A prominent computer hacker was sworn in Friday to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, a group which provides advice to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The hacker in question is Jeff Moss, founder of the Black Hat and Defcon hacker conferences. Moss’ long experience as a computer hacker (he was known as “Dark Tangent”) and role as an idol to young hackers who attend Defcon in Las Vegas every year have made him famous. He is a very high profile hacking celebrity among the darker inhabitants of the hacking world.
If you are thinking that perhaps we should change the word “famous” to “infamous,” you might find him to be an odd candidate for his new position. In some ways you would be correct. It should be remembered, though, that before becoming a well known hacker and conference-meister, Moss also worked in the information system security division at Ernst & Young, so he does have some experience as “the man.”
Moss was interviewed late Friday, and appeared to be surprised by his selection to the Homeland Security oversight group, according to a CNET story. He said, “I know there is a newfound emphasis on cybersecurity and they’re looking to diversify the members and to have alternative viewpoints. I think they needed a skeptical outsider’s view because that has been missing. … 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 is actually the kind of person they need on such a council. He has a high profile combined with good street cred and some corporate background. That is a fairly rare combination among people with such a detailed knowledge of the hacking mentality and methodology. It is difficult to think of anyone that could provide a wider range of knowledge and experience. Of course, it remains to be seen if they will listen to him.