Dateline NBC is lame (or, how a chick got pwned at Defcon)

janey

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I thought their Predator series was awful enough...turns out Dateline sent one of the producers undercover at Defcon 15 to try to secretely record hackers admitting to doing illegal things...I can only assume they wanted to make another pathetic show out of that information involving arresting them. Out of all people to send, they had to send a woman with blonde hair. When it's a complete sausagefest...and what more do you expect from all computer conferences and conventions, let alone one of the biggest hacking/security ones on this planet?...all women stick out like a sore thumb. Way to be covert! Being a very distinctive blonde woman when everyone is out to avoid you like the plague (having been warned about you) is not the best way to get confessions of illegal activities out of people.

She got outed at the special "Spot the Undercover Reporter" event that she was lured to, where she promptly left after guessing what this was all about.


As much as I hate some of the coverage and comments on this event (some are unbelievably sexist...), particularly cause I've dealt with my fair share of ridiculous sexism at events like these in general, I have no sympathy whatsoever for this woman. Lie four times about wanting a press pass to get in to try to get confessions out of people who in many cases are doing a good thing, only to show this to the world on TV for the most retarded reasons? Someone obviously didn't do their homework regarding every single aspect of this idea..even down to the parts where government agency employees are present because the educational value of attending defcon and the black hat briefings are so great...hence the original event name "spot the feds". Or that maybe you don't try to use some pathetic social engineering skills on the same people who are masters at social engineering?

Coverage:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCvmkxO5hoQ
http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/08/media-mole-at-d.html




Anyway, speaking of Defcon, anyone else here that went this year?...or are still there? :) I absolutely love the badges.
 

rockosmodurnlif

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Apr 21, 2007
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What most people know about hacking comes from Hollywood and TV, who are known for sticking to the facts and abhor embellishment and simplification, so I'm thinking they thought send in a girl and the men would fall over themselves trying to impress her with "l337 skillz" and it would be a cakewalk for her. Instead of y'know doing something absolutely crazy like asking them.
 

janey

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so I'm thinking they thought send in a girl and the men would fall over themselves trying to impress her with "l337 skillz" and it would be a cakewalk for her. Instead of y'know doing something absolutely crazy like asking them.
aka social engineering :)

Not such a bad idea, except it completely backfired here cause they went about it the wrong way... :D
 

mkrishnan

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Jan 9, 2004
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I read about this briefly when I got home today, but I glossed over the fact that Dateline was involved. Nice. :)

Even geeks know how to catch a predator now. ;)
 

GoCubsGo

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All things considering the person who shot the youtube video should be slapped around.
 

Royale w/cheese

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Seems like she was a pretty bad sport about it all. You would think someone with dateline would have a thicker skin.
 

janey

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All things considering the person who shot the youtube video should be slapped around.
I dunno. A fair number of people followed her out...a lot of them reporters, and not just attendees who wanted to humiliate her or something.

And like I said, I don't have much sympathy for her, because she was trying to bend the rules to do a despicable thing (e.g. refuse a press pass four times because the press were explicitly prohibited from doing what she attempted to do). I'd much prefer watching the youtube video as opposed to her secret camera recordings of people admitting to doing illegal things shown on TV for dumb ratings.

It was either getting her to leave the conference, or having to put up with her for the rest of the weekend.
 

Lyle

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Jun 11, 2003
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All things considering the person who shot the youtube video should be slapped around.
I sorta felt the same way. Yes, it was pretty funny that they turned the tables on her -- I've never been a fan of the kind of "journalism" that shows like Dateline promote. But I did feel like they should have backed off and let her leave in peace once they had escorted her out. The people who followed her out and hounded her were acting just as bad as the Dateline types, and two wrongs don't make a right.
 

2nyRiggz

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Aug 20, 2005
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Thank you Jah...I'm so Blessed
I'll never forget the dateline episodee when the minister(I think) wanted to punch out the reporter that confronted him.


That reporter is brave....well only because he know cops are around but one of these day that reporter will get a broken nose.



Bless
 

DavidLeblond

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Jan 6, 2004
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This sort of thing reminds me of a story I saw recently about a reporter that tried to prove a hospital's security was spotty by trying to break in to the nursery to steal a child (to be fair, she wasn't actually going to do it... just say "well I coulda!")... she ended up getting caught and thrown into jail. Whoops!
 

megfilmworks

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Jul 1, 2007
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That video shows the pack mentality develop quickly. If I was at that convention I would be ashamed of the way she was treated. Embarrassing and juvenille.
 

janey

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That video shows the pack mentality develop quickly. If I was at that convention I would be ashamed of the way she was treated. Embarrassing and juvenille.
If you watched any of the Dateline Predator series...

Two wrongs don't make a right, and yes it was juvenile, but she walked into a hacker conference where ALL the attendees and the people who run the conference knew about her and what she was doing with a hidden camera in her bag and lying to staff in order to out feds and to get confessions of illegal activity from people to show on TV - something nobody wants, and something definitely against conference rules. If staff eventually didn't escort her out (how many times did she refuse the press pass? even then, she'd probably still have the "undercover" camera), the attendees, who were warned of her presence, would probably have harassed her enough to the point that she'd leave.

Some quotes from the founder of defcon to put things into perspective, if you still don't really get why what she did was not a good thing to do:

DefCon is a way to look into the crystal ball and see what criminal hackers are working on. If you ruin that trust, who wants to be the one who is demonized? If there's a hidden camera, they're not going to want to share information openly. It's very easy when you're dealing with hackers to sensationalize it. It's kind of voodoo.

"There's a lot of private discussion here," Moss added. "A lot of people ask researchers how liable certain attacks are, how fast things can spread. And the feds are constantly asked for help from the audience... The vast majority of attendees are feds and white-hat hackers. If you're a criminal, you don't go where all the feds and good guys are going."

The DefCon founder said he was worried about Dateline's "hit-and-run entrapment" kind of work. "We were concerned she was going to find some underage kid or someone and ask if they could break into her Hotmail account or something foolish," he added. "And she'd keep trying until she found someone who said something stupid. At what point do we try to stop the shenanigans?"
With the overblown reactions people have nowadays to the term "hacker" alone..with security researchers and hobbyists occasionally getting sued/arrested/fired/demoted for disclosing what they find (even at defcon a few years ago, FBI arrested a russian programmer), who knows what the ordinary public might do after watching something Dateline might have done with "confessions" from attendees. Something overblown and ridiculous that would not help anybody on either side, most likely.

Nobody at Defcon wants to be outed on TV like that, and nobody wants to see it happen either. I'm sure there were better ways to get her to leave the conference, but this is how it happened. People don't expect to be recorded and to have their words taken out of context by a lying and ignorant fool at Defcon. Understandably quite a few were unhappy about it.