Black Hat, Defcon, and the NSA: A bizarre love triangle
As Ars Technica's Dan Goodin notes, last year's Defcon keynote speech was delivered by General Keith D. Alexander, director of the NSA. I guess the general isn't invited this time around. But you can find him at Black Hat, the conference that always precedes Defcon each year in Vegas at the end of July, with many of the same attendees. He'll be giving the keynote there. One reason: Moss no longer has any association with Black Hat, a much more corporate affair than Defcon. But I can't imagine many of the Black Hatters will be happy to see the NSA on display.
In a blog post, telecom security analyst Kyle Maxwell notes that tensions between the government and private sector security wonks has been mounting for some time, and nobody knows what's coming next:
The proper balance or relationship between privacy, security, and liberty are being redefined in ways that no one person has been able to fully grasp until now. Trotting out lines from be loved fingers [sic] like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson may make us feel better, but is not a substitute for real thought and consideration of the nuances and complexities of the 21st century.
Certainly our civil liberties are under assault. The entire Bill of Rights has come under fire due to perhaps overzealous authorities whose motives in some cases actually do reflect their concern for public safety -- and other cases their own desire for power. Do not mistake this for typical partisan posturing. Within the United States, neither major party has anything like a clean record in this area. We live in a William Gibson cyberpunk novel -- or perhaps a Philip K Dick dystopia.
I doubt Moss's warning, which I think was given with the best of intentions, is likely to keep any spooks out of the audience. But I suspect they will do their best to stay undercover, lending a new challenge to the "spot the fed" contest.
My guess is spot the fed will quickly turn into "hack the fed," with attendees competing to see what virtual revenge they can wreak on their Uncle. Fasten your seat belts, it's about to get bumpy.
Was Moss right? Should the spooks steer clear of the hacker's party in the desert? Weigh in below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Hackers to feds: Stay out of our Defcon (for now)," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.