"The Stakes Are Higher Than Ever" for Hackers at DEF CON 24

Hackers converge on Las Vegas this weekend.

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DEF CON 24 is all about connected safety and disruption.

Hacking conventions can be thought of as having two sides: security and hacking. DEF CON 24, this year’s premier hacker convention in Las Vegas on August 4-7, is no different.

“The stakes are higher than ever,” says Ted Harrington, one of the organizers of DEF CON’s internet-of-things-focused IoT Village, tells Inverse. “Between connected health and connected transportation, security flaws now have potential impact on human life.”

On one side, there are security enthusiasts and “white hat” hackers (hackers who use their skills to improve security) like Harrington, who’s a partner at Independent Security Evaluators by day. Then there are the “black hat” hackers (hackers who hack for their own gain) who just want to fuck shit up.

Both white and black-hat hackers will be at the Paris/Bally Resort event, where fellow hackers, enthusiasts, and the über curious can peek behind the curtain at a hacker’s life for $240 (cash only).

“Although DEF CON is very much a conference for and by research enthusiasts,” Harrington says, “the topic areas and outcomes from this signature event touch almost every facet of mainstream living.”

DEF CON / Facebook

DEF CON has run every year since 1993. It will feature similar events as in the past, but on a larger scale.

Different “Villages” feature different themes. Villages range from bio hacking, to car hacking, to lock picking. In those Villages, there are contests and events run by developers and companies who are trying to utilize DEF CON’s hacker base, like Canary and FitBit at the IoT Village. This year also features a $2 million contest run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a hacker software.

Then there are workshops, where enterprising attendees can sit, absorb, and learn from hacker masters how to bring down bougie developers and their programs for themselves. The car hacking workshop offers the opportunity for 50 student hackers to “learn about vehicle systems and how they are connected.”

There’s also the “Exploit Development for Beginners” workshop, that will help “participants move beyond using attacks others have developed to understanding how programs work at the binary level and how to exploit their weaknesses,” i.e., find vulnerabilities and write attack codes. You know, for bug bounties.

“DEF CON is often an accurate reflection of where technology innovation is happening, because many of those same domains are also introducing new frontiers of security issues,” Harrington says.

Want to keep up with everything that is going on, but don’t have the $240 cash or a ticket to Vegas? The DEF CON 24 Twitter account — as well as the Twitter accounts for all the Villages — will keep the world updated on what is going on and send links to stories. If you are at the event, you can keep up to speed on contest schedules and parties with the DEF CON app for iOS and Android, called DEF CON 24 Hacker Tracker.

Whichever side of the security line you’re on — protector or attacker — DEF CON 24 promises to deliver what you want to see.

“Every year somehow tops the previous year in terms of speaker and content quality,” Harrington says. “This year is no exception.”