Hackers to feds: Stay out of our Defcon (for now)

Thanks to the Snowden affair, government spooks have been uninvited from the hackers' big party in Vegas this summer

When hackers and spooks met, sparks often fly. But given the revelations about NSA spying courtesy of Edward Snowden, the atmosphere this year is ripe for conflagration.

Jeff Moss, founder of the two largest hacker confabs on the planet, Black Hat and Defcon, has politely asked the feds to stay away this year. In a brief post to the Defcon site this week, Moss (aka TheDarkTangent) requested a "time-out" to avoid ugly confrontations between pierced and PO'd hackers and the Brylcreem and Brogans brigade.

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He wrote:

When it comes to sharing and socializing with feds, recent revelations have made many in the community uncomfortable about this relationship. 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.

That inspired a lively conversation on Twitter. Some Twitter cynics see this as a pure marketing ploy:

Anyway, still say clever marketing move by @thedarktangent. Low risk of reducing fed participation, sparks dialog and draws attention

Others noted Moss's own connections to his Big Brother -- he's a member of the Department of Homeland Security's advisory council -- and ask, what constitutes a fed, exactly? As a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, which received nearly $6 billion in federal funds last year, wasn't Ed Snowden also a fed?

While not exactly BFFs, the relationship between the hacker community and the society of spooks has warmed up over time. Feds have attended Defcon every year since it began in 1992, though it took them a few years (goaded by the event's popular "spot the fed" contest) to come out of the closet. The reason is simple: That's where the talent is. And our government desperately needs tech talent, for good or ill.

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