It all started with a bet between John Strand and his wife, Erica Spurrier.

John had been an instructor and course author for the SANS Institute for years at this point, and Erica bet that if John gave a class on his own, in South Dakota where they live, that people would come.

So they started asking around among John’s friends and colleagues. Before long, the idea evolved into something more than just a single class. They would host a small cybersecurity conference in Deadwood, a small tourist town about 40 miles northwest of Rapid City, SD. The Wild West Hackin’ Fest was born…

To John’s surprise, not only did friends like Ed Skoudis, Johnny Long, Rob Fuller, Jonathan Ham, and many others show up for the party, but when all was said and done, around 550 people attended that first conference in 2017.

Just a few of the speakers at the first Wild West Hackin' Fest held in 2017.
Just a few of the speakers at the first Wild West Hackin’ Fest held in 2017.
For a complete list of the speakers at the first WWHF, click here.

Suffice to say, John may have lost a bet, but the establishment of WWHF began something that continues to grow, bringing people to South Dakota every year for what has become, for some, an annual pilgrimage where they connect and/or reconnect with some of the finest talent cybersecurity has to offer.