DEFCON No Longer Welcomes the Federal Government

Xuyen Bowles

In the wake of recent revelations from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, DEF CON announced that the Federal Government should take a time out from attending DEF CON this year. On 10 July, the following post was made public on the DEF CON website: “For over two decades DEF CON has been an open nexus of hacker culture, a place where seasoned pros, hackers, academics, and feds can meet, share ideas and party on neutral territory. Our community operates in the spirit of openness, verified trust, and mutual respect. 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.”

This announcement is a significant one considering the history and precedence set by previous DEF CON events. In fact, in 2012, the NSA Director, General Keith Alexander, was the key note speaker for the DEF CON event. During his speech he was open in indicating that the federal government was hoping to recruit people from the hacker community to bolster the somewhat limited capability of the Pentagon’s cyber security mission. The recent revelations and issues concerning the NSA’s surveillance program have reduced its trust and credibility within the very hacker community they need to complete their new cyber security initiatives. While it cannot be measured as of yet, the impact of the federal government being asked to take a “time out” from one of the largest hacker conferences in the world and the lack of trust that now exists between the two communities will likely cause significant impact to the federal government being aware of adversary capabilities and threat as well as their ability to recruit the best and brightest minds in cyber security.

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