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DefCon's Fed Drama

With three big security conferences coming up in Las Vegas two weeks from now, much of the InfoSec community's attention is on who won't be at the third event: DefCon. Amidst revelations about the NSA's surveillance activities, DefCon organizers have advised feds to skip this year. It's a first in the 21-year history of this hacker gathering, and reaction has been sharply divided.

Those outraged by the depth of the NSA's activities applauded the move. Others dismissed it as a stunt by DefCon organizers to stir the drama pot and raise public interest in the event. Still others suggest that the Feds wanted to stay away until the dust settled, and that DefCon was giving them an easy out.

One could argue that it's counterproductive and shortsighted to ban the feds. After all, a continuing goal for the community is to foster stronger cooperation between the government and the grassroots level of the security world. Meanwhile, one could argue that all this shock and outrage is silly because we've known all along that the NSA has deep surveillance hooks -- spying on American citizens since the beginning.

In my opinion, the motives of DefCon organizers are beside the point. What's more important is how we go forward.

Is it better to cut people out of security events because they work for the NSA or FBI for the sake of taking a stand against the government spying on citizens, or is it more productive to use these conferences as a way to debate the issues with the very people we're angry with; in hopes they'll go back to their agencies and work toward change?

Discuss amongst yourselves, and feel free to opine in the comments section. Please keep the tone respectful.


1 Comment

I don't like the idea of banning anyone from an event because of their employer. However, the solution you propose: "debate it" doesn't work, as the Feds have demonstrated a pattern of lying about what's going on. (Well, technically, Snowden has documented a pattern of lying, but you see what I mean.)

It's not the hackers who have created an untenable situation, and left the other side without good options.