News late last week that Jeff Moss was appointed as one of 16 fresh faces to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council didn’t quite draw the same amount of attention as President Obama’s cybersecurity speech did a few days earlier.
But it should have.
You see, Jeff Moss is a hacker. He still is widely known by his online alias Dark Tangent.
A hacker being named to a government advisory role? It can’t be.
Look how far we’ve come.
To put this in some perspective, the HSAC is chaired by a judge and a senator. Its member list is undeniably blue blooded, riddled with titles such as CEO, president, partner, governor, trustee, mayor.
Moss is a refreshing addition.
Granted, Moss is no longer on the side of the fence that could land him in jail. Actually, that’s why he gave up the trade after high school. But as the founder of the Black Hat and DEFCON conferences — arguably the biggest hacker events during the year — he clearly still considers himself very much a part of the security research community, which quite often blurs the line between the lawful and the questionable.
With that said, Moss’ representation on the council serves as an eye-opening moment for the federal government. I liken it to placing a former mobster on anti-racketeering board. Moss is very smart; he can offer perspective that few others can.
Our nation’s leaders finally understand that to fight cybercrime requires the cooperation of everybody, even if that somebody formerly hacked phone systems so he could make free international calls.
Moss will be able to draw from his rich experience as a hacker and call on his many interactions with both the good guys and, I’m sure, the bad guys.
Of course, that’s not to say that Moss can’t also lend some perspective as a business leader. He did start Black Hat and DEFCON from scratch, successfully selling the former to CMP Media in 2005. Moss also has held roles at Ernst & Young and Secure Computing — so he surely knows a thing or two about wearing a tie to the board room.
Apparently, the DHS isn’t only looking to the private sector for advisory help. The Pentagon also is leveraging America’s IT security gene pool to recruit “hacker soldiers,” who will help the government prepare for the next generation of war. The kind that isn’t fought on the deserts of Iraq or Afghanistan.
I see these developments as two great positives.
Experience ultimately can save our nation’s cyberinfrastructure. No more political posturing.