Brendan O'Connor



  1. noun A large sort of whale with a tusk. Like a sea unicorn.
  2. noun A gathering, scheming, and hangout space for the tech policy, law, wonk/wonk-adjacent, and compliance crowds, as well as others of good will and interesting conversation.

Hacker Summer Camp 2017 (July 24-30, 2017), Flamingo, Las Vegas, NV.

Narwhal is a space at Hacker Summer Camp (Black Hat USA, Security BSides Las Vegas, and DEF CON) designed to provide a useful space for the tech policy / law / wonk (and wonk-adjacent) crowd to meet, hang out, and discuss stuff where it’s not so ridiculously loud as the con floors of any of the three cons. Generally, the idea is that this is a resource: a meeting or work area during the day for anyone who needs one, and in the evenings it can be a relaxed discussion group or salon.

Below, please find relevant information about Narwhal. Questions/comments? Please contact [email protected].

The genesis of this suite came during hacker summer camp 2016, when Brendan and a group of five other wonkish sorts tried for 45 minutes to find a single place anywhere within 100 miles of DEF CON that wasn’t so loud they couldn’t hear each other talk. They failed, but an idea was born. Thus, Narwhal, where those of us who do security in weird ways can talk, scheme, plan, and hang out as a useful addition to all the wonderful things happening at the various cons!

Why Narwhal? There are a few reasons, but the simplest is that parts of the security community like to pretend that work that's not all-offensive isn't real security work---or that people that aren't offensive for offense's own sake aren't security people. The truth is that, like narwhals, we do exist. We're important to ecosystems and the world of security, and we're often misunderstood. And we could use a space to hang out in (because even though we've had many great tech policy discussions in a nightclub during a Black Hat party, it'd be neat if we could hear ourselves think while planning the next response to cartels named after Dutch suburbs).

If you’re reading this site, likely you! While Narwhal is in theory for the law/policy/wonk or compliance-aligned subset of attendees of Hacker Summer Camp, honestly we encourage anyone of good will to join us. Not allowed: bigots, haters, and people who think that the only useful security work is popping shells. (People who just like popping shells in concert with a larger panoply of security work are, of course, fine.) Know someone else who you think should know about this? Send them to this site!

Many people will have keys to the suite; people with keys are welcome to let others in and hold open hours. (Need to find a keyholder? DM @narwhalbe on Twitter.)

The suite will be at the Flamingo, across the skybridge from Caesar’s (DEF CON), and just a short hop away from the BSLV and BHUSA con hotels. The room is 27087.

Generally, the suite will be open and/or available during con-rational hours (roughly 11am-11pm) Tuesday, July 25, through Sunday, July 30. We'll try to have someone there most of the time for general drop-ins and hanging out, but the suite is staffed by volunteers (volunteer nerds, to be fair). The suite will be particularly useful in the evenings, with hangouts, talks, or other events many evenings during the week. If you're a policy-type person and want to join us, do it!


  • Wednesday, July 26
    • 7pm Neighbor League Party - if you're one of the people on this list, you already know it.
  • Thursday, July 27
    • 6pm-8pm BOFish Talks - Four speakers presenting for 15 minutes on a topic they think others need to pay attention to, followed by 15 minutes of questions and discussions. No recording, no quoting speakers/attendees at this event. Speakers:
      • Allan Friedman - The Case for Kumbaya
      • Aaron Alva - So You Want to Market Your Security Product
      • Cat Murdock - [Title not yet submitted]
      • Andrea Matwyshyn - Broken
    • 8pm Drinks and Chat - You know, where you can have a drink, and chat with interesting people. We're not renting out the biggest nightclub in Vegas, nor are we cramming 600 people into a hotel room (there are plenty of opportunities for both at other parties).
  • Friday, July 28
    • 7pm Undisclosed event - The room is open for others as well for work/chat, but there will be a group using the room at this time for their event.

How can you get involved?

  • Show up! If you're interested, come by; check out the Twitter account for announcements on events and general open times; if you'd like more confirmation, send a DM to make sure.
  • Seriously, though, that! This is the first year of Narwhal, so it's an experiment. It may be a terrible idea, in which case it won't return; if it goes well, we'll likely make it happen next year. We don't know what will happen until you show up!