Hacker named to Homeland Security Advisory Council

Hacker named to Homeland Security Advisory Council

Summary: 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.

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."

This article was originally posted on CNET News.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Government, Government US, Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Crooks hire Crooks

    Where else can a crook get a Job.
    Crooks in D.C. hire crooks to help the crooked Gov't do crooked things to help the crooked Banks and crooked companies the politicians award contracts to while decent people get rolled because they follow the rules to avoid prison.

    It looks like the IT Czar force is 30's something club.....

  • RE: Hacker named to Homeland Security Advisory Council

    Ok, let's move past the knee-jerk reactions to the news, as well as the stereotypical definitions of "Hacker" *cough*Algzdnet*cough.

    I think this move is a step in the right direction; it means that the new administration realizes that the issues facing our nation's security are not best handled by politicians pandering for votes but by the best of the best in the very nuanced fields of security.

    Jeff Moss is a security professional, with a clear personal interest in cyber-security. I wouldn't trust a home security company to say that they've tested my house and that they think it's impossible to penetrate.

    Furthermore, Jeff Moss is not a crook, or a criminal, he is a security professional with a BA in Criminal Justice. His "hacking" experience comes from security work for Ernst & Young, as well as contract gigs testing computer systems for various companies.

    I, personally, feel much more comfortable with the fact that the newest administration isn't so pompous as to think that they are experts on cyber security, the economy, foreign affairs, etc. and that they're willing to actually hire and bring people into the administration who are experts in the aforementioned fields.

    Personally I study security in my free time, not to steal millions of dollars, but because I enjoy studying it, I enjoy the knowledge I glean as I learn the strengths and weaknesses of various information structures, operating systems, networking protocols, etc. Long story short, "hackers" are not all criminal masterminds; some are even on the "good" side.
  • RE: Hacker named to Homeland Security Advisory Council

    Well, the Chinese have a whole team of sanctioned and pardoned hackers working for them. We need MORE!!
  • RE: Hacker named to Homeland Security Advisory Council

    Honestly, I'm willing to bet he quits in frustration in a few weeks. Bruce would be a perfect fit for the job but he was probably smart enough to see the concept's failings. What does Jeff have in common with these other supposed cyber folks? Jeff's job will be to show up at meetings and sit there like a good little boy while the suits that largely got us into this mess discuss ways to get us out. I don't mean to blame them for failures in technology, but who doesn't believe that most of them failed to listen and learn for the past 10-15 years? What changed on their resumes that uniquely qualify them for this new role?