Inside the network ops at DefCon

Wired's Threat Level blog sweet-talked itself into the network operations center at DefCon, the infamous hacker con in Vegas, and got some great dirt on what it takes to run a network used by some of the world's most talented hackers:

Over 9,000 hackers, freaks, feds and geeks are gathered in Las Vegas for Defcon, the world's largest computer security convention. The temporary wireless network that serves the Defcon attendees is the most hostile on the planet.

Defcon's network is put together and run by a group of dedicated volunteers, known as Goons. These red badge-sporting Network Goons work hard to make the network robust enough to handle the endless stream of dangerous traffic.

A First Ever Look Inside The Defcon Network Operations Center

(Photo: Dave Bullock (eecue)/


  1. @#2: Mountain Dew is so oldschool. I saw more bawls and redbull and similar energy drinks at defcon this year.

    Also, in general, the first comment on that wired link was fairly dead on. the NOC guys at WWDC were amazing this year. All shiny, all visible to anyone who walked past: live stats/visualizations on four huge cinema displays and all the hardware behind the glass in the actual NOC. Not to say the Defcon goons weren’t good, they deserve a beer for their work. But the WWDC network was way larger and was used way more (probably because it’s not as hostile and more people were using the wifi on their laptops/iPhones vs. defcon). Compare cacti graphs:
    (take a close look at the y-axis on both)

  2. I bow down to their L33T MRTG skill…their ability to plug RJ45 cables into ports is magical…oh no, the link light isn’t coming on – wait, they perform the arcane “no shut” command and it’s working!

  3. @ vonmises Are you a newib or something? Look at that network switch. There must be twenty wires running to it! In several different colors no less. I bet those hackers delete your social security number just for your insolence.

  4. What kind of security is preventing a WiFi hack? Something like a password, or perhaps terrabyte encryption? It all seems very “Preventitive Measure-ish”. The Feds love to hire the best of the worst. Who wants to work for the NSA?

  5. Cory:
    I am hereby ripping one stripe off of your Geek uniform:

    A Network Operations Center is properly called a NOC, not a Network Ops.

  6. To be fair, the folks at WWDC have a massive budget and get paid for what they do. They also don’t host the world’s (arguably) most hostile wireless network.

  7. @eecue: yes, that is definitely a plus for the defcon goons. i highly respect their ability to keep the defcon network up and running. after all, wwdc is thousands of dollars per attendee, located at moscone west, etc.

    to be honest, i’m surprised at the cacti graphs for the defcon network. wouldnt’ve thought so many people would be using it :P

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