DEFCON: The Documentary

Synopsis: DEFCON is the world's largest hacking conference, held in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2012 it was held for the 20th time. The conference has strict no-filming policies, but for DEFCON 20, a documentary crew was allowed full access to the event. The film follows the four days of the conference, the events and people (attendees and staff), and covers history and philosophy behind DEFCON's success and unique experience.
110 min


What the f***, dude!

What the f***!

Oh sh*t! There we go!

The history.

I had been running the

Dark Tangent System,

that was the name of my

bulletin board system.

The bulletin board was known around the world,

we were on international FIDO networks.

And one of those networks called Platinum

NET out of Canada, was going away.

He was shutting it down.

I was the biggest node, I had the most users,

and I distributed to the United States.

And he wanted to throw a party, a going away

party for all of his Platinum NET users.

But he didn't want to do it in Canada,

and all of his users were in the states,

and so we were talking, he says "Well you

should do it, we should work together."

And I said "Great. Let's do it in Vegas."

That makes the most sense, cheap airfare.

And he said "Sounds good." And I mean, this

happened over the course of less than a week.

It was really brief.

And then all of a sudden he

disappeared, Platinum NET went down,

and all these years, 20 years later,

I never heard from the guy again.

I can't even remember his

name, it's been so long.

So when he disappeared, I had already started

planning to do this going away party

for Platinum NET.

So instead, I invited all my networks and it

went from being a going away party to, a party.

There was HoHoCon, there was an XCon.

There was PUMPCON, Summercon.

But there was no real west coast con.

So we figured, OK...

So it ended up being DEF CON.

The first one, there was a flier that

went out and that kind of circulated

around on some of the sites, and, and I think

that's how I came across it initially.

I'm assuming it was because of a book I

wrote, or maybe my congressional testimony

I don't know, but somehow he had

contacted me to come out and speak.

I actually didn't wanna

go to the first DEF CON.

I did not want to go to the first DEF CON.

A number of my friends were going.

They were trying to get me to go, they

kept telling me it was going to be fun

and I kept thinking to myself, "I've

never been to Las Vegas before",

and you know, I used to go to BBS

user meets, and well, a lot of them

are pretty lame and I thought to myself

"OK, this is just going to be

a BBS user meet... in Vegas."

Jeff contacted me somehow, said

"You wanna come out to Vegas?"

I said, "Well, I don't like Vegas."

"Come out and speak and there's

"a bunch of people, Phil Zimmerman,

and a couple of other folks," and...


And I had a blast. I had so much fun.

It felt we were part of something

that was really kinda legitimized

because there was this event around

it, you know, it wasn't just,

you know, random people that you might

have known or heard, or it wasn't

somebody (in the phone phreak

world) on the end of a toll-free

loop around that you called at midnight.

"Hey, who's there?"

So, I ended up meeting a lot of people, some of whom I'm

still friends with to this day... out of all of that.

And I remember, after the first DEF CON

was over, and I was back home, and I

was decompressing, somebody wrote

me on UUCP in my email. Wrote me an

email and said "Hey, that was great.

When are you doing it again?"

Until I had gotten that email, I had

never thought of doing it again.

And then I thought, "You know, I could

probably make this better. I could"

"change this, I could..." and then that started

it, that was all, game over from there.

It was, every year, what can I make

better, what went wrong, how do I fix it.

And that geek sort of fix-it mentality kicks

in, and you're always trying to improve it.

It's sort of like this challenge you'll never

solve, but you keep wanting to make it better.

The people who missed a few years. The

differences between their experiences

is going to be pretty

radically different.

DEF CON 1 was around 100 people, and we

expect roughly 15,000 for DEF CON 20.

We work nonstop. I haven't seen

4th of July in like 7 years.

It's crazy that DEF CON, you can label

it as a hobby, takes so much time.

Because it seems like pretty much from

the moment DEF CON ends until the time

that we're spinning it

up again, we're busy.

You know, technically I retired 2

years ago, but I can't give it up,

because it's such a part of me. I'm

giving back to the same culture

that spawned me.

DEF CON for the last 10 years, especially,

has been a very big part of my life.

It consumes most of my free time. DEF CON

starts, for me, the day after DEF CON is over,

for the next year.

It's going to be amazing. We have so many

surprises planned for the attendees.

It's going to be remarkable. This is going

to be a really, really special year.

If you're sleeping,

you're doing it wrong.

A lot of people who are hardcore DEF CON

attendees, or staff, they negotiate

when they change jobs. "That's fine,

everything's good, but I need to take",

you know, 2 weeks off."

I never thought that my party would

be a job employment prerequisite.

I am not kidding, I am expecting another

well orchestrated, well-oiled machine,

coming together and producing

this amazing gathering of geeks.

No kidding, it's what we do. We come

together and we do the HELL out of it.

And I expect it to happen this year.

There's absolutely a difference

between driving and flying.

When Utah group, for example, used to

go down to DEF CON, years and years

and years ago, there was a whole process

where basically we gathered at this

restaurant called "D's", or we

called it "Freaky D's", at like 2am,

and basically 20 or 30 of us piled into

the restaurant and we'd have our caravan

of cars all set together, and

that was our group of people.

There are some hijinks that I can't even

imagine mentioning on the documentary,

that can happen on a long 9 hour drive

from the Denver area to Las Vegas.

When you're driving, to get there,

especially from the west coast,

you have to drive through the

middle of f***ing nowhere.

And it certainly adds to the experience

when you roll in, and it's just after

sunrise, or just about sunset, you really

have no idea what time it is, and there's

Sin City, and of course you're playing

"Viva Las Vegas" by the Dead Kennedys

or something like that. It does

add to the experience I think.

"Actually, here comes the Hack

Bus now." "Pretty awesome!"

It kind of blows my mind that everyone's

so excited about going to a BBQ

six miles away from the con that have to rent

a taxi for, or go to the store and get food.

I don't know. I just feel like the BBQ

is this misfit love child of DEF CON,

because everyone's, "There's this thing that happens over there

and they're grilling alligator and elk and all this crazy meat."

"Why can't we ever go? Where is it?" And that

kind of adds to the mystery and fun of it.

Man, did I never expect that to become

something a thousand people strong, now.

To me that shows an awesome community

and spirit, and an effort of

"I want to see my friends and hang out with them and

I wanna do something simple, like eat some food."

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "DEFCON: The Documentary" STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 20 Jul 2024. <>.

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