Def Con to shut out feds at this year’s major hacking conference

July 12, 2013

This week, Def Con founder Jeff Moss told feds one of the biggest hacking conferences of the year is no longer open to them.

Since its start 21 years ago, Def Con has acted as the perfect environment for feds, hackers, and press alike to mix and chat on a seemingly level playing field. The hackers and feds come to the event in similar ways, opting to come as they are or remain incognito. Traditionally, these government employees come to Def Con to recruit or to generally check out what’s going on on the other side of the fence. But with the fresh investigation and pursuit of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, it seems the relationship between these two communities has become tense.

Moss, who goes by the name “The Dark Tangent,” explained in a short blog post titled “Feds, we need some time apart”:

Last year, at the conference’s 20th anniversary, Moss and other founders and organizers of the event decided to lift the long-standing ban on photography to shoot a documentary of the event that has been so important for many people in this community. The documentary seemed to highlight the relationships this conference has facilitated, and the unique setting that allows these three very different industries (hacking, media, and government) to come together.

Beyond Snowden, however, the past year has also been filled with a number of hacking-oriented trials around the world. The death of activist Democracy Now leader Aaron Swartz and the call for reforms of the Computer Fraud and Abuse act and other government policies have also left their marks on this community. The recently surveillance program reveals compound that tension and may have led to Moss’ decision.

The same has not been requested for Black Hat, the security-focused conference that also occurs in Las Vegas in the days leading up to Def Con. We are unaware of how Def Con will ensure feds, who likely will still be in town after attending Black Hat, do not make it into the conference. We have reached out to Def Con and will update this post upon hearing back.

hat tip Ars Technica

Copyright 2013, VentureBeat

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