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DEFCON 27: Changing the World by Hacking

This entry was posted in CEO Thoughts on Sep 5, 2019 by Mark Maunder

When the rest of the world heads to cooler climates in the summer, the security community descends upon the heat of the Las Vegas desert for DEFCON, also known as Hacker Summer Camp. We come to DEFCON to connect, we come to learn, we come to focus on our mission and we come to laugh. We accomplished all of those missions at DEFCON 27.

Some team members came from the United Kingdom, another from Australia, and from all over the United States. Our goal in spending time at DEFCON is to stay updated on the latest in security vulnerabilities, exploits and defense, as well as bring our entire team together to talk about WordPress, security, and chart our mission to be of greatest service possible to our customers and the WordPress community. And, of course, to have a little fun.

Hacking Trust

Defiant has one core value and that is Trust. We trust our employees to do the right thing, and we ask they trust leadership in charting the course. And we work hard to earn the trust of WordPress users worldwide by providing world-class product, service and support. To earn that trust, we strive for excellence in all we do.

This year we focused on our commitment to innovation through engineering the best products and services possible. It is our belief that through excellence in engineering, we can change the world.

The Defiant engineering team solving complex security challenges at DEFCON27.

Our team is a collection of A players. Each team member brings a set of skills and passion that cannot be found elsewhere, and we’re all hackers in one way or another. Whether our marketing team is hacking a new way to engage audiences or our engineering team is solving complex problems, we’re hacking our way out of challenges. This year, we renewed and deepened our commitment to serving WordPress users around the world.

Defiant Connecting

In the world of distributed work, we find many opportunities to connect online but often don’t see each other in real life except for our annual meeting at DEFCON. As such, we make sure that we take one day to talk about our mission, values and goals as a team.

As a part of our team building exercise, we partnered with TeamBonding to organize an interactive event. True to the Defiant culture, we worked towards a team goal of doing big things to be of service. TeamBonding put us in touch with a local Las Vegas nonprofit organization that helps kids get to school safely. We assembled eight children’s bicycles for the Clark County School District Safe Routes to School Program. This organization encourages safe walking and biking routes to and from school. Our bikes were donated just in time for the new school year.

Not only were we doing good for the community, we ended up creating some fantastic photo opportunities for our team as well as opportunities to laugh with people we sometimes see infrequently in real life.

Director of Security Colette Chamberland and QA Lead Matt Rusnak test the bikes we built for charity.

Senior Security Analyst Giles Wright rocking the sparkly bike and looking good in his race.

Senior Operations Engineer Scott Bisker, or Miami Vice does the Terminator on a pink bike?

Though we had a great time at the DEFCON official events, our team building and team connecting events are some of the most memorable. Though distributed, our team is connected where it matters most; we all genuinely like each other and enjoy each others’ company. Getting together in real life only serves to strengthen our connection and core values.

Deepening our Security Skills

DEFCON itself had a number of opportunities for our team to show off their incredible hacking and security skills. One of the most popular activities is Capture the Flag. Over 200 teams participated in the Capture the Flag contest this year, and Defiant’s team placed 5th.

This may have just been a game, but the challenges are some of those seen in the real world. Our team showed their hacking capabilities, and their ability to see and protect against vulnerability exploitation, skills that are put into practice daily protecting our customers against attacks.

Hacking out of challenges is something we do. It’s in our DNA, and our team showed their aptitude.

Excellence in Customer Service

Our customer service engineers reside around the world, ensuring that there’s always someone available to connect with Wordfence Premium customers at different times of the day. Our customer service team is also quite technical, and their hacking skills are called upon regularly to help customers solve customer’s problems or make sense of a difficult security issue.

No matter how complex, our customer service team embodies the hacker mindset ensuring that no problem is left unsolved. The customer service team met at DEFCON and talked about ways they can change the world for the WordPress customers we serve.

Tim Cantrell leads our customer service engineering team and leads with heart and a drive for innovation.

More Hacking Fun

Our team attended numerous talks and participated in a number of villages. Villages are interactive areas where security professionals can come together to test out new security tools and skills, and learn from others. While video and photography are discouraged within the DEFCON conference area, we can report that our team had a great time and learned quite a bit.

Some of our favorite villages included lock picking, something we bring to WordCamps around the United States. This physical security “hacking” is something we use to show WordPress users that what looks like security isn’t always secure. So many times we see a padlock on a gate, and think that’s secure. By testing the boundaries of that physical security in ways that are easily understandable, we teach how digital security works in much the same way. It helps empower WordPress users to make better security decisions, and we have a lot of fun seeing new lock picking aficionados pick up a new hobby.

Scott Bisker and Mark Maunder at DEFCON27.

Another favorite village is social engineering, an area where hackers try to gain entry into organizations by exploiting some basic human weaknesses. Social engineering skills are those leveraged by many hackers with phone scams, phishing attacks, and even physical facility intrusion. Recognizing the ways social engineering works is a basic security skill, so it’s fun to try new techniques, see what works, and bring that knowledge back to our customers.

Mark Maunder and Director of Threat Intelligence Sean Murphy at DEFCON27.

Our trip to DEFCON this year was incredibly rewarding for our team, not only in the opportunities to practice hacking skills, but also to refocus our team on engineering amazing solutions for the customers we serve.

We have new ideas, and we’re looking forward to implementing those and bringing world-class solutions to the customers that we serve. That means you!


Mark Maunder – CEO at Defiant.

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