5 Tips for surviving Def Con 21

Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...on your device, that is.

As with previous years, attending Def Con 21 means assuming the worst and accepting the risks that come with setting foot in Vegas the moment you get off the plane. Roaming among the largest gathering of hackers in the world means no one is safe. CNET's Seth Rosenblatt summed it up nicely: "The best way to avoid getting hacked at Def Con is to not show up."

That said, here are some key suggestions for those attending:

1. Wi-Fi? Bluetooth? Keepin' it (un)real like its 1995.

Translation: Turn them off and pretend like they don't exist. Should you choose to bring a laptop or smartphone, do not access or use any wireless networks or hotspots in the area. Wi-Fi hotspots are easily hackable by phishers, so only connect to the Internet under the most necessary circumstances, and with VPN. Aside from that, turn off these radios and pretend like you never had em'.


2. No Plastic.

Cash is king. Do not use debit or credit cards for any financial transactions. Before you go, pull out enough cash to last you for the week and avoid ATMs at all costs, especially at or near the Def Con site. Card skimmers are still around to steal financial data, so I wouldn't rely too much on hotel security. There's a good reason why Def Con only accepts cash for admission.


3. Take Charge (but only your own).

Avoid using public USB charging devices, as hackers can steal your smartphone data over modded chargers. Bring your own power chargers or keep some spare batteries in your pocket. In fact, it's probably best to keep your phone off and battery removed while you're there.

4. Back Up. Wipe. Restore. Rinse and Repeat.

Before you go, make sure to save a backup image of your computer. Keep a fresh OS with all security programs patched and updated. Download.com has plenty of slick options to get the job done. Be prepared to wipe and restore again at the end of the conference. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas -- and you'll want to keep it that way for your machine.


5. The Pen is Mightier than the Stylus.

Pen is unhackable. It never runs out of juice and a paper notebook can store a surprising amount of data without the need for a network connection. All silliness aside, unless you think you can fend for yourself against hackers, it probably is best to leave all your devices at home.

Finally, have fun! Def Con is a one-of-a-kind event and Def Con 21 is no exception.

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