THOTCON | Interview with Nicholas J Percoco

InfoSec Conference Spotlight Series

We shine a spotlight on selected Cyber Security Conferences, event categories,
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First Published: , by Henry Dalziel
(updated typically every three - six months)

THOTCON is one of the best Cybersecurity Conferences taking place in Chicago. Every year it takes place in a secret location. Originally the security event lasted a single day but evolved into two days packed full of talk, hacking villages, and other activities. In this “Spotlight” post we talk to one of the cofounders Nicholas J Percoco to ask him a bunch of questions about this fantastic event.

THOTCON also includes what they call “Turbo Talks” which are shorter more concise research presentations. This iconic Midwest Hacker Conference was founded by a bunch of people, namely, Nicholas J. Percoco, Matt Jakubowski, Jonathan Tomek, John Mocuta, and David “VideoMan” Bryan.

Event Details

September 11th, 2020
This Event is Now Over
United States
Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Cloud Security, Cryptography, CXO Level, Cybercrime, Cyberwarfare, Forensics, Hacker Conference, Offensive Security (Malware), SCADA/ ICS, Training, Web Application Security, and Women In Cybersecurity

Review of the event within our directory:

We love THOTCON and it is on our list of the top must-attend cybersecurity conferences. It started about 10 years ago by a group of Chicago hackers who wants a low-cost conference. If you love hacking, this is a place to be. I actually interviewed one of the cofounders of THOTCON a few years back which you can read about here.

The Interview

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Do you have any intention of expanding THOTCON outside of Chicago?

We have had a few requests over the years, but as of right now there are no plans to do a THOTCON outside of Chicago. The event is put on by volunteers and a two day event once per years is already a pretty large time commitment for many of the lead volunteers.

You’ve hosted amazing presentations at THOTCON over the years, how do you select CFP applicants? Do you look for ‘specific achievements’ or ‘talents’? The reason we ask is so that we can share your selection criteria with people reading this interview that might like to apply to speak at THOTCON.

We tend to focus on a mix of modern topics mixed with some old-school technology. We feel that a new generation of hackers needs to be exposed to technology that may seem outdated but are still being actively used in the real world. We also like to find a mix of well-known speaks with those who are up and coming in the security industry. We’ve been able to do so by just focusing on the content we want to present to our audience. We think of THOTCON as a two-day event not just a conference so careful thought has to be put into the selection of talks. We’ve actually turned away some well known speakers because their content didn’t fit the mix of talks we wanted for the event. We also look to invite at least 4 well-known speakers as keynotes each year.

How would you like to see THOTCON evolve in the future?

We announced that we are now a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization recently.

This will allow us more options when planning events. It will also allow our attendees and other supports to make tax deductible donations. We’ve been approach by several people in the past and this will allow us to provide more longevity for THOTCON.

We love your contests! How did you come up with these ideas? (It certainly makes for an interesting event!)

The contests are the brain children of Jaku and Sake. They spent a number of years competing in the Mystery Challenge at DEF CON and have built upon those experiences to create highly engaging and creative challenges year after year.

Lastly, what do you feel differentiates THOTCON from the rest of the conferences out there? Or, better said, what in your view makes THOTCON special?

THOTCON is very focused on the experience for our attendees, volunteers, and speakers. We also do not take any sponsorship money for the conference itself. This means the THOTCON brand stands on its own in most forms for presentation – from the items in every attendees bag to the signage at the event. It is also about THOTCON and the community that supports it, not about who provided the most funding.

We do believe engagement between the security community and vendors is important as well, so we focus that energy into throwing an amazing after party by utilizing 100% of the funds raised from the after-party sponsorships. At the event, the sponsorship gets to mingle and build relationships in a casual party venue.

Unlike many of the security or hacking conferences out there, THOTCON is not a source of income for any of the organizers. All money raised from ticket sales goes directly into funding and improving the conference each year.

In Summary

A big thanks for Nicholas for the interview and we wish THOTCON the best of success for 2021.