Many of the computer hackers the federal government has relied upon for national cyber-security are now turning away, irate over revelations the National Security Agency has been actively spying on Americans.
“The NSA and other intelligence agencies had made major inroads in recent years, in hiring some of the best and brightest,” reported Reuters’ Joseph Menn from a pair of hacker conventions held in Las Vegas last week. “Much of that goodwill has been erased after the NSA’s classified programs to monitor phone records and Internet activity were exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.”
Glyn Moody of the technology news website Techdirt further noted tensions over what he called “the increasing demonization of hackers (not to be confused with crackers that break into systems for criminal purposes), for example by trying to add an extra layer of punishment on other crimes if they were done ‘on a computer.’”
The result, Menn notes, is that U.S. efforts to recruit hackers may have taken a substantial blow, and Moody suggests it may now be much harder to “keep up the pace of technological development within the spying program.”
“We’ve gone backwards about 10 years in the relations between the good guys and the U.S. government,” said Alex Stamos, a veteran security researcher who was speaking at one of the Vegas conventions.
Menn reported the Black Hat conference, which attracts professionals whose companies pay thousands for them to attend, actually welcomed a presentation by NSA Director Keith Alexander, but Jeff Moss, founder of the less expensive Def Con, which sees upward of 15,000 attendees, specifically asked federal agents to stay away.
“I haven’t seen this level or sort of animosity since the ’90s,” commented Moss.
The reason for the animosity? The NSA spying scandal.
“A lot of people feel betrayed by it,” said HD Moore, an executive at security firm Rapid 7. “What bothers me is the hypocritical bit – we demonize China, when we’ve been doing these things and probably worse.”
“I don’t think anyone should believe anything they tell us,” former NSA hacker Charlie Miller said of top intelligence officials. “I wouldn’t work there anymore.”