Aug 152013

A letter I wrote to jeff moss, Mr. Def Con, about the last DC which I
attended a day and a half of. Lots of promise… but wow. Jeff (who
I’ve known over 20 years) responded and we’ll have a chat… I do hope
some forward progress can be made. Various others have posted about
this over the years, but I hadn’t been in a very, very long time and
it felt a bit more abstract.


Hi Jeff –

I had a day and a half in Vegas and stopped by Defcon for the first
time in a very long time. A friend of mine has a young son that was
interested in the Rootz for kids program and had asked if I was interested
in attending next year with him, so I thought I’d check it out.

The Rootz program seemed great; friendly folks who really wanted to help
out the young girls and boys who were there. Tons of young people in
general abounded to help me feel even more irrelevant than I am, but it
seems all very positive.

That is, until last evening, when I caught the end of Hacker Jeopardy.
It all seemed to be in good fun, but the contestants were failing
pretty badly, not answering any questions; for some reason the emcee
said something about what they were missing and asked one of the young
women on stage to remove her outfit. The guys standing next to me were
appreciative but bitter, and explained to the new guy that she would
normally do a strip tease and remove all of her outfit for each question
answered correctly.

You have to be kidding me.

I looked around and this seems to have been going on for quite some
time; you yourself have tweeted about pix and video of the event being
put online. There’s an enormous full-page ad for it in the conference

I don’t know if you get it – but you are the man now, no matter what
you have been in the past. You’re on the Homeland Security Advisory
Council, you’re the ICANN security officer, and you founded both DefCon
and Black Hat. People – and especially young ones – look to you for
guidance and inspiration.

DefCon is a professional conference. People go there for networking
opportunities, to meet old friends, to learn about the profession. As
such it’s an extension of the workplace and the behavior there reflects
the attitudes of the presenters, attendees, and most prominently,
yourself. You’re aligning yourself with appalling and open sexism –
how on earth can you condone this?

I urge you to reconsider what this means to people. After the event last
night I looked online and saw how women in particular have written felt
degraded and abused by their DefCon experiences. You must have heard
at least some of this. If not, just search for defcon and sexism.

Jeff – DefCon isn’t just a place where young boys can hang out and be
l337 anymore – it’s an institution. The security field is so bereft
of women already – I can’t even imagine why you’d put together such a
hostile environment for them to further discourage their participation.

Please, put an end to this. You can do it with a wave of your hand, and
proclaim that women are welcome. Make DefCon a place where women and
young girls will be rewarded and want to go, not degraded and demeaned
on stage with a bunch of drunk guys cheering on strippers.

I certainly will never go again with this sorts of behavior going on,
and I doubly won’t go with my friend’s son. I hope you will take
some positive action about all of this.


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