8. August 2007, 15:28 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

Things got interesting at this year’s DefCon conference when an associate producer with television news magazine Dateline NBC fled Friday after being publicly identified as an undercover reporter in front of the crowd gathered for a popular conference session.

According to DefCon staff, Michelle Madigan had registered as a non-press attendee in an attempt to covertly collect footage for a story on the hackers and government agents who attend the yearly conference. However, a contact inside NBC had already tipped off DefCon organizers long before she arrived.

Defcon organizers are not shy of media coverage, however their press policy does reflect the high priority many attendees place on privacy issues. Journalists must register as such and have a press badge visible at all times while at the event. They must also follow strict rules with respect to cameras and recording devices.

According to DefCon founder Jeff Moss, his staff spotted Madigan before she entered the event, and offered her the opportunity to register as press on at least four occasions. After she refused, event staff made several announcements warning attendees that an undercover reporter was present.

Madigan bolted from the room before Moss had finished announcing her presence. She was followed by a small crowd of reporters and attendees as she hurried from the Riviera hotel and drove away. NBC could not be reached for comment.

Several DefCon staffers have suggested that Madigan’s efforts to remain suggested that she intended to create a sensationalized piece on the event. Others were concerned because many younger attendees often exaggerate their technical abilities or concoct stories about fictious exploits. It is unclear whether Madigan was investigating the event alone or as part of a planned Dateline exposé.

Jeff Moss commented that, "One option is wait until they corner some 13-year-old kid and get him to admit he can hack Russia with his PSP (PlayStation Portable), and they put him up on NBC, or, you just escort her off for not wearing a press badge."

Several attendees commented that Madigan’s efforts showed a lack of planning and indeed understanding of the event. One witness to Madigan’ departure said, "Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got clueless people here just like anywhere else, but there are also a lot of really smart, paranoid people at DefCon. We all knew she was coming, and she came anyway. Someone just didn’t think through what it means to piss off a few thousand hackers."

And journalists wonder why people don’t trust them and are wary of reporters.

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Categories: ,
Keywords: DefCon,hackers,Madigan,Dateline,NBC,exposed,Moss



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