‘The Spot the Fed’ game may get a lot harder at the Defcon security conference this year.
Conference organizers have uninvited U.S. government employees due to tensions tied to revelations about electronic surveillance activities by the NSA. In a blog post, Defcon founder Jeff Moss, who also goes by the alias Dark Tangent, stated that traditionally the conference has been an “open nexus of hacker culture, a place where seasoned pros, hackers, academics and feds can meet” and share ideas on neutral territory. However, recent events have endangered that.
“When it comes to sharing and socializing with feds, recent revelations have made many in the community uncomfortable about this relationship,” he wrote. “Therefore, I think it would be best for everyone involved if the feds call a “time-out” and not attend DEF CON this year. This will give everybody time to think about how we got here, and what comes next.”
In an interview with Reuters, Moss, who is also chief security officer for ICANN, said that NSA Director Gen. Keith B. Alexander – who gave a keynote at Defcon last year – is still expected to speak at the Black Hat convention earlier in the week, and that the “timeout” only extends to Defcon. There are also no plans by Defcon organizers to go on a “witch hunt” and begin checking IDs and kicking people out, he said.
In his speech at Defcon last year, Alexander asked for help protecting cyberspace, and said that the idea the NSA kept dossiers on hundreds of millions of people was false. The agency operates under FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], and is under stringent requirements when it comes to data collection efforts.
“A highly visible fed presence is likely to trigger conflict with people upset over Snowden-gate,” blogged Robert Graham, CEO of Errata Security. “From shouting matches, to physical violence, to “hack the fed”, something bad might occur. Or, simply attendees will choose to stay away. Any reasonable conference organizer, be they pro-fed or anti-fed, would want to reduce the likelihood of this conflict.”
Defcon will take place between Aug. 1-Aug.4 in Las Vegas.