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FBI Releases Its Files On DEF CON: Not Amused By Spot-the-Fed 102

v3rgEz writes: Not surprisingly, the FBI has compiled reports on notorious hacker gathering DEF CON, now released thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request. The files detail the lack of amusement at the Spot-the-Fed game, as well as which conference tracks attract the most interest. "In a bit of FOIrony, the file contains a copy of the Spot the Fed contest rules, including the facetious aside to feds offering t-shirts in exchange for agency coffee mugs."
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FBI Releases Its Files On DEF CON: Not Amused By Spot-the-Fed

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is only game.

    But really, why would they get mad?
    It would be better if they played along and actually tried to hide as best as they could so they could IMPROVE on being incognito.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It would be better if they played along and actually tried to hide as best as they could so they could IMPROVE on being incognito.

      Guess the FBI must believe in security through obscurity.

    • by N1AK ( 864906 )

      It would be better if they played along and actually tried to hide as best as they could so they could IMPROVE on being incognito.

      Arguably that's the worst thing they could do: Provide insights into how they try and remain undetected when amongst people who are trying to develop strategies and insights to detect them when there's nothing of value to gain. They'd be better off intentionally fitting stereotypes and doing a poor job of hiding at DefCon, then it might lure people into a false sense of security.

    • I just read the document...I saw no reaction from the feds at all. There wasn't event commentary. Just a list of things, including the rules of the game. Really, it's just "attached is the list of rules for "spot the fed."" And that's it.

    • We are also not amused by agencies spying...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why not play spot the foreign intelligence agents? Wouldn't their mugs be more intriguing to obtain? I mean, they probably have listening devices built into them that are activated by hot water or microwave ovens.

  • by Indy1 ( 99447 ) <spamtrap@fuckedregime.com> on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @07:16PM (#49634071) Homepage

    someone needs to throw a pie at em, liven things up a bit : )

  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @07:22PM (#49634095)
    Looks like typical bureaucratic language. I think there is some kind of law that says all reports must be written in in passive voice and with no humor at all. I'd bet some of the Feds found Spot the Fed humorous...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Right, it pretty much amounts to "They have a spot the fed contest, details attached".

    • The feds I've talked to at conferences generally don't mind, as long as there's no associated publicity that goes outside the conference -- that is, they don't want to be on someone's blog, and especially don't want to show up on a news site. Probably because they're at the conference on the government dime.

      • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @08:04PM (#49634295)

        The feds I've talked to at conferences generally don't mind, as long as there's no associated publicity that goes outside the conference -- that is, they don't want to be on someone's blog, and especially don't want to show up on a news site. Probably because they're at the conference on the government dime.

        Yup. Those could be a CLE (Career Limiting Event). For the Feds, especially those with an interest in tech, such events are a low stress event and can be fun; even if they envy some of the tech as they have to work with tech that often is described as yesterday's technology tomorrow. The ones I've worked with have good senses of humor and, contrary to the opinions voiced here, have no desire to trample on anyone's rights.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @09:37PM (#49634803) Homepage

          It's called research. Police types going to one of those events will never be in trouble as long as they write a follow up report and attend a debrief if requested. In fact they would receive browny points for doing so. So feel free to attend them all, see if you can be spotted but do not forget the follow up observational report, including whether you were or not you were spotted, how you were spotted and whether or not you traded a mug for a T shirt (ain't nothing wrong with that, unless the mugs were not provided for that purpose ie not stolen). Showing a sense of humour ie having fun when you are annoying some and just some people, promotes good relations with the public. Two way street there, fellows. When it comes to computer crime the best resources is not the FBI (most certainly not the NSA the NSA are foolishly proud to be law breakers) but a public that will support the efforts of quality responsible policing. So open a booth and hand out, no wait, swap mugs and a good T-shirt for naughty T-shirts (do not forget a biological containment device for the sweaty T-shirts).

        • by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @03:42AM (#49636137)

          > The ones I've worked with have good senses of humor and, contrary to the opinions voiced here, have no desire to trample on anyone's rights.

          Generally true--you've mostly got a lot of really good guys working intelligence. Most of the concern around massive surveillance--and part of the problem they really have a problem understanding it--is not what the guys in control of it now *do*, it's the *potential* for the wrong guy or guys to use it for evil.

          Right now you have some *REALLY* sketchy stuff going on even with good guys in charge. Most notably, you've got a problem in that it's being used against criminals indirectly, which is a gross violation of the rights of a lot of criminals. Think parallel construction type projects. Wasn't there a big treasure trove of tax evasion data that mysteriously appeared a while back? Here we go: http://www.politico.com/mornin... [politico.com]

          That *is* almost certainly our government or governments colluding to violate the rights of criminals, but the people doing it don't *care* because it's criminals.

          I am a little upset about that because it's unconstitutional and because we overcriminalize generally, so almost everyone is breaking the law and they have something on everyone if they care to use it.

          I am *much* more concerned with the potential for misuse not with the generally good guys dealing with it today, but by the bad guys who come in tomorrow, or the good-ish guys who get too tempted knowing how much easier it would be if they blackmail a senator or two based on knowledge of who they've slept with or what their daughter was up to on spring break. You're fundamentally dealing with power politics with an apparatus that could put a man like Frank Underwood in control of the country for decades, all without real transparency or accountability.

