Sunday, April 7, 2013

BSIDESIOWA 2.0.13 Recap


BSidesIowa 2.0.13
Conference in Review

When I started to write this post I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say, how I wanted to take this conversation and what I wanted to share. BSidesIowa 2.0.13 has been one of the more interesting and chaotic events I have had the opportunity to be involved with.  

I should have realized that after the Rainbows and Unicorns that happened around the first BSidesIowa that I shouldn’t expect the 2nd BSidesIowa to be as easy. The first event was in Ames, great budget, and some good speakers. As fate would have had it, the 2nd BSidesIowa was a high stress, chaotic organizational cluster.

With this being my last year for my Masters, and BSidesIowa was going to happen in my final Semester I wasn’t sure what my organizational capabilities would be. I went to find help, Phil Polstra, a professor at University of Dubuque stepped up and said he would help, and UD would possibly host it. After a few more discussions we had a date, facility and a few student volunteers. Things were starting to run smoothly, until right around the first of the year. At this time Phil started to pick up more responsibilities at work and I was preparing for relocation to Chicago. Luckily Phil was able to get help from Kayla Sieverding, a student at UD. There was honestly a time we had the discussion if we could pull it off.

As the event continued to progress we had a lot of far reaching stretch goals on what I wanted to provide at BSidesIowa, looking back to I might have been a little too aggressive on what I wanted. We started to see some great talks coming in; we had confirmation for some incredible training, and had some great door prizes. About the 1st of March the realization kicked in that we had no financial sponsorship…. With less than 5 weeks before the event we started to look at options to reduce costs and what we could cut. Over the next few weeks we had a couple of Sponsors step up and offer some support. Thank you SANS for covering the networking party, and to the donors that wish to remain behind the scene, Thank you, your generosity helped us pull it off.

Day of the event was a cloudy weekend, 60F, still a gorgeous day, although there was some rain in the morning, it turned out to a pretty nice day. The talks were amazing, the training classes were incredible, and the shirts were cool.

So let us look at some data:
Event
Budget
Shirts
Training
Tracks/Talks
Lockpick Villiage
# Registerd
# Check in
Attendee %
2012
3000
Yes
no
1/7
no
130
70
53%
2013
1550
Yes
Yes
2/14
Yes
175
203
116%

Yes, you read that right. We had less budget, we offered more and had almost 3x the attendees. These numbers don’t show the whole story. Out of the 175 that were registered 25 were for the lockpick village, and the rest was for the Conference itself. I personally know multiple individuals that were unable to attend the conference that was registered. So looking at the numbers we actually had 17+% of our attendees as last minute walk-ins.

With the overall comments of the attendees and the data above I feel that this event has been extremely successful. While I would love to see the same growth rate next year, I am ok with keeping the same size and continue to focus on quality of our presentations training for our Attendees.  

The Future of BSidesIowa Conferences:

So what does all this mean for BSidesIowa?

With a 3x growth in attendees over last year, we will continue, the local attendee support for this conference is incredible.

We will be back next year, likelihood will put us in the Davenport Iowa area, although there is interest to hold this event in Western Iowa.

Sponsorship:

                We need to learn to engage potential local sponsors and look outside the normal Information Security Companies. Local sponsors should understand the value that we bring to the community and to their organization in training, speakers and networking opportunities.

                We need to engage potential national sponsors and change the preconceived notion that Iowa is just farm country. We need to show them that there is incredible talent, training and potential clients in the 
area that could potential utilize their products.

                We need to re-evaluate what we want in sponsorship and our sponsorship packages. Yes I aimed high and wanted to grow big and fast, I was humbled this year.

                We need to open a dialogue with those sponsors that declined us this year and figure out what we need to change, what they want for sponsorship and what we are comfortable in giving them.

Location:
                We have been lucky with college campuses for donated spaces. As we grow and want to add more we are going to need to make sure that the space can handle us.

                For workshops we need to make sure that we have the infrastructure in place to handle everything. While there were some issues, we were still successful.

Speakers:
                We have an incredible selection of speakers in the Midwest, the range of the topics were incredible. If I can have a similar lineup every year I would be happy. 

                We would like to help strengthen the Mentor track to give new speakers the encouragement and resources to grow.

Topics:
                I have always known what I wanted to see the BSideIowa brand grow into. Yet it took talking to one of the Metasploit trainers to actually make it click. We have Hacker cons, we have DFIR cons, but we have very limited, if any cons that primary purpose is to cater to both tracks and give cross training. Alissa Torres brought up in the 2012 SANS DFIR Conference that DFIR professionals need to get out of our lanes and learn what the Red Team is doing. I would love to see that BSidesIowa grow into that type of community driven conference.

                I would also like to see talks showcasing research from local professionals and students. Show the talent that we have in Iowa and the Midwest. We had some great talks this year that helped.

Workshops:
                These went off incredibly well, the attendees all loved them. They helped make the conference this year. I want more next year.

                If we are able to promote the Red Team/Blue Team tracks I would love to be able to have 2 training sessions for each track. Give each specialization the ability to learn from each other.

                We will invite TOOOL back, this time we will plan a little further in advance and hopefully not have any shipping issues.

                Are you interested in organizing a 4hr or even longer training session?

Closing:
                This was one of the best events that I have ever had the privilege of working on, the support we have received from the community, sponsors and the Trainers are humbling. The fact that our trainers and the Lockpick Village leaders;  Ryan (Metasploit), Heather(Metasploit), Hal(Linux Forensics) and Dave(Lockpick) came to Dubuque on their own expense and offered incredible training for free to our attendees is awesome.

I was also impressed that my daughter attended her first Infosec Conference and survived the entry level Metasploit class. Considering her first experience in linux was 2 days before the conference. Heather, thank you, she still talks about what she learned.

      We are going to need to start working on next year, planning and organizing. Who wants to help? 
Patories@gmail.com

Ken





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