Def Con, the world famous annual hacking convention, has asked the U.S. government to back off this year. In its 21-year-long run, the convention has never requested this, but Edward Snowden’s recent leaks have are said to have made some of the information security community uncomfortable with its attendance.
Known to be a very secretive group, the information security pros’ and hackers’ concerns stem from Snowden’s revelations about the government’s motives to be aware of every private conversation ever through surveillance programs.
“It would be best for everyone involved if the Feds call a ‘time-out’ and not attend Def Con this year,” Jeff Moss, who founded the conference 21 years ago, said in an announcement on the official website.
Def Con is expected to pull over 15,000 security professionals, researchers, hobbyists, hackers and more to Las Vegas starting Aug. 2.
Moss is more than some detached, defiant hacker, though; he is also an advisor on cyber security to the Department of Homeland Security. He told Reuters it was “a tough call,” but he believed the Def Con community needs time to process the recent news on what some call governmental spying.
“The community is digesting things that the Feds have had a decade to understand and come to terms with,” said Moss, also known as The Dark Tangent. “A little bit of time and distance can be a healthy thing, especially when emotions are running high.”
Previously, members from Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secret Service and the military have all been drawn to Def Con.
Head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, was a keynote speaker at Def Con. When the audience raised questions about suspected government snooping, Alexander vehemently denied that the Feds had profiles and private information of millions of Americans.
He is scheduled to speak at Black Hat, another hacking conference also founded by Moss. He will have an open Q&A with the audience, which could put him in hot water given the current political climate.
“We created an environment where the Feds felt they could come and it wasn’t hostile We could ask them questions and they wanted to ask the hackers about techniques,” Moss said in an interview last year.
In future years it is likely that the government will be welcomed back to Def Con, but for the disgruntled community, some separation could do both parties good.
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