BSidesLondon – A Goons Perspective
Hey, I am Ben Docherty, Team Leader of Engineering at Quorum Cyber, the organiser for BSidesNewcastle and DC44191. I am passionate about educating others, building things in my shed and playing with fire!
For background, BSidesLondon is part of the Global BSides movement : a network of hundreds of events worldwide providing a framework and guidance to run local community events.
I have attended BSides Events for the last 6-7 years all over the UK – and even ran BSidesNcl for three years – but this is the first time I had decided to volunteer. As part of my self-development at Quorum Cyber, I had arranged to attend as a regular attendee but I wanted to give back this time and nothing quite hits like the buzz of helping people who put on awesome events.
So, I did what event volunteers do, dropped my details on the form and applied to help out. The response came a little later that week with an invite to the BSidesLondon Slack and an intro meeting from Brian. I joined and immediately recognised more than a few names from BSidesNcl – I knew it was going to be awesome.
So spin forward to arriving Friday night (unfortunately, I missed the workshops in the daytime), get to the hotel that, thankfully, I booked the hotel the conference is in, throw stuff in my room and get to the bar. Not listing names, but the room was full of fresh faces, plus people I knew well, to happy smiling faces talking tech-trading war stories and offering guidance and advice. This feeling of a melting pot, of free-flowing ideas, is why I attend community events. I was volunteering from early morning so had to call short the fun and head to bed.
7:00 Alarm rings take a few minutes to realise who I am, where I am, what day it is, put on clothes, sort my hair and head down to the kickoff meeting.
7:30 Kick-off meeting, time to find out what jobs I am running for the day. Track 2; have a little chat with Sam (one of my co-organisers for BSidesNcl running Track 1 ) and Brian (one of the BSidesLondon organisers) and run over the plan. In short, do nothing, make sure the volunteers get the chance to do everything, be there to support and guide – I love it! Plus, as of the ceremonial handing out of the t’s we were not just volunteers, we were officially BSides London 2021 Goons.
7:45 Inhale bacon and chug cuppas.
8:00 Time to meet my team for the day and set out plans for the day ahead. Simple enough, we have five jobs; speaker intro, mic runner, back of room and doors inside and out; as doors will have to miss a lot of the talks, I take that role and make sure the rest of the team circulate the other roles, as I want to give everyone that “I did that” feeling. We organised (looted) water bottles from the sponsors for the speakers, checked that we had every video adaptor under the sun, did a final AV test and, we were good to go.
9:00 start of the talks, we kept to the plan – all went without fault. James kicked us off with a cheery talk on the end of the world followed by Klaus chatting about crowd-based infrastructure defence.
10:45 First break, a quick check with the team – everything is perfect. The attendees are involved with the talks, Q&A sections (my favourite) have been busy with great and, sometimes challenging, questions. A few of the volunteers pop off for “lobby con” and partake in the fun to be had.
11:30 Back at the talks, with Glenn, unfortunately presenting alone as Stephan had a medical issue. Despite this, with Glenn only knowing half of the talk, it was a great talk on pushing left and how we were doing it wrong, followed by Chris on audit and compliance headaches. Both were great talks.
13:00 Lunchtime. Another quick team chat to check that everyone that wanted to do a job had a chance. Everything was running like a well-oiled machine. We organised lunch and cover so that we could all enjoy the conference. Now I have mentioned “lobby con” before, my favourite part of the conference – the event stands.
- Lockpicking village, try your hand at one of the hundreds of locks and get expert hints and tips.
- Car hacking village, with the awesome car in a box (as that is far easier than driving a car through a revolving door).
- The Sponsor stands, with their variety of swag toys like the F1 driving sim and Scalextric and, all of this wrapped with hundreds of other people all chatting tech and discussing the previous talks.
Toys and distractions aside – being in a room with that many people, all focused on a cause of bettering cyber for us all, is unique to community conferences – the energy the room was electric. I was approached by people I have only ever chatted to on Twitter/Zoom, having in-person conversations for the first time in what seems like a lifetime. As the first running of this event since COVID started, it was great to be part of it.
14:00 Talks start again. Quick catch up with the team make sure the roles are rotating, everyone is having fun and were back to back for the rest of the day. Abi kicks off the afternoon talks with an outstanding talk on credential attack recon and how to reduce false positives. Security Queens then gave a truly inspirational talk on their journey so far of two wannabe hackers. Tim brings an insightful and considered reflection on zero trust, and Foo closes out our track with a thought-provoking and very well delivered talk on securing delivery pipelines. I have to admit, on the day, I did miss most of the afternoon as I was mainly on the outside of the door but, I did manage to catch up via the recordings. I would rather that the volunteers enjoyed their experience, spending time chatting tech and catching up with the friends that walked past – it was what I was there for.
17:30 Closing ceremony – we all gathered in the main stage (attendees that had stayed and all the volunteers). Closing rights, rambles and, thanks to all and, that was it … well not really. We all chipped in to tear down and make sure everything was okay – then off to the bar.
19:00–ish Ah back in that melting pot, discussions on the days talks abound, food and drinks are acquired and, fun. I got introduced to the hopeful organiser for 2022 BSides Basingstoke. I offered to mentor and had a great chat about what not to do when organising a BSides event – like heating is a good idea, more drinks, more conversations, more fun.
21:00 FIRE, as always, well last two years, I had my fire staff with me. So, we grabbed a load of people including, Stu, Jen, Ben and a few more. I got my fire staff and, we popped over the road to have a quick spin. Considering it was most peoples first time playing with fire, everyone did pretty well and, no burns.
22:00 Everyone is still partying on, chatting with friends face to face for the first time and loving life, but myself – I am knackered. I need food, generic boneless meal acquired, I find a waffle and bubble tea place open on the way back. An epic tea of chicken, boneless box followed by Belgian waffles with orange and chocolate and a strawberry milk tea with lime bubbles. The perfect way to close a perfect day.
23:00 Night all.