It is pretty common for federal agents to be present on the popular hacking conventions. They want to keep an eye on the crowd and watch over to keep pace with the cyber exploits. And, time to time, they probably seek help from the best minds in the trade. All of these are quite normal. But, This years Def Con Has seen something completely new.
The head of National Security Agency and US Cyber Command, Gen. Keith Alexander, was present at the convention to make a keynote speech. Dressed in casual attire and with a friendly tone, he was obviously there to improve the rather strained relationships between government agencies and the hackers.
Alexander commended the hacking community on their past achievements of unveiling different exploits and vulnerabilities in various systems. He said, “Sometimes you guys get a bad rep. From my perspective, what you guys are doing to figure out vulnerabilities in systems is absolutely needed.”
Naturally, this was like putting it too casually, because a number of hackers have been indicted and arrested for exposing the vulnerabilities of different systems in the past. So these words from Alexander didn’t sit well with the audience with someone from the audience shouting, “Then stop arresting us”; while another person raising a cardboard sign reading “Bullshit.”
Such feelings were prevalent among all the attendees of the conference. Although Alexander was there to improve the ties between hackers and the government, the former made it clear that this was impossible without government stopping a crackdown against them.
According to Andrew Auernheimer, a popular hacker who disclosed many flaws in iPad’s SIM identification system, “Data now runs society, and the idea that somebody could flip a bit and cause trouble … it gives the establishment pause, and of course they’re angry. We’re the new witches to burn because somebody’s losing cash and Congressional bailouts only go so far, I guess.”
Alexander also tried to play down some critical issues by simply denying them. For instance, he rejected all accusations that NSA was keeping tabs on people. According to him, “anybody who would tell you that we’re keeping files or dossiers on the American people knows that’s not true.”
But former NSA executive, William Binney, discarded his claims in the following words, “They’re still, as far as I’m concerned, in direct violation of the Constitution. They just basically write off FISA, it doesn’t exist for them.”
While it is commendable that government is trying to extend a hand to the hackers, of course for its own benefit, it must know that unless it ensures the best practices in privacy of user data and security of systems, the hackers may not be pacified.
Courtesy: The Verge
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