Queercon Brings Together LGBTQ InfoSec Community at DEFCON

Queercon Brings Together LGBTQ InfoSec Community at DEFCON


Hey everybody, this is Ray with Unicorn
Riot, we are in Las Vegas, Nevada, at DEFCON 26, and QueerCon 15, speaking
with Jason. Jason can you tell me a little about yourself and QueerCon and
how you’re involved? Great, yeah, so QueerCon is the LGBT gay hacking group, LGBTQ,
we are the diversity wing of DEFCON, so we kind of create a con within a con,
creating a space for people to meet, mingle, share stories, make new friends,
and, you know, enjoy Las Vegas and enjoy DEFCON. What’s your role, how long
have you been with QueerCon? So, I have been part of QueerCon for about 11 years now, I found it just as a random first-timer at Def Con and found it in the
program and said ‘that sounds like fun’ and for the last five years, I’ve
actually been president of the organization, we became a nonprofit
organization a few years ago and have continued to grow our exposure, our
outreach, and what, what our mission is, to promote diversity within the InfoSec
community. What kind of, like, role does QueerCon play in DEFCON or do you know,
like, what need it satisfied by forming? So, I mean, DEFCON has always been a very interesting group of people, and you know,
when, when QueerCon got founded 15 years ago, it was a bunch of gay hackers,
a couple gay hackers at the time, realizing, hey, I can’t be the only person
here, how do we let other people know, and so, they went to DEFCON and said, we want to try and schedule kind of like, a get-together somewhere at some time, with all gay hackers and DEFCON was like, we like the idea, but
we’re a little concerned at how this might play out, so they decided to do a
pool mixer, and ended up swarming the pool with goons [DEFCON security] just to provide
protection for the gay people that were going to show up, because they weren’t
sure what was going to happen, and that’s also where we have such a great
relationship with DEFCON, it’s because we started out of that, and we also have
a really good relationship with the goons because they just learned that we just
want to have fun, so it’s over the 15 years of our relationship, you know, we just, we
partner with DEFCON as much as we can to do our pool party, all of our other
events, and now we we operate a whole, almost a full conference within, within
this week as well. Can you talk a little bit about, kind of, what activities and like, other things that go on here at QueerCon? So, QueerCon, like I said,
history is it started as a pool party, and so, what we’ve always tried to do
with all of our events is keep it very warm, inviting, everyone just come be
chill, have a good time, so the party Thursday night is just our kick-off
party, it’s, it’s people coming back for the first time after a year, everyone’s
meeting each other, a whole bunch of new people show up and it’s that
introduction, but then Friday night is, is our pool party, and you know, you can walk around and probably ask anybody in DEFCON, it’s like, what’s the best pool party,
and they’re gonna say QueerCon, we do throw a really cool pool party, so, I mean
that’s, we, we know what we’re good at, we’re good at a whole bunch of things,
but we know what, also, the, the community likes, and to get all the gay hackers to
the pool, and all of our allies out, and we go have unicorn wars and in the, in
the pool for all night, you know, it’s just that’s, that’s our fun element. And what other kind of elements besides fun, then? Do you guys do some educational kind of stuff? Yeah, so, we have like I said, we have a con within a con, so we have a
lot of talks this year talking about diversity, inclusion, social media privacy, and all of it, well, our trend here was to
try and create a culture of getting to our allies, getting to our partners with
sponsors, or just a business community, to really show what the LGBT community is
within InfoSec. Um, can you talk about some kind of, like, successes that you’ve
had along the way, any surprises or, like, happy outcomes? Lots of surprises along
the way, normally our surprises are growth. We started, the first year I
showed up, it turned out was like 20 people, we sat around a table and we just
met each other, now we’re up to like 2,000 people that show up for this event,
so in year over year, I’m just like how do people keep finding out about us,
because we have no expectation of how fast we’re growing. Success stories, the
only reason I, I kind of still do this as a volunteer, year after year after year,
is because of all the people that I meet that are, that come up and say, I had the
best time, this has been like a new family to me, or, you know, stories where
people have just come out to their parents and, you know, they’re having a
rough time, now they find people that are in the same, that are like them, and so it
just created this culture, and it truly is becoming a family. Where do you see yourselves going in the future, do you have any different goals or
anything new coming up? So our, our goal is to continue the outreach, and part of
that is, you know, we started at DEFCON, we have for a number of years partnered
with BSIDES Las Vegas, BSIDES San Francisco, and the other geographic
area BSIDES locations, we partnered with Black Hat for the last, for the first
time last year, and we continue that, what we really see our growth is, is creating
that diversity element within the security conferences that happen along,
all year round, you know, because every security conference can’t provide the
resources needed to support the community that’s there, you know, so we
just want to step in and try and partner with those other conferences to make
sure that there’s a space for the LGBTQ people. Can you tell me a little bit about
