Black Hat Founder Tapped To Advise Homeland Security

Jeff Moss, founder of the Black Hat and Defcon security conferences, is one of 16 people appointed to the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council, as the government casts a wide net for perspectives on cybersecurity.
Jeff Moss, founder of the Black Hat and Defcon security conferences, was one of 16 people appointed to the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) on Friday.

The HSAC is composed of individuals with extensive security and policy experience from state and local government, the private sector, and academia.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that members of the HSAC will bring unique expertise and insight to the DHS's mission to keep the United States secure.

Moss used to work in information security for Ernst & Young and as a director of Secure Computing. Online, he goes by the handle Dark Tangent.

The fact that the noted hacker is will be palling around with other HSAC members like former FBI director Louis Freeh and William Webster, former director of both the FBI and CIA at different times, shows that the government is casting a wide net for perspectives on cybersecurity.

"Isn't it interesting?" said Moss in a phone interview on Monday. "I didn't know who the new members were, I just knew they were recomposing part of the HSAC. They didn't tell me who else was being considered, until like two days before, when you get to see the whole list."

Moss realizes that he isn't among peers. He said he thinks the government is looking for a diversity of viewpoints.

"There's a ton of smart people with lots of experience, but I think what was lacking was a younger perspective, of someone who has grown up with computers," he said. "I just was surprised that it was me rather than someone like Bruce Schneier. I don't know if they offered it to him or not. But I think they were definitely looking for an outside, fresh perspective."

While attendees to Moss's conferences have included members of the law enforcement community, Moss believes that his new role with help encourage more communication between authorities and hackers.

Moss says he's not yet certain what he'll be doing. "Besides providing advice and opinion, I have no idea," he said.

The HSAC, he said, deals with more than just cybersecurity issues. It provides advice to the DHS on security issues overall. So he doesn't anticipate being asked for advice on every security topic.

"Generally, the conversation is steered by the interests of the secretary," he said. "So if [Secretary Napolitano] has an interest in border security and you start talking about that, and you touch on items that have to do with technology, then that's my job to chime in on that."

Moss says that he expects to see more cybersecurity initiatives in the next few months.

"My impression is that they're taking cybersecurity very seriously and they realize that it touches on both the civilian economy, that generates tax dollars and jobs, to continuity of government and the military. They seem to really get it."

As if to demonstrate that point, Moss notes the U.S. government is also setting up a system to solicit online feedback from the cybersecurity community.

About a week ago, the White House released a 60-day review of national cybersecurity policy. It characterized cyberthreats as one of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st century and offered a handful of suggestions for improving the nation's cyberdefenses.

President Obama is expected name a cybersecurity coordinator, or cybersecurity czar, shortly.

CMP Media, a subsidiary of United Business Media and the parent company of InformationWeek, bought the Black Hat Conference from Moss in 2005. CMP Media was subsequently renamed TechWeb.

Black Hat is like no other security conference. It happens in Las Vegas, July 25-30. Find out more and register.