Security

Defcon founder to advise the Department of Homeland Security

In an interesting turn of events, Jeff Moss (aka, the hacker "Dark Tangent") was sworn in as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

To realize the significance of this, you need to understand that it's the responsibility of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) to:

"Provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary (Ms. Janet Napolitano) on matters related to homeland security. The Council is comprised of leaders from state and local government, first responder communities, the private sector, and academia."

Members of HSAC

It's not hard to to be impressed by the members of the HSAC, a group of esteemed experts with extensive law enforcement and emergency preparedness experience. Yet, I was the most inspired by one member who has slightly different qualifications:

Dark Tangent

Those unique qualifications happen to be:

"Founder and Director of Black Hat and DEFCON Computer Hacker Conferences. Prior to Black Hat, was the director at Secure Computing Corporation where he helped establish the Professional Services Department in the United States, Asia, and Australia. He has also worked for Ernst & Young, LLP in their Information System Security division."

Meet Jeff Moss, legendary for being able to straddle the entire color spectrum of hacker hats, as well as being very knowledgeable when it comes to IT security. Even nine years ago Jeff  had an unorthodox perspective regarding IT security as belied in an interview with Kim Zetter of PCWorld. I especially took note of his response to the question:

"How has the hacking community changed since you founded Def Con in 1993?"

I wonder if Jeff had any inkling back then as to what his response would come to mean:

"There are more hackers employed now. Now you look around at all your friends... and they're heads of security at big companies.

And the motivations for hacking have changed. When I was growing up, we were the first generation to really have computers, and it was a big deal to have one. Now we have the Nintendo generation who have always grown up with a computer, video games. There's nothing special about it to them."

I'm sure there will be some controversy about his background, especially when compared to the other members of the HSAC. Still, different viewpoints seem to be the mantra of President Obama's administration and I for one feel that's a good thing. Jeff Moss admits this himself in a June 5, 2009 interview with Elinor Mills of CNET:

"I know there is a newfound emphasis on cybersecurity and they're looking to diversify the members and to have alternative viewpoints," he said. "I think they needed a skeptical outsider's view because that has been missing."

Final thoughts

This moment is significant. Established government bodies are recognizing that IT security professionals need to have a say. From his comments, I think Mr. Moss understands the importance of this acknowledgment. I certainly wish him well as the IT security community needs a good spokesperson.

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Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

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