Another year has passed and another flock of information security professionals and enthusiasts descended upon London. Despite the unfortunately timed tube strikes (and much to the delight of the local taxi drivers) the turnout at BSides London 2014 was staggering, with the halls packed full of a large cross section of the industry.
The first thing that struck Nettitude at this year’s event was the mix of attendees present. There were, of course, the usual familiar faces from both the UK and overseas but, more impressively, there were also a large number of enthusiasts and students at the event. Those demographics were not there in a purely passive way either; there were enthusiasts trying their hand at capture the flag events as well as students presenting talks in the excellent rookie track.
As most people will be aware, it can be very intimidating to speak to a room full of strangers. Consequently, there are many people who have a lot of useful knowledge to share but have never put themselves forwards to do so. The BSides rookie track, organised by Aaron Finnon and Robin Wood, once again helped to address that problem by pairing those who were new to public speaking with an experienced public speaker as a mentor. In the weeks leading up to the conference, the mentors were able to assist the mentees in any way required and then, on the day, the rookie speakers were given the opportunity to present to a smaller audience in a more intimate and friendly setting. The content of those talks was fantastic and it seemed that both rookies and mentors got a lot of value out of the process.
One of the unique elements of BSides London is the acceptance process for presentations. Whereas most other conferences will have a closed panel of judges who decide which talks will make the cut, BSides London opts to put the submitted talks out to the community to vote on. Those with the most votes get chosen to present. This year, the quality of the submitted talks was high and the community succeeded in selecting the best of those. The overall relevance and quality of the talks was fantastic; whether your interest lay in mobile devices or vulnerability research, defensive security or offensive security, technical or political subjects, there was something for you.
The communal areas were well laid out and prompted interaction and networking; as well as the vendor stands there were practical areas where attendees could try their hand at lock picking, capture the flag exercises or even sign up for lightning talks – on the spot talks that were signed up for on the day.
Upstairs, there were plenty of workshops available for those who wanted to try their hand at something more practical, including a web application security course delivered by Nettitude’s Mike Woodhead and his associate, John Carroll. The general feedback from those who attended the workshops was positive, with the main complaint being that more time would have been great!
As evening approached and the conference was winding down, the after party was just winding up. Nettitude enjoyed meeting lots of new and eager faces as well as catching up with colleagues in the wider industry and, after a day full of educational talks, some networking and socialising at the local bar was most welcome.
For those who have yet to attend BSides London, we highly recommend it for next year. There are few industries that can boast a free to attend event of such high quality. Nettitude would like to thank all of the organisers for their hard work and thoroughly look forward to BSides London 2015!
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