Message from Vic, CarolinaCon's Founder
After being informed of different public messages about CarolinaCon, which include unauthorized use of the brand name, misrepresentations, and outright falsehoods, I am writing this in response to set the record straight.
CarolinaCon was born in 2004, on the night that I walked into a Raleigh 2600 meeting for the first time in several years and pitched the conference idea to a group of cool people who were at that meeting. I'd been a co-organizer of two annual underground hacker conferences in New Orleans that had been held for as many years as DefCon had, which were originally started by a very young man whose handle is/was Flex. Those conferences have very few public references because they were rarely made open to the general public or advertised beyond the New Orleans area.
After Flex and myself and other co-organizers (all New Orleans or Louisiana natives) moved from the area in the early 2000s those conferences lasted for a couple more years and then ceased because no one else picked up the ball and ran with it. Then hurricane Katrina happened in 2005 and the hacking scene (and everything else) there took years to rebound.
Getting back to CarolinaCon, all of the funding for it came out of my own pocket the first few years of its existence. Initially it lost money. My money. And in those early years we rented or borrowed a projector and projected presentations on bare walls and white bedsheets tacked to walls. After several years the event started to break even. And then as small profits occurred we started investing in AV and other gear...annually obtaining more and/or upgrading what we already had.
The associated nonprofit was created in 2005. Its board members have always been ultimately responsible for event organization and event decisions. For a few years we also opened and operated a local "hacker lab" in Raleigh. The rent for that lab came solely out of my pocket for two years and no monies came from the conference proceeds. The lab space closed because my budget got tighter and because the conference wasn't making anywhere near enough profit to pay monthly office space rent.
Myself and the other board members have never taken a salary or any compensation whatsoever for all of the years that we've organized and overseen CarolinaCon. Every minute of work during every year was 100% charitable and voluntary.
The lion's share of CarolinaCon work has always been on my shoulders. I tried to step back from the event a few years ago, and one of the longtime staff members offered to lead it. Yet during those past two years I still got sucked into doing the lion's share of the work. And after CarolinaCon-14 ended that individual told me that he couldn't continue helping with the event because of his personal schedule conflicts.
At that time he and I discussed options for how the event might best continue. Myself and the other nonprofit board members also discussed it at length.
Among all options discussed, a collective/unanimous decision was made to ask the 49th Security Division from UNC-Charlotte if they would be interested in taking over the event. They had been attending the conference annually en masse for seven years, bringing 20-30 students who are in Cybersecurity degree programs every year. Some of its members have presented at past CarolinaCons. Their graduated group members are in the InfoSec field, and their current and future group members will be among the InfoSec professionals and luminaries of the future. They have a steady influx of young, intelligent, energetic talent...with plenty enough members to spread the work around of conference planning and hosting. And thankfully, when presented with the idea of them taking over event leadership, they agreed.
Short-time and longtime staff members were told directly by myself, in person and over the phone, that the 49th Security Division would be leading the event going forward. They were also informed that the 49th Security Division absolutely welcomed and wanted them to continue to staff and help with the event, if they wanted to.
Instead of agreeing to continue helping with CarolinaCon and work with a bunch of bright college kids, a subset of short-time staff members and one longtime staff member instead decided to; hijack the thousands of Twitter followers of CarolinaCon, ask them to donate monies to help them start a competing event, and promptly began using intellectual property, words, and images that belong to CarolinaCon without permission. And some of them have publicly made statements that are misrepresentative or outright false. Everyone whose name is associated with these activities has lost any shred of respect that I personally ever had for them.
BTW all but one of those individuals has helped on CarolinaCon staff somewhere between zero (0) and three (3) years over CarolinaCon's fifteen year history. The one other individual who started helping with CarolinaCon-2 (which was his first time attending the conference) no longer lives in NC. The fact that some of them are upset that the nonprofit didn't decide to hand any of them the reins is pretty ridiculous.
CarolinaCon was founded for students and others on tight budgets who can't afford mainstream conferences. That's why the CarolinaCon-1 admission price was set by me to a mere $15 (and is why admission to those New Orleans conferences was always $10). CarolinaCon will continue to be run in the same fashion as it has always been, with the full endorsement and support of its founder and longtime board members.
It is my hope that past presenters and newcomers who want to philanthropically teach others something new about offensive and defensive security measures will continue to share their time, talent, and knowledge at CarolinaCon.
And people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, etc. who want to learn something new without breaking their budgets should keep on coming to CarolinaCon. I personally look forward to watching the 49th Security Division members learn, grow, lead, and innovate CarolinaCon for however long that they continue to organize and manage the conference.
- Vic, aka Stuart