the badges? You sell a certain number and then you give them away after that? Yep, so our mission is to create a social
element within our badges, we have really awesome electronic badges every year
that our badge team, George, Evan and Jonathan come up with, and our, because we understand, you know, they’re, they’re not cheap for us to make, so we kind of take
a goal of saying half of the badges that we are going to produce, we’re gonna pre-sell but when you buy and pre-register for a badge, you’re actually buying a
badge for somebody else that can’t afford it, it’s a student, it’s their first
time, so we always set aside at least 50% of our allotment of badges for people
that have never been, can’t afford it, just socially, as long as they’re like,
engaged with the community, we, we want to be able to make sure that there’s no
barrier for them to join us. How many badges did you produce or how many do
you give away for free this year? So we produced 450, we had a slight snafu with UPS, they, they smashed a few of them, so we ended up
with less than that, but we only pre-sold 200, and the rest of those were all
handed out for free, for people that just showed up. I saw that there was some kind
of like challenges put out on Twitter to get, like get badges, now what’s the
impetus behind that? Again, it’s, we don’t want to just, you come up and say, hey, I
want a badge, we want you to actually be engaged and follow us, we want to make
sure that you’re part of, you’re, you’re not just that badge collector
that’s walking around DEFCON with 75 different electronic badges and now you
want one more to like, complete the collection. So we do a scavenger hunt
over here. We send out through our social media, through our own QueerCon app, you know, places you have to go, people, things you have to do, you know, in order to earn one,
you know, it’s free once you do it, but you have to actually put in the effort,
we’re not just gonna you give you one. It’s always been kind of a, how do we
create an icebreaker, how do we get people to actually go up and talk to
somebody. And so we started creating like, how do we interconnect, how do we, you
know, our running joke is how do we create vaginal sex, you know, and we have
all these types of puns that we talk about when we’re actually going through
and doing the design work, but it’s, what’s the icebreaker, what’s the element
to get somebody that would normally just sit in a corner to actually go out
and talk to somebody they would probably never talk to. And so last year, we
actually created like, a more community-based, you know, it used to just
be one-on-one kind of pairing, or talking to one person, engaging with that, and
then that would unlock something, but now it’s more of a community thing, everyone
in every one of the badges is all working towards a common mission to
unlock, this year it’s to decrypt a file that will be the final reveal
on Sunday at our closing ceremonies. So you give away certain badges for free
when people participate, and then sometimes you need a badge to get into
the parties but sometimes you don’t? So again, we’re always wanting to try to be as open and inviting, as, for people that had never heard about us, or students
they’re, you know, driving here and sleeping in their car, I mean DEFCON is a
very unique group, so we tried, we try and keep as much as we can open and free to
everyone. What we ran into last year with our growth was being in the DEFCON hotel
with all the other hotel guests, you know, we do throw really good parties, and they’re open bars, but when we hit a point last year where
we truly recognized that it was just random hotel guests stumbling through,
being like, hey there’s a party and I don’t, I just have to walk in, or, my
favorite story was last year we had a mariachi, a full mariachi band, show up,
they had just stumbled all across to us, somebody downstairs in the lobby said,
hey, there’s a party up on this floor, and they just showed up, and I get a call on
the radio saying, hey, there’s a mariachi band here that wants to come into the party. At that point we realized we had to create some level of deterrent for that.
So this year, we decided, for the first time ever, we were gonna create a non-electronic badge, because we can only could do so many electronics, and that
was gonna be a requirement for our evening events where we’re giving out
free alcohol, just because we have to control how much, I mean it’s expensive
to give out a lot of free booze, especially when you’re at DEFCON because
we drink like fishes. Our daytime, you know, space is really
just creating a comfortable environment where people can come, they can sit in a
corner and work on a crypto challenge, or they can feel like they’re in a safe
place that they, you know, just can hunker down and don’t have to be in the big
giant convention space with, you know, thirty thousand other people wandering
around them. So we truly try and provide just that safe lounging area that, you
know, anyone can come into and just relax and, and, you know have breakfast, or meet
new, meet new people and that, that’s pretty much what we’ve tried to create. Is there anything else I might have missed that you wanted to add on? No, I mean, I think, you know, the only thing I will say is, you know, we are a
completely volunteer organization, we have a staff of 13 people that spend
every waking minute dedicated to making sure that we create these spaces in this
environment for this community. How can you get involved or how can you donate even if you can’t come? Online, you can find information about volunteering and
donating at QueerCon.org

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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