For the last few years, I have held out hope that Narwhal would one day be able to return to the Hacker Summer Camp conferences (BSidesLV, Black Hat, and DEF CON) in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, history has not been kind:

  • 2020: Cancelled (thankfully)
  • 2021: Black Hat and DEF CON are superspreader events
  • 2022: Same as 2021
  • 2023: Same as 2021 (reports of 80% COVID infection in major attendee groups), but also BSidesLV changes its masking policy at the last moment

And now, in 2024, DEF CON has announced that it will have police with drug dogs “welcoming” people to its new home at the Las Vegas Convention Center—but no changes to its policies against protecting attendees against COVID (the same policies that drove SkyTalks to discontinue participation in DEF CON in 2023). BSidesLV no longer has the consistency of vision that made it a worthwhile conference. Black Hat is, as always, itself. It’s trite to say that Summer Camp is no longer what it once was, but it’s clear that the conferences have changed.

There comes a time in the life of a small side event where it becomes clear that it’s no longer compatible with its host events, and I believe we’ve reached that point. Narwhal will continue on as a community, as a Slack supporting a variety of efforts, an Amateur Radio Club, and potentially as a side event at other conferences in the future, but we won’t be returning to Las Vegas in the foreseeable future.

Remember the good times. Stay safe out there.

Swim together.