by Debra J. Farber, WISP Co-Founder | Head of Social Media, PR, & Fundraising
Women in Security and Privacy (WISP) had great fun attending Black Hat USA 2016, and DEF CON 24, where we had the opportunity to promote diversity, announce our Founding Sponsors and new initiatives, drive awareness of our mission, add to our community, and fund raise.
Black Hat USA 2016
This corporate-focused conference boasted the largest number of Black Hat attendees ever and we were glad to see signs of inclusiveness, code of conduct language posted visibly, no booth babes on the vendor floor, and panels and talks featuring some badass women in security. We also had a lot of fun wandering the vendor hall and checking out what’s new in cybersecurity technology.
At Black Hat USA, WISP announced our Founding Sponsors who support our mission to promote development, advancement, and inclusion of women in security and privacy. We also represented WISP at the Removing Roadblocks to Diversity panel and luncheon, where WISP Champion and Equal Respect Co-Founder, Chenxi Wang, announced the launch of the Equal Respect Speakers’ Bureau, which seeks to foster diversity for professional conferences in the security and privacy fields. Chenxi and WISP then co-hosted the Breakout Session – “Getting the Word Out: Cultivating Women Speakers.”
Check out IT Security Planet’s post on the panel discussion. We also attended the EWF Meet and Greet where we networked with other female attendees. In more great news, WISP, Chenxi, and other diversity supporters are working with Black Hat USA organizers to turn the diversity panel into an official Black Hat Briefing next year. So stay tuned!
DEF CON 24
WISP Vendor Booth
While some members of the WISP community have attended previous DEF CONs, this was WISP’s big debut on the DEF CON vendor floor. Our goal was twofold: drive awareness of WISP to the hacker community and collect donations to support our ongoing efforts. What success! We had tremendous support from the hacker community – our booth was constantly busy with inquiries from all genders; we raised just under $10,000; and, attendees went out of their way to say “thank you for being here” and ask what advice we have to navigate the growing field as their daughters and coworkers get into hacking and security research.
So many attendees expressed a desire to start a WISP chapter, which underscores the need for an organization like ours and made us so happy! This is definitely on our road map, though as an all-volunteer organization, it will take us significantly more funding plus another year or two to develop the necessary governance structure and tool kits to support chapter leads.
Also, we want to make sure to thank our DEF CON vendor goons (AKA “volunteer organizers”) Mike (@wiseacre_mike) and Nikita (@Niki7a) for enabling the donation of a vendor booth to WISP, their consistent communication, and their incredible support. We would be remiss without also thanking Kevin from Shadovex who brightened our Sunday with this wonderful note and a donation to WISP of several of his women’s cut T-shirts.
Inclusiveness at DEF CON
The increase in the number and percentage of female attendees at DEF CON was noticeable and welcomed, at least compared to DEF CON 23! In addition, we saw gender inclusive language in some of the DEF CON villages, more shirts in women’s sizes, women leading CTFs on the villages’ floor, gender parity at R00tz Asylum (a DEF CON conference for kids) where they had an Honor Code for participants, mentoring from attendees, a supportive community of male allies, and more inclusive events that celebrate diversity. Some of those events included TiaraCon, the #include<security> Diversity Party, and QueerCon, among others. Also, WISP promoted and attended IOActive’s Women Wisdom & Wine Happy Hour to much fanfare!
WISP looks forward to working with Equal Respect and DEF CON organizers to continue the upward trend of inclusion at DEF CON and to make women feel more welcome in the hacker community. There are still some reports from various women of harassment, stalking, and groping at the conference and at some official parties. In addition, there was some social media backlash during Friday night’s Hacker Jeopardy, where some women in the DEF CON hacking community stripped down to their underwear as a panel of men drank beer and answered questions that were sometimes related to hacker culture using sexual innuendos. The great news is that the organizers course corrected during Saturday night’s Hacker Jeopardy finals – instead of having the women strip, contestants were offered the ability to donate $100 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). $2,000 was raised for EFF that night and @Banasidhe, a female contestant who competed on Saturday night, bested her competition to win Hacker Jeopardy!
Based on conversations with DEF CON organizers, they are open to feedback on how to improve female representation at next year's conference (both attendees and speakers), report and eliminate harassment, and continue the development of a more inclusive environment. This is great news, because there is so much good going on at DEF CON - so much learning and sharing among members of the hacking community.
Here are a few good articles on the trend towards inclusiveness at DEF CON:
- Things Are Looking Up for Women at DEF CON, But Problems Still Linger, August 9, 2016
- DEF CON Has Always Been White and Male, but it’s Finally Changing, Motherboard, August 11, 2016
- Hacker Jeopardy: When manhood is the question at DEF CON, C|NET, August 15, 2016