Def Con: NSA Boss Asks Hackers to Join the Dark Side
Damon Poeter (PCMAG.COM) – Help me help you or help me hurt you? National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander’s first-ever direct appeal to hackers to assist with national security was greeted with polite applause at the DefCon conference in Las Vegas on Friday but afterwards, it was a different story.
“The people who would say we are doing that should know better. That is absolute nonsense,” Alexander said, referring to former NSA employees who have told the media that the agency does just that.
.Def Con founder Jeff Moss told the crowd that he asked Alexander to speak at the conference to educate conference goers about the NSA, which he described as one of “spookiest, least known” organizations in the world.
After reports of Alexander’s appearance started making the rounds, skeptics took to online forums to express their doubts about helping the NSA make the Internet more secure “from exploitation, disruption, and destruction.”
On Wired’s Threat Level blog, for example, commenters questioned Alexander’s playing down of the information it keeps on Americans—one advised potential NSA recruits that if they “have any sense at all they will run a mile from this guy.”
The NSA also had a booth at DefCon for the first time, according to Reuters. There was no small irony in its location next to one run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) —a non-profit concerned with Internet freedom and privacy issues that is currently suing the government spy agency over allegedly illegal wire taps of phone calls by American citizens.
DEFCON: Not Your Typical Tech Conference – Every summer thousands of hackers, computer security professionals and Federal government employees all descend on Las Vegas with the same goal in mind — to learn about and test the latest methods of hacking into computer networks, phones and every type of security and surveillance system imaginable at the annual Defcon hackers conference.
Representatives for the NSA and EFF declined to discuss that litigation, the news agency reported.
Alexander’s appeal to hackers focused on protecting the free flow of information on the Internet from attacks by international hackers like the denial of service attacks by Anonymous and other groups that have temporarily knocked prominent websites and even Sony’s entire PlayStation Network offline in recent years.
The NSA chief is actually calling for more than just an early warning system provided by the hacker community, however. At DefCon, Alexander pushed for a complete overhaul of the Internet’s U.S. infrastructure to enable the NSA to “know instantly when overseas hackers might be attacking public or private infrastructure and computer networks,” according to MIT’s Technology Review.
Alexander said his agency is pushing for new legislation in Congress that would enable the private sector to more easily alert the NSA and law enforcement agencies about cyberattacks. The NSA is also collaborating with more than a dozen U.S. defense contractors to test early-warning technology in a program called the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Cyber Pilot that sends alerts to the agency the instant one of the security systems run by the private companies is breached.
That’s all part of an effort to get around restrictions on monitoring Internet activity that the NSA, FBI, and other U.S. law enforcement agencies must abide by.
“We do not sit around our country and look in; we have no idea if Wall Street is about to be attacked,” Alexander told the DefCon crowd, according to Technology Review.
- NSA: Cybercrime is ‘the greatest transfer of wealth in history’ (zdnet.com)
- NSA Chief To Address Hackers At DEF CON (news.slashdot.org)
- NSA Chief to Pitch “Common Core Values” to Hackers at DEFCON 20 (dailytech.com)
- NSA chief: Hackers causing ‘the greatest transfer of wealth in history’ (rawstory.com)
- Idaho Woman Sues Obama, Holder, Hagel And NSA Over Surveillance (secretsofthefed.com)
- NSA: The finder and keeper of countless US secrets (stripes.com)
- How the NSA lied about not tracking Americans with PRISM (venturebeat.com)
- Anonymous Hacktivists trolls NSA with ‘keywords of terror,’ disables website (thenewsinformer.com)
- Chris Pyle, Whistleblower on Domestic Spying in 70s, Says Be Wary of Attacks on NSA’s Critics (democracynow.org)
- Watch Top U.S. Intelligence Officials Repeatedly Deny NSA Spying On Americans Over The Last Year (Videos) (forbes.com)