. 

Each year in Las Vegas there are multiple cybersecurity conferences being held in the same week. These conferences include BSides Las Vegas, Black Hat USA, DEF CON and The Diana Initiative. Collectively, these events are called “Hacker Summer Camp”. 

I love attending DEF CON and this year will be my first time attending and speaking at Black Hat, BSides Las Vegas and DEF CON. Technically it’s not my first time speaking at DEF CON, however this time it will be in person. My two prior times speaking at DEF CON was virtually. 

We are lucky. While other conferences offer some offensive security and hacking content, here in Las Vegas the Hacker Summer Camp showcases some of the best cybersecurity professionals in the US and even the world.

For a lot of others, including myself, this is a unique opportunity to learn and share knowledge on tools, techniques and the latest exploits. And to the credit of Hacker Summer Camp, the collection of events and sessions attract a diverse audience. For example, the hacker and cyberpunk culture is popular with a lot of cybersecurity professionals and is what attracts some to the DEF CON conference and the cybersecurity industry. 

Black Hat 
August 6 - 11, 2022

Black Hat was founded in 1997 and is an internationally recognized cybersecurity event series with conferences being held in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Black Hat hosts briefings and training on numerous cybersecurity topics. Some of the training offered at Black Hat and limited other conferences. The instructors as well as the speakers are some of the best in the world. Another event at Black Hat that draws a lot of attention is the Arsenal, which is a place for developers to showcase the latest open source tools and products. 

BSides Las Vegas
August 9 and 10, 2022

BSides Las Vegas was started in 2009 as a reaction to the disappointment of people having their Call For Papers (CPFs) rejected. The conference is nonprofit and gives speakers the chance to speak when they may not have the opportunity to otherwise. BSides become global and conferences are hosted around the world. BSides also provides a more affordable conference due to being nonprofit. There is a strong sense of community conferences and wide adoption by the global cybersecurity community. BSides Las Vegas has briefings, villages, and CTFs. There is even a career village where attendees can receive career advice and resume reviews.

The Diana Initiative
August 10 and 11, 2022

Founded in 2017, The Diana Initiative is a cybersecurity conference focused at supporting underrepresented minorities including women in cybersecurity. The Diana Initiative was founded by Cheryl Biswas, Virginie Robbins, Pablo Breuer, Elizabeth Etherington and Michael Smith. Scholarships are available to help with travel expenses to the conference. The Diana Initiative is very highly regarded in the industry for their focus and support on women, minorities, and underrepresented. The Diana Initiative’s values are: Inclusion, Diversity, Humanity, Initiative, and Respect. The conference provides speaker tracks, villages with hands-on workshops, and a CTF.

August 11 to 14, 2022

DEF CON was founded in 1993 by Jeff Moss aka Dark Tangent and is one of the world’s most notable hacker conferences in the world and the inspiration for many others. DEF CON hosts briefings and training sessions similar to Black Hat, but DEF CON hosts several villages on specialized areas and Capture The Flags ( CTFs). The villages host such things as lock picking, wireless network hacking, car hacking, adversary emulation, social engineering, appsec, IoT hacking, ICS hacking and a blue team village. Other notable villages have included voter machine hacking, and maritime hacking. 

Where to find me 

I always enjoy seeing my cybersecurity friends and meeting new ones, so please say hello if you see me. I will be at the CyCognito Black Hat booth #940 throughout the conference. I can be found speaking at the following times and conferences during Hacker Summer Camp:

BSides Las Vegas
Hire Ground Village
Talk: Penetration Testing Experience and How to Get It
Wednesday, August 10 at 11:30 AM 

Black Hat Sponsored Session
Mandalay Bay
Thursday, August 11 at 1:50 PM

DEF CON in the Adversary Village
Talk: The Way of The Adversary 
Saturday, August 13 at 2:00 PM 

I will also be volunteering giving career advice in the BSides Las Vegas Hire Ground Village. 

Join me for a night of poker, food, and drinks at the CyCognito Community Poker Night!
Wednesday, August 10 from 7:00 PM to Midnight at the Delano Las Vegas, Penthouse Suite

Register here; https://www.cycognito.com/black-hat-2022. Also on Wednesday, I’ll be at the CyCognito booth (#940) from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM for a peer networking event that includes food and drinks. Our Black Hat 2022 page also lists other events we are hosting and you can register for them there. 

What I am looking forward to

I am excited to be attending Black Hat and BSides Las Vegas for the first time. DEF CON is one of my favorite conferences and I look forward to being back in person. Although, there are always great talks in the briefings, the villages are my favorite part of DEF CON. The vendor area at DEF CON is a great place to visit for swag and various hacking devices. Hak5 offers some really great hacking devices at their booth and is one of my favorites to visit. The biggest thing I am looking forward to is seeing friends and the ones that I haven’t seen since 2019, as well as friends I have not met in person yet. 

I hope to see you there! 

About Phillip Wylie

Offensive Security Evangelist, CyCognito | Phillip Wylie is a cybersecurity professional and offensive security SME with over 18 years of experience, over half of his career in offensive security. Wylie is the Tech Evangelism & Enablement Manager at CyCognito. He is a former college adjunct instructor and published author. He is the concept creator and co-author of The Pentester Blueprint: Starting a Career as an Ethical Hacker and was featured in the Tribe of Hackers: Red Team.


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