follow me on Twitter

    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    Meet the Feds at Defcon 16

    “Meet the Feds” was the last presentation I went to that evening. I had to; I'd read so much about Jim Christy (and linked to a video of him on a previous posting of mine) that I obviously enjoy his rants. Spot the Lamer before their panel is the Fed's antidote to Spot the Feds. The lamer, similar to last year, could answer too many questions about Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and is often asked if he can read binary or speak in hexadecimal. A tall guy who looked like Dwight from The Office was this year's winner (Lamer).

    Slightly different variations of the same usual questions were asked: Which countries pose the most cyber threat to the US? (Answer: China and Russia) What's it like to work there? How much of a criminal background is too much to work for the Feds? Do you do the stuff like is on TV or in movies? (Answer: No) Do I make more money working in the private sector than you do for the government? (Answer: Absolutely YES!)

    I know that the Meet the Feds panel is the gov's response to some of the latent fear of law enforcement in the hacker community. “We're just geeks like you,” is their general theme. But they really aren't too much like us, actually. Everyone on that panel is either near or at retirement age. If the Feds are also using this panel to recruit--they were much more direct about that last year--then shouldn't they reflect a bit more of what we are like? I spoke to Jim Christy later in the conference and suggested that he put younger Feds on the panel next year so that the 20-30s something crowd could ask questions of the younger Feds' experiences working for the gov because it is a tough sell. He won't put them on the panel because he said they don't have enough training to answer the questions (I read “liability concerns” in his statement), but they will have some younger Feds in the Q&A room for more “what's it like?” questions.

    Also, Christy wasn't much like the scary guy I thought he'd be from the Wired article. When I first approached him, I felt my pulse rise and I began to sweat and I was sure not to break eye contact. “'As DefCon founder Jeff Moss (handle: the Dark Tangent) tells it, in the late '80s and early '90s there were only three people hackers worried about. Christy was one of them. 'It was like, be fearful, there's Jim Christy. Holy crap, stay out of his way.'” But I'm a girl...everyone is nice to me at Defcon, so maybe that's why. Or maybe it's because my blondish hair makes me look less dangerous (or maybe more?). Jim and his Royal Canadian Mountie Fed friend next to him put on sweet smiles, leaned back in their chairs, and answered my questions.


    JL said...

    So what did you ask them? :-)

    Tiffany Strauchs Rad said...

    Nothing very serious. I asked him about contact information because every year I have a few students who want to apply for a government position, but the online form is sometimes inadequate. But they seemed to be nice guys and Christy didn't swear much. ; )