Modern field guide to security and privacy

Hackers set to infiltrate New York film festival

Why DEF CON, one of the world's premiere hacker conferences, is setting up shop at one of the nation's top film festivals.

Steve Marcus/Reuters/File
In August 2015, Jeff Moss, founder of the DEF CON hacker conference, spoke during Black Hat, another gathering for security researchers that Mr. Moss started.

On Friday, DEF CON will begin "Hacked," its second annual official program as part of New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival.

And Jeff Moss, founder of DEF CON, is the first to admit that bringing one of the world's top hacker conferences to one of the nation's top film festivals might seem like a random mishmash of very separate cultures.

"It was important that it be more than just hackers griping about how they are portrayed in movies," said Mr. Moss, echoing a common complaint among cybersecurity professionals that Hollywood often makes hacking look effortless.

But, he said, bringing together security researchers with filmmakers could help both communities better understand each other. "Creative people appreciate creativity in others, especially when that it’s so different than their own," he said.

Though it's at Tribeca, "Hacked" is unquestionably a DEF CON event. Regulars of the annual Las Vegas-based hacker conference will notice many faces and elements of the original DEF CON. Moss will be in attendance to moderate a panel with the cast and writer of the USA Network’s hacker TV drama "Mr. Robot." 

The show (an event sponsor) earned kudos within the information security community by mixing tech accuracy and nuanced characterization of hackers. Tribeca will also feature hands-on hacker training – known as villages at DEF CON – for beginners as well as experts that will be staffed by some of the convention's veteran volunteers.

"Some volunteers were on the fence before they were sure that this was a legit, worthwhile thing, and not just a dog and pony show with DEF CON's name on it," said Deviant Ollam, who manages the Las Vegas lock-picking village, and now the New York one as well. "This isn’t going to be like the airport Chili’s version of DEF CON."

Other villages will include privacy, hardware hacking and biohacking. 

If "Hacked" takes off, do not be surprised to see DEF CON branch out to other conferences, said Moss. Its creator says the event's organizers are always interested in expanding their reach when the right opportunity comes along. "DEF CON at NASA? That would be awesome," joked Moss.

"InfoSec is an echo chamber," he continued. "We have been talking to each other for 20 years and nothing has changed. The real challenge is to start talking with other people – whether that’s Tribeca or a meat packing conference."

Correction: This story was updated to correctly identify the name of the DEF CON event. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.