Fresh from the industry hitting sunny Las Vegas last month, London will once again be the centre of the information security industry next week.
At the centre of other shows in the capital will be 44CON, returning for its fourth year and in a new venue. Along with other hacker conferences, 44CON has firmly established itself on the international stage with visitors and speaking attending from around the world.
I spoke to organisers Nik and Adrian on why they felt that this was a necessary part of the industry, Adrian said: “We came from the community – we are supported by the community.”
So what is this conference, and why does it matter? Adrian said that 44CON is an information security conference and training event that is designed to provide training, educational talks and networking opportunities for the business and technical information security professional.
He said: “We aim to provide top end research no matter where in the world the speaker comes from. For example, last year we had a speaker fly in from Japan and this year we have one speaker from Australia. We also have a community event that we run earlier in the year as our 44CON community is continuing to grow.
“44CON is currently in its fourth year, and we couldn’t be happier. We have seen the conference grow and evolve since that first year, and we have learned so much after starting from the ground up.”
Nik said that 44CON prides itself on the range, quality and novelty of the material presented, and aim to ensure that all attendees from “first-day-on-the-job” newcomers to the most cynical penetration tester or Linux kernel hacker get excellent value from attending.
There is no shortage of vendor-sponsored, independent and more general conferences taking place covering security lightly or completely, so I asked Nik and Adrian if it is important for a conference like 44CON to offer something different from Infosecurity and more exhibition-based events?
Adrian cited the vendor neutrality factor, respecting the privacy of guests and treating guests like guests. “We came from the community, and we are supported by the community so maintaining that trust is crucial.”
Nik praised the growing UK conference scene, and alongside BSides events in London and Manchester and the inaugural SteelCon, he said that 44CON’s main aims are to offer top-quality presentations in a relaxed, uncommercial environment free of vendor influence and high pressure sales, as well as workshops that run alongside the main conference and are free to attend for conference attendees.
Asked if it is important for a conference like 44CON to offer something different from the established exhibition-led conferences, Nik said that all conferences have their place, but they are primarily a single location where you can survey the market and catch up on new product releases and vendors.
He said: “While they do offer technical presentations, they are generally lightweight in terms of content and tend to have a commercial spin; the show is primarily a sales event. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but 44CON offers a completely different experience and is aimed at coalface staff who have to deal with new and emerging threats, often with reducing budgets, and who need to gain insight into smarter ways of working and the intricacies of the latest attack trends.”
There is a danger that information security conferences fall into two categories: vendor sales fests or expanded captu
re the flag events pushing free stickers. What do conference delegates actually ask for?
“The primary expectation is value, both in terms of ticket price but also (for free events) the time invested; everybody is getting busier and nobody wants to spend time rehashing old ground,” Nik said.
“It’s also important to provide a good social environment for the ‘hall con’ experience, as much of the benefit of 44CON and other conferences comes from the side discussions over coffee (or Gin and Tonic at 44CON’s Gin O’Clock!).”
Adrian agreed, saying that paying conference attendees expect to be treated like our guests, and from his experience, good quality food and drinks are imperative. “In addition to the food and drink, our guests expect good quality AV, DVD available to attendees, and that our prices be reasonable.”
Next week’s conference should show how capable the UK is at presenting a quality conference to the industry, and more importantly how the UK is a draw for the security industry. Obviously some speakers will be a bigger draw than others, but as the UK takes major steps forward in Government security and partnerships, offering a decent education programme for industry is crucial.
For an alternative look at 44CON, Host Unknown look at 44 facts on the event in this video