My coworkers had been talking about various hacking conventions since the beginning of my internship, but there was one in particular that they told me about in early November. That one was ShmooCon. This one was important because it was close enough to go to, being in DC, and because it had a student application. Whereas most con goers had to worry about buying a ticket before the tickets sell out six seconds after they made available, all I had to do was express some enthusiasm in an e-mail and send them a picture of my student ID. That made it much more approachable and welcoming.
Once I got there, I was amazed. There were two thousand people stuffed into the Washington Hilton and they all came prepared with computers. The convention was three days, and each day people had the option to attend one of the cyber speeches, visit the stands with the impressive setups, or head into one of the more interactive rooms where there were challenges. The speeches were made by professionals and hobbyists about everything from social media analysis to post-quantum cryptography, and the challenge rooms included wireless capture-the-flag and maintaining the very network the conference was on.
At every moment, there was something going on and people to meet. I really got a good taste of the world of cyber security those three days at the con, and it left me feeling excited for the rest of what that world has to offer. I highly recommend students reading this to apply for next year’s ShmooCon.