Every year since Def Con started in 1993, the hacking conference has brought together industry professionals, hackers, academics, and members of the federal government to talk about computer- and hacking-related subjects. This year marks the first time ever that the feds aren’t being invited back.
In an announcement posted on the Def Con website, founder Jeff Moss addressed the issue. Prefaced by a reminder that the Def Con community operates in “the spirit of openness, verified trust, and mutual respect,” Moss politely rescinded the open invitation.
“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.”
Moss is an advisor on cyber security to the Department of Homeland Security, but he believes that in light of the recently revealed U.S. surveillance programs, the Def Con community needs some time and distance to “make sense” of it all, he told Reuters.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden has raised a lot of controversy in the past few weeks concerning the PRISM program, Americans’ privacy, and international privacy. But Moss says that this action is not intended to exacerbate the situation or to make a statement, but rather to diffuse tension.
In previous years, NSA, FBI, CIA, and Secret Service officials attended the conference. The director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, was the keynote speaker at last year’s conference. At that time, Alexander was asked about government snooping, and the collection of data on millions of Americans. Alexander denied any such allegations, of course.
The absence of the feds at Def Con this year will leave some time to clear the air, but Alexander is still scheduled to speak at Black Hat, a smaller hacking conference on July 31. Black Hat is also run by Moss, and it’s unclear whether Alexander will stay on the agenda.