Blockchain conference season is here, the industry’s equivalent of Hollywood’s awards season. It’s an opportunity for crypto celebs to tread the red carpet and for everyone from minnows to whales to mingle, network, and learn. But if you’re not careful, it’s also a chance to get your devices pwned and your cryptocurrency swiped.
May Is the Month for Blockchain Conferences
There are cryptocurrency conferences all through the year, but May is when they reach their zenith. Last weekend saw Futurama in Dubai, a glitzy event whose guests included Brock Pierce and whose closing party took place on a yacht in the Gulf. Next week it’s the turn of Consensus NYC, the industry’s largest event that will welcome 7,000 attendees and hundreds of delegates.
The cumulative value of the portfolios swilling around inside New York’s Hilton Midtown will comfortably run into the billions of dollars. The vast majority of that wealth will have been left at home on hardware devices and paper wallets stashed in secure vaults, but that doesn’t mean attendees will be immune from thieves.
For one thing, you probably have more of your crypto holdings on an exchange, readily accessible via the 2FA app in your pocket, than you’d care to admit. And for another, hackers don’t have to strike at the event. They can phish or social engineer now and strike later when you’re on the other side of the world, or when you’re on the long-haul flight home and unaware that your SIM card has just been swapped.
Keep Calm and Be Prepared
The first rule when attending any public conference, especially one as high profile as Consensus, is to avoid insecure wifi networks. How do you know if a network’s insecure? You probably don’t, which is why you’re best relying on mobile data only. That wifi point named after the conference you’re attending could just as easily be a honeypot.
If you must connect via wifi while at the conference or your hotel, be sure to use a VPN. In addition, keep your cellphone’s bluetooth and NFC turned off and don’t plug it into a USB point to charge. You don’t know what’s on the other end of that cable, and while it could be innocuous, it could just as easily be extracting your data.
Be Careful What You Share and Who You Share It With
The best thing about blockchain conferences isn’t the panel discussions and it certainly isn’t the ICO pitches. No, the best part is the after-parties. All those networking opportunities and chances to bump fists with crypto bros you’ve previously only known as an avatar in a Telegram group. Some words of caution are necessary though.
Literally anyone can whip together a business card purporting to be an investor or OTC broker, pull on an expensive shirt, and extend a firm handshake. Due to the public nature of crypto conferences, there is no means of vetting participants, and no easy means of telling who’s legit and who’s a snake. That ICO whale who’s befriended you and returned to your room for drinks could be the real deal…or they could just be waiting for an opportunity to slip something in your vodka and pilfer your laptop once you’ve passed out.
Crypto People Are Good People
This advice isn’t intended to be alarmist. Crypto people are some of the friendliest and most generous people you could ever hope to meet IRL (the less said about their Twitter personas the better). Provided you follow basic op-sec, you will be able to relax at the conference, enjoy yourself, and forge friendships that will last for years. Be careful, though, not to brag about gains, share portfolios, or engage in any other behavior that could mark you out as a target.
If possible, leave your primary laptop and smartphone at home and travel with a burner. That way, whatever happens, you’ll wake up regretting nothing more than that last shot of tequila. Be discrete, conceal your wealth, and remember that there’s no such thing as free wifi. Do all that and you’ll be sure to have a ball.