NSA agents are in for a surprise at this year's DefCon hacker convention – they will no longer be on the guest list.
Following the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden, members of the hacker community have become uncomfortable with the idea of socializing with the feds in Las Vegas at the start of August. The Atlantic Wire reported yesterday that members of the NSA, who typically attend the annual DefCon event in the hopes of finding new recruits, were publically shunned by founder Jeff Moss (a.k.a. The Dark Tangent) in a post on the event's website this week.
The post, entitled "Feds, we need some time apart," argues that the hacker community and government agencies could do with a "time-out," so that both sides can "think about what comes next." Moss told Reuters in an interview this week that the decision to exclude the NSA was a "tough call," believing that "the DefCon community needs time to make sense of recent revelations about U.S. surveillance programs." Moss went on to say that "a little bit of time and distance can be a healthy thing, especially when emotions are running high."
PCWorld.com reports that Kyle Maxwell, senior network security specialist at Verizon, also blogged about the relationship between the NSA and the hacker community. He believes, however, that DefCon’s decision to exclude federal agents reflects growing tensions within the community even before the recent surveillance scandal.
This exclusion is a drastic change from last year, when NSA Director General Keith Alexander took to the stage at DefCon, appealing for help from the hacker community in securing the internet against cyber attacks and denying that the goverment collects information on the public. He also praised the DefCon crowd. "Sometimes, you guys get a bad rap," said the casually-dressed General. "From my perspective, what you're doing to figure out vulnerabilities in our systems is absolutely needed. We've got to discover and fix those."
However, it seems the NSA will still get its chance to mix with civilian hackers at the end of this month. Black Hat, more of a corporate hacker event in Las Vegas as well, announced General Alexander as this year's key note speaker. With tensions between the NSA and the hacker community running high, coupled with two hacker conventions within days of one another, there is no telling who is going to have their eyes on who in Las Vegas this summer.
By mail.com contributor James Doughty