Security Experts:

Black Hat's Moss is Getting Offensive

Who does this Jeff Moss cat think he is anyway?

First he starts an annual confab in the desert where creeps in black T-shirts covered in ink and piercings show up for a week and ruin everyone’s Camp Vegas experience by looking incomprehensibly pale and unapologetically geeky.

Then he takes the same show to Europe to whip those black turtleneck wannabe socialist loonies into their own furtive app-smashing fervor.

Black Hat Vegas

And to top it off, he sets up camp in the sacred shadow of our nation’s capital, just miles from the Obama residence, near the same hallowed grounds tromped upon only months ago by the great American patriot Glen Beck and his Tea Party zealots.

I mean, really, why is Julian Assange getting all the ethical hacking harshing? Isn’t this Jeff Moss inviting similar rule-breaking, convention-smashing mayhem into our country, nay the world, by inviting hackers to come to these events and tell everyone how to break into important stuff? Who the heck is this Jeff Moss character anyway?

To be honest, I think the guy is a truly remarkable figure and quite arguably a real American hero.

This thought came to mind as I prepare to shove off to Black Hat DC next week for the first serious Con of the year (not being held in Berlin or someplace similarly unpatriotic… and yes, I’m kidding Bungledesia fans).

Looking over the planned events, which are predictably impressive, I’m left thinking; despite the fact that our federal government has reached out to Moss to pick his brain and inform themselves about the realities of our post-modern day IT security environment, and its unquestionable hack-ability, why don’t more people know who this guy is?

I’ve never met the man called Dark Tangent (one of the best hacking handles ever imho, belongs in a Marvel Comic) but he is truly a latter day American icon. Forgive me if this seems a bit over the top, but is there anyone else on the map that has done more to forward the cause ethical hacking (maybe HD Moore)?

Through his work in building these Black Hat conferences, and tending to them dutifully even after selling them off to trade industry publishing outlet CMP, I feel that Moss is one of the few people in the world, if at not at least this country, who lay claim to making the entire notion of ethical hacking an increasingly mainstream concept. In helping to advance the involved research and popular awareness of that work through the events, Black Hat has had an immeasurable effect on this trend.

OK, so we all saw “War Games” in 1983 (if you were alive), and learned that long before Matthew Broderick could be led astray by a shrill, annoying and overly- narcissistic actress, there could be a whole lot to learn from having smart people try to hack their way into highly sensitive systems. But I ask you, without Black Hat, which I’ve watch morph rapidly from a naval-gazing geekfest into a pivotal enterprise security conference over the last 5 years or so that I’ve been attending, would we be anywhere close to where we are today in understanding the underlying value of this type of research? Without Mike Lynn’s arrest and Cisco’s (along with many other vendors’) subsequent come-to-Jesus moment over working more intelligently with vulnerability researchers, where would this whole movement be today?

Perhaps, and I’m sure some would argue, I’m putting too much emphasis on one man’s influence, or several conferences’, within a movement that was bound to emerge anyway as a foil to all the true black hatting currently going on around the globe. This is of course a larger movement that now involves many thousands of hardworking folks located worldwide.

Hacking Internet TVs

But as I look forward to next week’s show, which Moss writes he has purposefully oriented more toward offensive security technologies (thus the incendiary headline above) versus its focus more on defensive techniques and tools in the past, I just have to remark at how on-the-money this dude’s little brainchild continues to be. While the better part of the civilized world tries to understand the whole notion of something like Wikileaks, Moss has helped build an industry around the concept of ethical hacking as relatively few people were watching.

There’s no doubt that Moss and his team of cronies have put together another great show, and as such my hat’s off to him. Maybe it’s time that more of the outside world did the same.

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Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including stints writing for CNET, eWeek and InfoWorld. Hines is currently employed as director of product marketing at RedSeal Systems, a maker of security posture management software. He lives and works in his hometown of Boston, Mass.