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BSides Cape Town, how and where it started..

Dominic White mentioned I should write a short note about how BSides Cape Town got started, but the story is a bit long, so here, in rudimentary language, is how it came about.

It’s early 2011, and I’m talking to Barry Irwin about how Cape Town (where I was living at the time), had limited Cyber Security conferences and events. All we got was some vendor events, while all the cool stuff was happening in Gauteng (yes 0Xcon, I’m looking at you). Barry simply said to me “Instead of complaining about it, why not do something about it?”. He had a point. We always complain, it’s the human way; but what do we do to change what we complain about? BSides conferences were all the rage then, so we discussed, what if we did a BSides Cape Town?

First thing was to obtain official permission to use the BSides name for the conference. I reached out to the relevant persons in the US, got permission, as well as the rules you need to adhere to in order to use the BSides name. It’s similar to say a CrossFit gym that needs to pay affiliation fees in order to use CrossFit in their name, except here no money was to exchange any hands (but we still told everyone about BSides!).

Once that was sorted, two things in my mind, was needed to make this work. The first was speakers, and the second was a venue. The venue problem was quickly solved for us by Samantha Rule, who availed a large lecture facility at UCT in early December 2011, with bathroom facilities and a small kitchen. This proved to be perfect for the first event!

Barry was to be the opening key-note speaker, and would bring several of his students from Rhodes University in Grahamstown. I tried my luck and reached out to Charl van der Walt of (then) SensePost (now Orange Cyberdefense), and asked him if there was any way he could fly down Ian de Villiers to do a talk I had seen him do on SAP. Charl was more than willing, and later also approached me about a slot to talk and do a presentation.

With Barry’s help, we did a CFP, got some really good entries / and we could officially say a conference was born.

As the date got closer, everything came together, except one for one issue. This was to be a full day conference (yes we got that many papers in the first try!), and we needed a food solution. My then manager Tony Olivier made a phone call to Stephen George Osler from Nclose, who were on board with providing a simple order of pizzas (which easily caters for various meal requirements e.g. vegetarians etc.) for lunch along with cool-drinks.

During this time I had moved to Johannesburg, but did fly down for the conference, I did my talk, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting with new people and familiar peers (I remember Bevan Lane, Hein Mulder and many others being there), and made really good friends.

Unfortunately due to personal circumstances (my wife’s 6 year battle with cancer), I could not continue my involvement, and yet through many volunteers and passionate people keeping the idea going (István Berkó did so much when he took over!), seeing it grow to the fantastic event that it is now, is simply amazing, and seeing the current team’s passion warms the proverbial heart!

To think, it all started with a complaint, turned in to action..

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Bsides today

Bsides would not be what it is today if a decade ago passionate hackers like Pieter Blaauw, Dominic White, Barry Irwin, Charl van der Walt, Stephen George Osler, Ian de Villiers, Samantha Rule, Bevan Lane, Hein Mulder, Grant Ongers, István Berkó and many others didn’t light and pass the torch.

The Bsides family is always growing and you can help on the awareness of information security and inspiring the hackers of tomorrow that secure Cape Town and South Africa as a whole.

To get involved: organisers@bsidescapetown.co.za

Hack the planet!