DEF CON: Dos and Don'ts

August 9, 2023

As the official Capitol Tech team packs their bags and prepares to head to the ultimate hackers’ haven in Vegas later this week, some of our friends in the Capitol community may be making the pilgrimage on their own to experience all that DEF CON has to offer. This legendary hacking conference is sure to be bigger and better than ever this year, with product release rumors, red-team hacks, workshops, trainings, villages, speakers, parties, and more hacking than your mind can handle. If you’ve been to a previous DEF CON, you might be used to how things operate, but if it’s your first time, we put together a handy list of dos and don'ts for you to find your way around the madness. You might think it’s straightforward, but for many, DEF CON is uncharted territory. Luckily, Capitol Tech is here to help.

When attending DEF CON…

DO: Secure your phone and all sensitive electronics (laptops, tablets, etc., especially if they are work devices). This is a hacker convention, and there will be hacking. According to a article, the press was warned at a previous DEF CON that, “This is a Hacker Con, so consider the public network at DEF CON profoundly hostile!...” Obviously connecting to any questionable WiFi network is risky, but on your valuable device at the largest gathering of hackers in the world? This is like hitting a hornets’ nest with a baseball bat. Make sure all antiviruses are up-to-date, use a VPN, ensure you have backups of all system files, update and strengthen all passwords, and consider keeping electronics completely turned off or safely stored in your hotel room during the convention. Some attendees even opt to use a burner phone in case of accidental brushes with unsavory characters.

DON’T: Go without a plan. This year’s convention is massive, with dozens of speakers, interactive demonstrations, contests, over 30 villages, and lots of after-hours parties and social gatherings to check out. If you go without mapping out what you want to see and do, you will miss out on lots of cool events that you could’ve gone to had you taken a look at DEF CON’s official schedule.


blacks in cybersecurity panelists at def con
Blacks in Cybersecurity panelists at 2022's DEF CON 30 | Photo from:


DON’T: Spend all your money the first day. There will be plenty to see and do over the 4 days that you’re in Vegas, and it’s best to pace yourself so that you can adequately enjoy the full experience without burning a hole in your wallet. There will be lots of vendors peddling tech-related goodies left and right, but try and resist the siren call of an overpriced plush or novelty coffee tumbler and save your money for the really cool stuff, like the custom badges Capitol Tech will have for sale!

DO: Network, network, network! This is the world’s largest gathering of tech-minded professionals, and many of them work at companies you’ve heard of, follow, and have possibly even geeked out over. Now is your chance to get to know these folks on a deeper level and express yourself through the endless hacktivites DEF CON has to offer. Impress your future boss by winning a lock-picking challenge or cyber capture-the-flag, or mingle with a potential business partner in one of the many social parties and cocktail hours hosted around the convention grounds. However you do it, interacting with your fellow conference-goers is a great way to get the ball rolling on future professional opportunities.

DO: Hack your badge! The official convention badge, as well as many of the other badges available for purchase at DEF CON can be customized in a multitude of ways, with lots of secret capabilities for those who know how to speak the language of a hacker. After some tweaking, you’ll be surprised to discover that many of the badges you collect at DEF CON can light up, make noise, and perform other whimsical functions you never thought possible.


Set of red DEF CON 31 badges in production
Cap Tech DEF CON badge boards in production



DON’T: Plug your phone or any other device into a public power station or outlet for charging without a data blocker protection device. While charging a phone seems like a relatively harmless practice, hacking devices via the wired USB port connection is a very real possibility that can take only seconds to occur with a tactic known as “juice jacking.” Luckily, an inexpensive data blocker device, colloquially known as a “USB condom,” can be attached to your charging wire to keep your devices safe. But if you don’t have one of these? Don’t even take the chance. DEF CON is a hacker’s playground, and no unprotected charging port, WiFi network, unattended electronic device, or anything of the sort should be trusted during the 4-day experience. As a follow up, you should also avoid inserting any USB drive or disk obtained at the convention into your personal device, even if you received it from an official vendor. When in Vegas, any and every piece of hardware should be assumed to be hostile.

DO: Bring plenty of cash! It may go without saying, but at an ultra-hackable event like DEF CON, cash is king. A select few vendors may have the option to pay via card, but the vast majority of the convention will be cash-only, so come prepared. Just think about running out of bills and facing the dilemma of trying to find a trustworthy ATM in a room full of hackers!

DO: Dress comfortably and express yourself! There’s no wrong way to dress at DEF CON, and you’ll see an endlessly colorful variety of humans in all sorts of outfits that vary in eccentricity. Feel free to add your own style and flair to whatever you choose to wear, but keep in mind that you’ll be on your feet for the majority of each day, there will be a lot of walking, and despite the convention being indoors, you’ll likely want to spend some time exploring the city in your off hours, and Las Vegas is hot!


def con person wearing tin foil hat
Def Con attendee wearing homemade tin foil hat | (Photo from:


DON’T: Forget to visit Capitol Tech’s booth at the convention! We can’t wait to see all of our friends and alumni starting tomorrow, August 10th! Stop by our booth to purchase our exclusive, custom-made Cap Tech badge that our students spent long hours designing, prototyping, testing, and building. Check out our awesome Capitol Tech @ DEF CON 31 tee shirt designs available for purchase, grab a game sheet to test your cybersecurity skills, receive exclusive giveaway items, and meet some of our fantastic faculty, staff, and students who can tell you all about what a Capitol Tech education can do for you. 


Capitol Tech Staff and Students at DEF CON 30
The Capitol Tech team at 2022's DEF CON 30