NSA booth at Black Hat raises eyebrows

The head of the US Government’s top secret National Security Agency asked a convention load of hackers to join the men in black.

In a speech to the 20th annual DefCon gathering in Las Vegas, four-star General Keith Alexander said there were lots of things in common between US officials and hackers. We guess he meant that they were both treated with suspicion, spoke a different language from the rest of the world, and operated outside the law.

According to IT News, General Alexander said that they all agreed that privacy must be preserved and that they could help by developing new tools.

Alexander rarely gives speeches of any kind so him turning up at a Black Hat conference was unusual.

He was invited by conference founder Jeff Moss, Alexander was invited as he wanted hackers to learn about one of the world’s “spookiest, least known” organisations.

Attendees were fairly muted. Several said they were concerned about secret government snooping and the failure of authorities thus far to stop foreign-backed attacks.

Alexander wore jeans and a t-shirt and wandered the halls praising specific hacking efforts, including intrusion detection tools and advances in cryptology.

It was the first time that the NSA sponsored a booth at the convention. Ironically it was placed next to one from the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF).

Alexander denied that the NSA had dossiers on millions of Americans.

But he did use his speech to lobby for a cyber security bill moving through the Senate that would make it easier for companies under attack to share information with the government. He wanted the Black Hats to help build a set of standards for critical networks.