the oldest continuously running hacker convention, takes place at the
end of the month in Vegas. Already there’s an up tick of fearful
announcements from PR flacks and the press. Expect to read more over
the next two weeks, blaming everything from the latest Windows XP
security holes to mass toaster failure on the forthcoming gathering.
It’s a perception that’s a little bit out of touch with reality.
At the earliest DEFCON hacker conventions in Las Vegas, one of the most
popular street games was "Spot the Fed". DEFCON attendees were invited
to single out the US law enforcement federal government employees in
attendance. Successful outing results in the spotter receiving a "Spot
the Fed T-shirt" complete with a universe of Uncle Sam government
agency logos. It was a playful teasing between supposed adversaries,
with DEFCON serving a Switzerland-type role where so-called "Black
Hats" could strut the latest code hacks and methods to break down
security procedures while "White Hats" took notes on what cyber badboys
Over the years, the relationship between organisers and Feds has
evolved into a more complex one. Today, DEFCON staff discreetly swap
"I'm the Fed" T-shirts for three-letter-agency coffee mugs and other
swag. While no official statistics are kept – everyone pays in cash at
the door –the total number of Feds attending the conference has
steadily gone up over the years, both in terms of sheer bodies and on a
U.S. government employees started officially appearing on the DEFCON
program guide back in DEFCON 4/1996 when the FBI's San Francisco
Computer Crime Squad showed up to speak to the crowd, not arrest them.
Over the years, speakers from the United States Army and National
Security Agency have made presentations.
For DEFCON 12, an associate professor from the West Point military
academy, an analyst from the Navy Criminal Investigative Service will
be among the military feds giving talks, but perhaps the most
interesting talk will be given by Robert Morris Senior, former chief
scientist at NSA and father of Robert Tappan Morris. Junior is best
known for his 1988 release of the original Internet worm. In addition,
a number of West Point professors may be roaming around DEFCON to get a
taste of potential future adversaries.
There are also likely to be plenty of paying U.S. government workers at
DEFCON’s commercial brother, the more formal Black Hat briefing &
training held the week before DEFCON. The two day training courses run
$2000-2400 per person (lunch and two coffee breaks included) and have
proved to be quite a draw since launching in 1997. µ
DEFCON web site