Bsides Cape Town Conference - What to Expect?
BSIDES Cape Town runs on the following formula: BSIDES Conference = Hackers + Talks + Challenges + Volunteers + Curiosity.
BSIDES has been an amazing yearly conference showcasing the research of local and internationally acclaimed hackers, defenders, curious people and all interested in security. I (CrypticGoose/Christo) have been fortunate to be on the organizing committee for nearly 7 years and before that a volunteer, so I will take you on a journey with photos of what a BSIDES Cape Town conference day is like.
About BSIDES Cape Town
BSides Cape Town is an annual information security conference bringing together cybersecurity professionals, hackers, and technology enthusiasts in a unique and vibrant environment. From technical deep dives to policy discussions, BSides Cape Town embraces a wide range of subjects in the cybersecurity landscape. The focus is on learning, innovating and having fun. BSides is growing: the first 2011 conference was under 20 people. Last year’s event was sold out at 500 people. This year we expect more than 600 hackers, tech leaders and enthusiasts to attend.
Registration & Swag
Registration is filled with excitement and uncertainty. Tickets to be shown, amazing swag to be received and waiting for talks to begin. Grab a coffee, meet some other weird and wonderful hackers. Go see our amazing vendors in the vendor area.
At registration will be your first opportunity to meet our amazing team of organizers and volunteers that make BSIDES Cape Town happen and serve you on the day.
Before the event starts or inbetween talks you get to mingle with the world’s best local bred hackers and vendors that make the event possible. Our wonderful sponsors setup tables in our vendor area where you can learn more about their offerings or job opportunities.
In the corridors,the spaces between people meet, hack on things and discover new interests. That is why we love having BSIDES Cape Town in person. Throughout the year you have the opportunity to join and interact with hackers on the Hack South discord and then at the end of the year meet your friends and heroes in person. I personally have been encouraged and my career forever changed by rubbing shoulders with Hacker legends of South Africa and abroad at this event.
A great little story from 2022 is that a few of our volunteers and Jayson E Street walked from the Waterfront to Woodstock the day after BSIDES Cape Town. The friendships and hacker shenanigans continued and if you scroll far down enough on Jayson’s Twitter you will find photos of them exploring the urban landscape most of us dare tread. Wonderful friendships across shores are made at BSIDES between people of all walks of life.
We even have a Code of Conduct for our community as we want people to feel welcome.
Amazing conference talks! Yes other than hacking challenges and seeing your friends, our main focus is to provide you with high quality talks by local and international speakers.
We spend a lot of time requesting talks from the community and doing a blind peer review. As part of our culture and ethos we don’t do paid for talks or sponsors get automatic slots for speaking. We allow our platinum sponsor a short opening talk, but all other talks need to go through the CFP process, with external and internal reviewers, which keeps the quality of our talks high.
We open our amazing talks with a Keynote talk with all our attendees all together. In 2022 we were fortunate to have Haroon Meer, a veteran speaker at Bsides, discuss Made in SA - For the world , an inspiring talk for South African hackers on reaching a global audience and building and defending on a world stage. We hope many of our attendees have been building and hacking away inspired through Haroon’s perspective building Thinkst.
Our amazing speakers present their research, which we at a later stage upload to our youtube channel: Bsides Cape Town
If you want to get a feel of our conference here is a small sample of our talks accross the years:
- (Keynote) Made in SA - For the world - Haroon Meer
- Hacking satellites with Software Defined Radio (SDR) - Gerard de Jong
- (Final Keynote) DECEPTION VIA PERCEPTION: Jayson E Street
- Keynote:The Woman Who Squashed Terrorists When an Embassy gets Hacked -Chris Kubeka
- A Retrospective - Jared Naude
- (In)Outsider Trading – Hacking stocks using public information and (influence)
- Charl van der Walt - Love triangles in cyberspace. A tale about trust in 5 chapters.
I would be remiss to remind everyone that hackers consume food to turn into hacks! We try and start the day with cofee and a light breakfast. Then paart of the way in during lunch we provide food as best we can for all diets and people. Spend the time refueling/recharging over lunch and mingle with your fellow hacker.
Depending on our venue for the year, you might be able to grab a quick bite and disappear into a neighbouring market, water front or even an aquarium. I do warn you to not wonder too far or lose track of time, you might miss out on an amazing talk!
As if there isn’t enough going on at our yearly conference, we usually open up a call for challenges. These challenges can include Capture the Flag challenges where people hack to find a secret to progress, or OSINT which is an open source intelligence challenge using your google dorking skills. Other challenges could be password cracking or even something simple like find a sticker or image hiding in the venue. These challenges are communicated ahead of time or on the day and all are welcome to participate.
BSIDES Electronic badges (subject to availability)
Some years, if communicated ahead of time, we have electronic badges built by volunteers and organisers up for sale. These badges are sold as a separate ticket for a nominal fee, with hacking challenges attached to it. These badges can often communicate with each other, a server and challenges allowing
Our BSIDES Cape Town electronic challenge badges usually follow with chaotic nights and days of soldering, debugging and amazing moments building things for our community. The BSIDES Cape Town electronic badges form part of our maker community that combines the physical and cyber.
Below is a photo of organisers debugging and getting badges through a quality assurance process:
Ending keynote and closing
As with everything, programs begin to come close to an end. To get the most of our last moments at BSIDES Cape Town, we finally wow our attendees with lightning talks ,if we have enough speakers, and finally our closing keynote.
In 2022 we were able to organise with Jayson E Street to give the closing keynote. Not only an amazing speaker but an experienced hacker and a prolific purveyor of akward hugs! Jayson’s talk on “DECEPTION VIA PERCEPTION” was a provocative and incitement talk on his experience and real world videos of breaking into banks and the mentality needed to break in and defend our world. Not only do we get fantastic insights into red teaming and deception, but also the behaviours we need to teach our colleagues and loved ones to secure our worlds and lives.
Right after our Keynote we close our conference with prize handouts from our challenges and thank all our sponsors again. At this point we have final speeches and discuss the upcoming after party. Closing remarks is always a proud and sad moment as an organiser, as we know all the blood sweat and tears concluded with an amazing day. We love doing a years worth of effort, a day of running around and spending time with all of you that we might get emotional. We also might be tired,but it is a labour of love. Organisers and volunteers are often encouraged to become a part of the movement because of our experiences at BSIDES.
As is tradition for BSIDES Cape Town (more than 10 years!) we usually end off a day with an after party with food and drinks to all who stay behind.
At this point we all mingle together, talk about what was amazing and those talks you have in mind for the next year. All attendees are always welcome and gives us organisers and volunteers a breather and a moment to interact with our attendees knowing the day is successfully concluded.
The next day
We all know the post BSIDES feeling. Once you get over thousands of steps taken and lack of sleep, all of us usually start planning or researching that talk you should have given this year the day after. BSIDES welcomes you, submit that talk!
The people behind it all
BSIDES Cape Town is only possible because of amazing organisers, speakers and volunteers.
We would like to thank all volunteers and the companies that sponsor our event. Without you we can’t keep and grow this community that secures South Africa’s present and future.
We thank you all!