By Damon Poeter | PCMag.com
Help me help you or help me hurt you? National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander’s first-ever direct appeal to hackers to assist the secretive spy agency was greeted with polite applause at the DefCon conference in Las Vegas on Friday but afterwards, it was a different story.
"You’re going to have to come in and help us," Alexander told DefCon attendees, according to Reuters. The NSA boss, dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt for the occasion, also denied that his agency kept dossiers on "millions of Americans."
"The people who would say we are doing that should know better. That is absolute nonsense," Alexander said, referring to former NSA employees who have told the media that the agency does just that.
DefCon founder Jeff Moss told the crowd that he asked Alexander to speak at the conference to educate conference goers about the NSA, which he described as one of "spookiest, least known" organizations in the world.
After reports of Alexander’s appearance started making the rounds, skeptics took to online forums to express their doubts about helping the NSA make the Internet more secure "from exploitation, disruption, and destruction."
On Wired’s Threat Level blog, for example, commenters questioned Alexander’s playing down of the information it keeps on Americans—one advised potential NSA recruits that if they "have any sense at all they will run a mile from this guy."
The NSA also had a booth at DefCon for the first time, according to Reuters. There was no small irony in its location next to one run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) —a non-profit concerned with Internet freedom and privacy issues that is currently suing the government spy agency over allegedly illegal wire taps of phone calls by American citizens.
Representatives for the NSA and EFF declined to discuss that litigation, the news agency reported.
Alexander’s appeal to hackers focused on protecting the free flow of information on the Internet from attacks by international hackers like the denial of service attacks by Anonymous and other groups that have temporarily knocked prominent websites and even Sony’s entire PlayStation Network offline in recent years.
The NSA chief is actually calling for more than just an early warning system provided by the hacker community, however. At DefCon, Alexander pushed for a complete overhaul of the Internet’s U.S. infrastructure to enable the NSA to "know instantly when overseas hackers might be attacking public or private infrastructure and computer networks," according to MIT’s Technology Review.
Alexander said his agency is pushing for new legislation in Congress that would enable the private sector to more easily alert the NSA and law enforcement agencies about cyberattacks.
Read the full article at: pcmag.com
Pre-teen hacker CyFi gets congratulated by National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander during a Defcon session for winning a Zero-Day contest as part of Defcon Kids.
CNet Comment: If I were the NSA director, I’d stage a series of semi-phony competitions and gatherings too.
During which I would be sure that the names, fingerprints, and addresses of all of these potential persons of interest have been logged.