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A Newbie's Introduction to DEFCON

My introduction to hacking

Since that hackers at DEFCON live in a different world, they take on alternate names or handles. Everyone at DEFCON has a handle and go by only that name at the convention. Names ranged from cool to goofy, depending on the person who came up with the name.


Since I am an intern at Tom's Hardware, it was an obvious choice to be called simply "Intern." The name also helped me fit in with my group since it made my role clear. I tried to help out with group activities and in turn, other members showed me around and gave me helpful advice.

I like the name Intern since it's short, easy to remember, and catchy, so I'll keep using it for my future DEFCONs. Other interesting handles from my group were KeLviN (Figure 1), Kallahar, Tacitus, and TwinVega. These handles were all unique and stood out during the convention.

Figure 1: KeLviN with his BIG DEFCON necklace

Since hacker handles are used so much, hackers' real names are generally unknown. At first, I ran into problems when calling our Editor, Humphrey Cheung, "Humphrey", instead of his hacker handle NOT5150. People looked at me with blank stares and asked, "Who is Humphrey?" Anonymity is further enhanced because the admission fee to DEFCON is paid in cash, providing no paper trail of a person's attendance.

When I first arrived at DEFCON I was greeted by a group known as the Irvine Underground, IVU for short. IVU is a hacking group based out of Irvine, California, but which has also spread to other parts of California and the rest of the country. Part of their goal is to bring people together in a constructive manner, throwing away some of the elitism of other hacking or computer groups. The gang at IVU took me in immediately and showed me around DEFCON. They told me about the contests they were entering and the different convention activities that were worth checking out.