There May Be Some Feds at Defcon After All

Organizers asked the government to steer clear of the hacker conference this year.

LAS VEGAS -- For the record I did not get into the Defcon hacker’s conference.

I wanted to investigate whether federal employees and contractors were attending the conference despite a request from organizer Jeff Moss that they take a year off in the wake of revelations about the National Security Agency’s broad digital snooping programs. I also wondered what attendees thought of the federal banishment.

I applied too late for a press pass, though. And the standard attendance line, known as the “human line,” stretched at least a quarter mile around the Rio All Suites Hotel’s convention center, nearly nosing into the attached casino. That line is usually longer, a conference veteran told me, so attendees are forced to squeeze together with no visible space between them.

As luck would have it, though, I shared a cab back from the Rio to the more staid and conservative Blackhat conference at Caesar’s Palace with a contractor for a government research agency. The contactor’s been to Defcon and Blackhat many times, he said. He’s attending Blackhat on behalf of his company this year but plans to attend Defcon on his own time.

He expects many feds and contractors will do the same, he said, stressing that was just a guess and that he was speaking for himself, not his employer.

That’s not much to work with, but, as they say, anecdote is the singular of data. 

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