What I learned about information security at Black Hat USA

I attended Black Hat USA 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For the past 20 years, Black Hat has been at the forefront of providing the most technical and relevant content in regards to information security and hosts conferences in the United States, Europe, and Asia yearly.

I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from Alta Associates’ Executive Women’s Forum to attend the briefing sessions. Black Hat is split between training sessions where attendees take courses on various topics while the briefings are where industry professionals learn about the latest security risks, trends, and research from other security researchers and professionals.

As an 18-year-old security nerd, I’ve only been able to experience Black Hat and other security conferences such as DEF CON and BSides vicariously through mediums such as Twitter. To finally attend one of these massive conferences – and so new in my education and career as well – made the trip that much more interesting.

Earning my stripes

When I arrived at the conference and signed in, I had the option to have my job title and company printed on my badge. As I did not have a full-time job in a technical role, I just put my title down as “Student” and company as “Cleveland State University.” (Go Vikes!)

I also figured having “Student” displayed on me at all times would let other professionals know that I may not fully understand everything they are speaking to me about and I may have some extra questions. This proved to be both helpful and a hindrance.

In a more troubling instance, I was at the Business Hall where hundreds of companies are giving presentations about their security solutions and giving out tons of free swag. I was speaking to a representative from a company and all was going well until he asked what I did and read my name badge.

I explained to him that I was a college freshman at Cleveland State and worked as an intern at Hyland. Once he figured out I was a student, things got child-like. The conversation became less serious, he started to use less technical terms and simplified everything.

I was not happy about this outcome. I worked hard to come to this event and while I may not be the security expert he wanted me to be, I obviously knew enough to earn my spot here and strike up intelligent conversations with others.

That behind me, being a student benefited me during lunch! I sat and ate with a group of current university students and recent graduates. We exchanged contact information and talked about the sessions we had attended so far. I even met up with one of them again the next day and we were together a while longer. As we all had school in common, we treated each other as equals.

Changing my life

I can honestly say that what I was able to experience was life-changing. I learned so many new things that I have taken home with me and used in personal projects. I even learned a few tricks the Application Security team at Hyland can use.

I also won a bunch of free goodies from various vendors and companies that were sponsors.

Attending Black Hat has solidified my decision to continue my education in computer science and potentially pursue a career in how to improve information security. I can only hope to attend again next year and I strongly suggest anyone who has the opportunity to attend, to attend.

Alexis Lee is a former Hyland intern. She's currently a student at Cleveland State studying computer science.
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Alexis Lee

Alexis Lee is a former Hyland intern. She’s currently a student at Cleveland State studying computer science.

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