Sexism makes hacker conferences a nightmare

A top female hacker has said that she will not go to DEFCON because she does not want to be groped.

The largest and most famous hacker conference in the world is allegedly rife with sexual harassment and women who show up are seen as potential targets by the predominantly male audience.

Writing in her blog, hacker called Valerie Aurora said that she had first attended DEFCON in 1995 as a 17-year-old. At that time DEFCON 3 was just a few hundred computer security experts wearing black leather jackets and milling around in a ballroom at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas.

However, all that changed, and Aurora said she would never go to the conference again because of her bad experiences at DEFCON. These range from sexual insults to straight out sexual assault.

Aurora wrote that DEFCON isn’t unusual among hacker conferences. There are similar stories about Black Hat, HOPE, CCC, and others.

While sexual harassment at other computer conferences appears unintentional, at hacker conferences she alleges it is deliberate, 

Aurora said it is tragic because DEFCON stands for many wonderful things and is a great place to network and pick up a good job.

But with the perverts chasing women off, it effectively keeps the top hacking jobs in the hands of men. Twitter and the NSA, for example, recruits from DEFCON, and if there are no women there because they are frightened of being sexually molested, there are no women to hire.

One woman who tried to do something about it was KC who created the Red/Yellow Card Project.

She started to hand out red and yellow penalty cards to people making sexist comments. She designed and printed the cards and distributed them at this year’s DEFCON. DEFCON founder Jeff Moss thought it was a good idea and offered to pay for the printing costs.

However, Aurora said that she was waiting to hear about the first hacker conference to adopt a specific, enforceable, well-planned policy protecting women from harassment.

When that happens she said she will promote the hell out of it and go. The first one to do it will get dozens or hundreds of new attendees, she said.