Conference founder is worried “spot the fed” might get ugly
Gone are those precious days when the hackers and “the feds” (such as National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander) — a keynote speaker — held hands and sang “trollololo” skipping across the floor of Defcon.
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s safe to say that if hackers were wary of the U.S. federal government before, they’re now openly hostile in the midst of the “stunning” revelation that the NSA is spying on 99 percent of phone-using Americans’ location on a daily basis and subsequent efforts to charge IT administrator-turned-leaker Edward Snowden using the Espionage Act of 1917 (18 U.S.C. § 792).
Concerned that the annual game of “spot the fed” at Defcon 2013 might devolving into something more violent, conference founder Jeff “DarkTangent” Moss told federal agents to stay way for the first time in the conference’s 21-year history. He wrote on the conference website, “It would be best for everyone involved if the Feds call a ‘time-out’ and not attend Def Con this year.”
In an interview with Reuters, he elaborates on the rejection, “The community is digesting things that the Feds have had a decade to understand and come to terms with. A little bit of time and distance can be a healthy thing, especially when emotions are running high. [But] we are not going on a witch hunt or checking IDs and kicking people out.”
That’s a rough shake for the feds, who mostly attend dressed in plain clothes, who long used the conference as a stomping ground for recruits. Defcon is one of the largest conferences in the world for hackers and security professionals. The 21st annual Defcon is being held Aug. 1-4 at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Last year at Defcon 20, as mentioned four-star General (and NSA chief) Keith Alexander gave a keynote speech, in which he ironically stated, “The people who would say we are [keeping records on millions of Americans] should know better. That is absolute nonsense.”
The Dark Tangent, aka. Jeff Moss [Image Source: ABC News]
Well technically, the NSA is keeping records on hundreds of millions of Americans, but that comment still seems slightly misleading in retrospect.
Aside from the NSA, agents from the military, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), theFederal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and Secret Service. Previously founder Jeff Moss had even encouraged feds to work in the conference’s security force with t-shirts identifying them as “goons”. He explained last year, “We created an environment where the Feds felt they could come and it wasn’t hostile. We could ask them questions and they wanted to ask the hackers about new techniques.”
A lot has changed in a year.