Mashable reports: At last year’s DefCon, the world’s largest hacker conference, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander showed up in blue jeans and a tucked-in T-shirt to give the keynote speech, asking hackers to join forces with the NSA.
“We can protect the networks and have civil liberties and privacy, and you can help us get there,” he said.
The hacker conference and the NSA were on such good terms last year that the spy agency even had a recruitment booth — next to that of the digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. Wired‘s security reporter Kim Zetter went as far as describing the conference as “a lackey for the NSA.”
This year, however, after revelations of top secret, far reaching NSA surveillance programs, DefCon’s founder Jeff Moss asked the feds to stay away.
“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,” he wrote in a short blog post on the conference’s website titled “Feds, We Need Some Time Apart.”
Moss, also known as The Dark Tangent, told Reuters that “a little bit of time and distance can be a healthy thing, especially when emotions are running high.”
Moss’s request came as a surprise to many, and reactions have been mixed. Hacker and security researcher Shane MacDougall, who has been attending DefCon for years, explained that while in the past the conference felt more like “us against the Feds,” now things are different.
“Over the years, and especially after 9/11, that anti-Fed mindset changed,” he wrote in an email to Mashable. “A lot of new kids to the field are completely ignorant of the history of hackers vs. the FBI and others, and there seems to be a massive crush of them who want to become ‘feds.'”