Nearly one year ago, we first met Logan Murphy, an IT consultant with Long View Systems in Fort Collins, Colorado, when he became the one millionth IT pro to become CompTIA A+ certified. Back then, we learned a little bit about Murphy and chronicled his all-expense paid three-day trip to Houston, Texas, sponsored by Total Seminars, to meet Mike Meyers and star in a training video and materials. But that’s not all Murphy won. In addition to visiting Total Seminars, Murphy was awarded $4,500 to spend on admission to a tech show of his choice plus lodging and $500 to cover travel expenses. Murphy’s pick: DEF CON 23. We caught up with our good friend once again to hear about his experience.
CompTIA: We want to hear all about DEF CON 23. Where was it held?
Murphy: DEF CON 23 [was] in Las Vegas. It took up conference rooms at both the Paris and Bally’s Casinos.
CompTIA: As part of your prize bundle you could choose any conference you wanted to attend. Why DEF CON 23?
Murphy: I wanted to make it a fun one. I choose DEF CON 23 because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and covers a bunch of topics that I find interesting. It’s attended by folks who share those same interests.
CompTIA: What was your overall impression of the conference?
Murphy: It was my first time going, and I’d heard a number of interesting stories from folks that had been before about being very careful with information and networking. But I didn’t really pick up on all that. The talks I attended, the folks I met and the overall atmosphere was really just a lot of fun. It’s doesn’t feel like a traditional IT conference – especially when the staff shows up and takes a shot with a first-time speaker.
CompTIA: How did you spend the majority of your time at DEF CON 23?
Murphy: I would say I spent the most time at the Social Engineering Village. It was truly riveting. But, in the same way that when you attend a great music festival you inevitably miss something cool while you’re in another place, there was so much going on at DEF CON 23 that it was impossible to see everything. I attended a few talks that were of great interest to me, attended hilarious events like “Hacker Jeopardy,” and spent some moments relaxing in the “chill-out room” trying to decide if running on four hours of sleep was such a great idea!
CompTIA: It sounds like you had a great time. Tell us about the atmosphere and the people. Did you make any new connections?
Murphy: It was a very eclectic crowd to say the least. One of the first people I met was a teenager visiting from Norway who, in addition to being a self-proclaimed proficient picker of locks, was actively building apps during any downtime we had. I also had conversations with seasoned IT veterans and even met folks who had nothing to do with computers; they were simply artists or media members in attendance due to the alt-culture surrounding DEF CON 23. One of the most interesting people I met, though, was a grad student who was using machine learning to find ISIL accounts on Twitter. It’s always great to see technology working on issues in the real world.
CompTIA: Speaking of the real world, do you have an interest in information security? Could CompTIA Security+ be in your future?
Murphy: Well, information security will probably never be my career path, but I have more than a passing interest in the field. I want to keep my CompTIA A+ valid for the duration of my working years and CompTIA Security+ will definitely be the first certificate I take to ensure that’s the case.
CompTIA: The DEF CON 23 website has some pretty interesting rules about the conference; including not threatening to bomb the hotel while you’re there. What do you make of this?
Murphy: DEF CON definitely lives in a gray area and I’m sure there are less than savory things happening with some of the folks in attendance. All in all though, they go out of their way to create an environment where everything stays above the board. The conference also has a strong focus on supporting the EFF, which works to defend rights in the digital world we have built. Do you remember the Sony hacking and the clumsy attempts to take credit for it? Well, DEF CON is less about how to take advantage of companies and more about how to safely and legally disclose to companies that you’ve found vulnerabilities in their software or security systems. I would say DEF CON is outside of the box – but in a good way.
CompTIA: This trip was the final piece of your CompTIA prize. What was your single biggest takeaway?
Murphy: I suppose this takeaway applies to a number of things in life, but it was especially interesting [to be] at a conference about hacking and other aspects of both computer and physical security. At the end of the day, you can put up a great firewall, follow all the guidelines for physical and information security and all it takes to ruin it is people. This was made especially clear during one talk [in which] the speaker [said he had] walked right into a bank and connected a USB device [to a computer] without any official paperwork or standing – all while wearing a DEF CON jacket. Incredible!
With his CompTIA A+ certification in hand, Logan Murphy hit the proverbial jackpot as the one millionth IT pro to do so. Start taking steps towards your CompTIA certification and see what happens when we reach our next milestone!