Obama Taps Well-Known Hacker as Security Adviser

The Obama administration is embracing the dark side to help it fight cyberattacks.

On Friday, a well-known hacker was one of 16 people named to the Department of Homeland Security's Advisory Council (HSAC).

Jeff Moss, aka "Dark Tangent," started out as a high-school "phone phreak" making free long-distance calls and later founded the DefCon and Black Hat hackers' conferences.

He's since worked in information security for accounting giant Ernst & Young, and now is a consultant testing corporations' cybersecurity.

But he told Wired News and Cnet News he was genuinely surprised to be asked to join a government law-enforcement body.

"I always figured that because of my associations in the past that I would be kind of out of the running for anything like this," he told Wired News.

Moss, 39, went legit years ago after growing disillusioned with the hacker underground.

"You can only stand by and watch so many people you know get busted," he told Wired News in a 2001 interview. "Sooner or later you catch on that ... there's a limited life span to doing this kind of stuff. So before I got out of high school that was pretty much it."

Still, he stands out in a council heavy with law-enforcement bigwigs.

Fellow HSAC members include former FBI director Louis Freeh, co-head of the 9/11 Commission and former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), former Bush White House counterterrorism advisor Frances Fragos Townsend, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, former DHS Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine (who's also currently leading a commission reviewing NASA's manned space program), Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, the head of the national police officers' union and the head of the national firefighters' union, among others.

The council is chaired by former CIA director William Webster and former senator presidential candidate Gary Hart (D-Colo.).

"I know there is a newfound emphasis on cybersecurity and they're looking to diversify the members and to have alternative viewpoints," Moss told Cnet News. "I think they needed a skeptical outsider's view because that has been missing."

Reactions among other hacking luminaries were mixed.

Kevin Mitnick, who spent five years in prison for hacking into telecom and computer companies, told Cnet News he was "surprised to see Jeff on the list."

Adrian Lamo, who got two years' probation for hacking into the New York Times and Microsoft, scoffed at the appointment.

"He's just bad enough for them to say 'we're crossing the ranks,'" Lamo told Cnet News. "But the reality is he's as corporate as hiring someone out of Microsoft."

• Click here to read more in Cnet News.

• Click here to read the Wired News report.

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