          Most politicians don't have anywhere near that level of savvy--we are mostly saved by a combination of incompetence and a lot of really great guys in the intelligence community who would go a long way to prevent that kind of thing if they find out about it--but if we don't put incredibly good *processes* in place, engineered to prevent that kind of takeover, then it *will* happen if it has not already. Think what J. Edgar Hoover could have done with that information. Think what McCarthy did without it, and how much worse it could have been.

    • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @08:22PM (#49634383)

      Looks like typical bureaucratic language. I think there is some kind of law that says all reports must be written in in passive voice and with no humor at all. I'd bet some of the Feds found Spot the Fed humorous...

      Passive voice effectively disclaims responsibility, and disclaims chain of responsibility, by making a statement without anyone owning it. It's also frequently used as an argument-without-evidence technique.

    • I think there is some kind of law that says all reports must be written in in passive voice

      But, honestly, anybody old enough (by which I mean over around 30) who had a decent enough education had passive voice hammered into us for many many things.

      Pretty much anything which was intended to be a factual reporting of something is supposed to be in passive voice.

      So much so that when Microsoft introduced their annoying grammar checker it would give me warnings that I was writing in passive voice. Unfortunatel

    • Indeed.

      I went to DefCon 2005, and got spotted. It was quite friendly. During one of the keynotes, someone shouted out that they had spotted a fed, and pointed at me - then I was asked up on stage for a series of Q&A.

      A military haircut, shirt tucked into your pants, and wearing socks with sandals was apparently enough of a giveaway. I did get a "I'm the Fed" T-shirt, and it was quite fun.

  • FBI in such cases must investigate if some "hack(s)" may endanger U.S.A. (and its ally(ies), including my own nation, Greece) -since so much critical infrastructure depends on IT-, and/or, may be used against any enemy(ies) - also must investigate if some "hacher(s)" is/are of the enemy(ies)... AND (the most important, but least glorious...) PROTECT THE HACKER(S) (as it does with any convention(s)/conference(s), i.e., assembly(ies) of many people).

    This "Spot-the-Fed game" is stupid - don't kid yourselves k

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This is the same FBI who in the 1950's spent two years investigating the song Louie Louie and the performers and fans of The Kingsmen and came up with what they usually come up with; nothing of interest. Scully and Mulder are a fantasy. The FBI comes to DEF CON because they are about 10 years behind the rest of the world in cybersecurity ops. Plain and simple, the private sector is many years beyond what we currently think of as their current state. i.e. they are hiding any really new ideas and gear for "se

      • Did they really investigated the song Louie Louie (by the way, great song!) and the performers and fans of The Kingsmen? Well, ok, i am sure they had some reason (don't forget that THE enemy at that time -and it was my nation's, i.e., Greece, enemy also- had some very "artistic" ways to do damage)! But please agents, not Louie Louie [youtube.com]...

        Anyway, as i wrote, i think they are basically there to protect the convention/conference, as it does with any large gathering of people - if a convention/conference about Su

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @07:55PM (#49634253)

      Holy (f)uck(ing) p(ar)en(t)he(ses) ... (what) t(h)e ((fuck)) is (wr)on(g) wi(t)h (u)??

      It's English, not LISP.

      • Holy (f)uck(ing) p(ar)en(t)he(ses) ... (what) t(h)e ((fuck)) is (wr)on(g) wi(t)h (u)??

        It's English, not LISP.

        Sorry dude, you are right, i was also writting some code (not LISP thank God!), and... it just happened! But to be honest i usually overuse parentheses... sorry.

  • Maybe it's time ot expand - have "spot the fed" contests at protests, on campus, etc. And add "spot the rat" (confidential informer).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Good activists are paranoid. If you find yourself in a protest or hot-button-topic-event of any sort, you should have one of your own mental cores dedicated to the 'Spot the Fed' process.
    • It was really funny watching the local violent anarchists tear each other apart with suspicions and accusations after a few of them were arrested for environmental terrorism. Their group went from over 20 down to under 5 and the arrests were still happening. In the end, one thing became clear: none of the people they were accusing of being the "mole" really was.

      Looking back now, the "confidential informant" probably wasn't even a member of their group, but some NSA guy in a data center somewhere.

      The lesson,

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @07:44PM (#49634203)
    n/t
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When I wore the black hat and did time (thanks egold) it was the SS and not the FBI that found me. Does the SS get any special treatment at those events?

    PS,
    No, I am not in the black hat business anymore.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm loving this article! Think it was 14 or 15 and "spotted" a fed, tried to chat him up and tell him about the game. He got up and *RAN* out of the talk, and out of the entire conference. Didn't see him back the entire time..

  • Defcon 2, Sahara Hotel. 1 of 5.

  • I didn't think anyone actually stepped foot into the actual conference, it's just a week of paid vacation in Vegas by the company... Mostly I just like to see if I'm as geeky looking walking around with my two-bit Blackhat bag of swag.
  • The best Spot the Fed story I have heard was several years ago when DEFCON was at the Riviera.
    The woman gets up and picks out the Fed. When asked how she knew, she became sheepishly quiet. After some prodding she admitted sleeping with him and while he was still asleep she went through his wallet and found his ID.

    Counter spying at its best!!

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