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Defcon founder's message to feds fair to some, hypocritical to others

Jaikumar Vijayan | July 15, 2013
Dis-invitation is interesting because last year Defcon opened with General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency.

That willingness likely has been tested by the Snowden affair, Stiennon noted. "A group of security professionals who are aligned to doing things and creating things that are protective of security and privacy and going to find themselves at odds with the NSA. So it may be best for both sides to cool off a bit," Stiennon noted.

Lawrence Pingree, an analyst at Gartner cautioned against making too much of Moss' statement. From a publicity standpoint, it makes a certain amount of sense to ask federal agencies not to attend Defcon, considering the sentiments that have been aroused by Snowden's revelations, he said.

In reality, it is unlikely that Moss will want to, or will even be able to stop government security types from attending the event if they really want to, he said.

In the end Moss is just sending a gentle reminder to the government that they are likely to be less than welcome among those at Defcon considering recent revelations about PRISM, said Robert Hansen, a white hat hacker and director of product management at WhiteHat Security.

"I don't believe that anyone who works directly with the staff at Defcon really hates feds," said Robert Hansen, a white hat hacker and director of product management at WhiteHat Security. "What they hate are that the free and open Internet has been taken from them in some sense and that theft is embodied in some sense by the people who are tasked with fulfilling often secret laws."

"The only issue I see with Jeff's announcement is that a lot of the most important, die-hard, freedom advocates work in or work directly with the military industrial complex, and it's unfair to paint them as the enemy of hackers," Hansen noted. "Though Jeff has never said that directly, and I don't believe he feels that way, I worry that people less familiar with the situation would mis-represent his words."

Others though see Moss' stance as needlessly politicizing the annual hacker fest.

In a blog post, James Jardine and Kevin Johnson, two researchers from Secure Ideas, announced they would not present at Defcon this year citing Moss' statement about not wanting the government at the show, as the reason.

"The basis of our decision, is that we feel strongly that Defcon has always presented a neutral ground that encouraged open communication among the community, despite the industry background and diversity of motives to attend," the blog noted. "We believe the exclusion of the 'fed' this year does the exact opposite at a critical time."

Ira Winkler, president of the Information Systems Security Association, and a Computerworld columnist said that Moss was being unfair in asking the federal government not to attend Defcon.

 

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