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Risk

8/10/2008
03:17 AM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Defcon 16 Kicks Off In Controversy

Would you expect the 16th annual hackfest to begin any other way? Whether it's the arrest of security researchers, or the outted undercover TV producer of years gone by, Black Hat's sister security and hacking conference, Defcon, always causes a stir. This year, it was the press conference that wasn't to be.

Would you expect the 16th annual hackfest to begin any other way? Whether it's the arrest of security researchers, or the outted undercover TV producer of years gone by, Black Hat's sister security and hacking conference, Defcon, always causes a stir. This year, it was the press conference that wasn't to be.The three French reporters who have been accused of sniffing the network traffic in the pressroom at the Black Hat security conference earlier this week, and subsequently booted from the conference, had set up a press conference to explain their side of the story. They had been accused of sniffing the logon credentials and other information from reporters using the wired network setup for the media, and tried to report their findings to the Wall of Sheep organizers. If you've no idea what I'm talking about, read this post from a couple days ago.

But they never showed up, to the very press conference they requested, to speak to the several journalists that were waiting for them.

Perhaps they didn't show because they're now afraid law enforcement would take some action, or because they're -- Marc Brami, Mauro Israel, and Dominique Jouniot -- now divided among themselves about what has happened. This assumption is based on the comments below from an Associate Press story that ran on Friday in which Brami appears to be putting much of the blame on Israel:

Brami said in an interview with The Associated Press that Israel was responsible for the hack and that he and Jouniot didn't know about it.

"I can't explain why he'd do that," Brami said. "He thinks it's some kind of game for him. I'm very angry with him. I've had a partnership with Black Hat for three years."

That partnership, with French publication Global Security Magazine, may very well now be over, unless tensions can be smoothed.

I've mixed feelings about this mess. Sure, the pressroom was supposed to be off limits to any hacking shenanigans at the security conference. And yes, sniffing a network without authorization is against the law. But then again, this was the Black Hat conference, and these types of antics are very likely, if not expected. And the reporters involved did try to use the information they gathered for a contest designed to embarrass anyone not taking care to protect their electronic selves.

So, should the entire thing be dropped and forgotten? Or should the authorities throw the book at whoever set up the allegedly illegal network tap? Let me know what you think.

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