Retired Special Agent Jim Christy Speaks at Bsides Las Vegas Conference


By: James Lint

The BSides Las Vegas information security conference took place in Las Vegas from August 7-8th. This conference is different from the usual cybersecurity conferences: it is free to participants and is a volunteer-organized event.

The keynote speaker for this event was retired Special Agent Jim Christy, who spoke on August 7th. Christy’s experience includes several decades of working for the Department of Defense and private industry. Before leaving government service in 2013, he was the Director of Futures Exploration (FX) for the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3).

Before that, Christy was the Director of the Defense Cyber Crime Institute from 2003 to 2006 and Director of Operations of the Defense Computer Forensics Laboratory from 2001 to 2003. He is currently President and CEO of The Christy Group LLC, Vice President of Investigations and Digital Forensics at Cymmetria, and President and Co-Founder of the Digital Forensics Consortium.

Christy Also Involved in Cooper Skyjacking Case

In 1971, a man named Dan Cooper (misidentified as D.B. Cooper by the public press) hijacked a Northwest Orient flight between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, by showing a flight attendant a bomb housed in his briefcase. He demanded to be given $200,000 in cash and four parachutes.

After the plane landed and passengers were released, Cooper directed the flight crew to fly him to Mexico with a stop to refuel in Reno, Nevada. Somewhere over Washington State, Cooper parachuted out of the plane via its rear stairway with the ransom, never to be heard from again. For law enforcement, this remains the only unsolved skyjacking in American history.

Christy put together an online task force to help prove the real identity of Cooper, starting with the evidence from a 2016 documentary created by television and film producer Thomas Colbert and continuing through a surprising number of online sources and contacts for a 47-year-old case. It only took them a few years to prove what had eluded countless investigators in all that time: the real identity of Cooper.

Christy’s Keynote Speech Provides Further Details in Cooper Case

Christy’s firsthand experience, coupled with his candid sense of humor, created a standing-room-only audience. He delineated the integral roles (both good and bad) that law enforcement, the U.S. Intelligence Community and private-sector organizations played in the surreal investigation into the unsolved hijacking. With the renewed Cold Case Digital Forensic Investigation Team that Christy has put together, the Cooper case appears closer to a solution than ever.

Attendee’s View of Christy Speech

Conference attendee Antonio Rucci described Christy as “the consummate professional and [he] did an outstanding job kicking off ‘BSides – Hacker Summer Camp.’” Rucci is a former White House Counterintelligence Operations Officer and currently works as the Director, InfoSec & Threat Intelligence at GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc.

Rucci is a typical attendee at events such as BSides Law Vegas. Quality cybersecurity professionals such as Rucci provide mentorship opportunities for BSides Law Vegas attendees who are beginners in the cybersecurity field.

Comparison of BSides Las Vegas versus Other InfoSec Conferences

BSides Las Vegas is smaller than many of the cybersecurity conferences, with approximately 3.000 attendees. It has some advantages such as employment tracks for cybersecurity professionals and an advocacy group track called  “I Am the Cavalry.”

BSides Las Vegas takes pride in not being a “talk at you” conference. Instead, conference organizers strive to keep events interactive. They claim, “Everyone is a participant at BSides.”

As with most of these conferences, this event also features researchers discussing the “next big thing” in the cybersecurity field. Their research is often focused on ideas on causes of future security breaches and solutions to fix security problems.

Conferences Like BSides Las Vegas Help Build a Well-Rounded Education

Education never stops. While taking college classes is a start, attending conferences like BSides Las Vegas provide supplemental education and context to collegiate programs.

Once established in the cybersecurity field, you attend these conferences to keep your knowledge up to date. Networking with interesting professionals with seniority in this field gives you a deeper understanding of the cyber community.