DEF CON is canceled! No, really this time – but the show will go on
Longtime host Caesars ends relationship at short notice
It's an annual meme that DEF CON infosec conference has been canceled, but this time it actually happened, ish.
The world's largest hacking conference, held since 1993 and lately drawing in as many as 30,000 attendees, has been held in venues owned by the Caesars Entertainment for well over a decade. According to conference founder Jeff Moss, AKA Dark Tangent, the hotel and casino operator has unexpectedly canceled the con's booking for 2024 with no warning nor explanation.
"We don’t know why Caesars canceled us," Moss wrote. "They won't say beyond it being a strategy change and it is not related to anything that DEF CON or our community has done. This kind of no-notice cancellation of a contract is unheard of in the conference business. The parting is confusing, but amicable."
The decision led to a mad scramble to find another space for this summer's event. In the end almost the entire show is moving to the Las Vegas Convention Center, with some workshops and training at the Sahara hotel. It is due to run in the first week of August.
"DEF CON 32 will be an adventure where we can try things not possible in our old Casino Hotel spaces," Moss explained.
"What specifically you ask? Well we are still learning all the specifics but we will have more space, a proper food court, and the largest indoor venue LCD wall in the country."
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Caesars had no comment at time of publication. This isn't the first time the entertainment chain has crossed swords with the hacker summer camp crew, particularly in recent years.
In 2018 the casino goliath banned a key DEF CON speaker from its properties after they made a joke about hacking on Twitter. Caesars hotel security staff have also sparked outcry by searching the rooms of privacy-minded folks who put do-not-disturb signs on their doors.
Last year there was also a bomb scare at Caesars Forum conference center that led to an evacuation. And, of course, the casino giant was hit with ransomware last year. It may be that Caesars has just decided the infosec world as a whole is more trouble than it's worth.
It's also a fact that attendees aren't too popular with the hotel chain, which offers cheapish rooms and expects to make its money back on the casino floor.
As one floor manager put it: "We hate you guys - you stay in your hotel rooms and don't gamble." To which one of our party responded: "That's because we studied math at school." ®