Black Hat and DEF CON visitors differ on physical risk management

COVID, flood surfing, crowds – what to pick?

Black Hat As last week's hacker summer camps wound down it's clear that attendee numbers are still well down on the pre-COVID days, although things are recovering.

Risk management is a key tenet of security and there was much discussion in the weeks and months before the shows about whether flying into Las Vegas and spending a week in crowded hotels was worth the risk. June's RSA Conference in San Francisco was seen as a test case by many and the results there were mixed: lots of COVID infections reported, but it didn't go full superspreader.

For Black Hat, getting boots on the ground is critical. While tickets are pricey, it's the expo halls that bring in serious cash – and if people aren't willing to book stands or wander around then organisers wear a major financial hit.

Possibly as a result, the conference was very relaxed about masks and there was a broad mix of people both gearing up and not. While official attendance numbers haven't been released the show was certainly a lot busier than last year and getting close to pre-pandemic normality.

The same was true at DEF CON, although organisers were much more strict about masking as well as adding extra air filtration. This has caused some tension between those who want the protection and others who have had enough of masking over the last two years.

These stricter measures appear to have been successful last year, with very few cases reported. The numbers of people attending are much higher this week, however.

That said, the monsoon-like rains that deluged Las Vegas over the week did provide at least one person an opportunity to live a bit more on the edge. Pool parties are traditional during the week, but surfing down the street surrounded by years of detritus – and probably some sewage – is not the way to do it. ®

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