Hacker named to Homeland Security Advisory Council

Hacker and Defcon founder Jeff Moss joins former FBI, CIA directors on Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Defcon founder Jeff Moss, aka Dark Tangent, is one of the newest members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Defcon

Jeff Moss, founder of the Black Hat and Defcon hacker and security conferences, was among 16 people sworn in on Friday to the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

The HSAC members will provide recommendations and advice directly to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Moss' background as a computer hacker (aka "Dark Tangent") and role as a luminary among young hackers who flock to Defcon in Las Vegas every summer might seem to make him an odd choice to swear allegiance to the government. (Although before running his computer conferences, Moss also worked in the information system security division at Ernst & Young.)

I'd like to hear some of the banter as he rubs elbows with the likes of former CIA (Bill Webster) and FBI directors (Louis Freeh), Los Angeles County sheriff, Miami mayor, New York police commissioner, governors of Maryland and Georgia, former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, and the president of the Navajo Nation.

In an interview late on Friday, Moss, who is 39, said he was surprised when he got the call and was asked to join the group.

"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."

Asked if there was anything in particular he would advocate, Moss said: "There will be more cyber announcements in coming weeks and once that happens my role will become more clear. This meeting was focused on Southwest border protection... With things like Fastpass and Safe Flight, everything they are doing has some kind of technology component."

Moss, who is genuinely humble, said he was "fantastically honored and excited to contribute" to the HSAC and not concerned with losing any street cred among what some would call his fan base. He did concede that his new position would give him an unfair advantage in Defcon's "Spot The Fed" contest in which people win prizes for successfully outing undercover government agents.

Security consultant Kevin Mitnick, who spent five years in prison on computer-related charges and was once the FBI's most-wanted cybercriminal, praised Moss' diplomacy, but said: "I'm surprised to see Jeff on the list. I would have expected (crypto/security guru and author) Bruce Schneier to be on the council."

Moss "is a great crowd pleaser" and "he's just bad enough for them to say 'we're crossing the ranks,'" said journalist and threat analyst Adrian Lamo, who served two years of probation for breaking into computer networks. "But the reality is he's as corporate as hiring someone out of Microsoft."

 

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