For the first time in the 25 years of the world’s largest hacker convention, DefCon, two sitting U.S. Congressmen trekked here from Washington, D.C., to discuss their cybersecurity expertise on stage. Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, and Rep. Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat, visited hacking villages investigating vulnerabilities in cars, medical devices, and voting machines; learned about how security researchers plan to defend quantum computers from hacks; and met children learning how to hack for good. … Hurd said security researchers could play an important role in addressing increasingly alarming vulnerabilities in the nation’s voting apparatus. DefCon’s first voting machine-hacking village this weekend hosted a voting machine from Shelby County, Tenn., that unexpectedly contained personal information related to more than 600,000 voters. Village visitors managed to hack the machine, along with 29 others.
“We have to ensure that the American people can trust the vote-tabulating process,” Hurd said, acknowledging that DefCon attendees were able to hack each machine in the village. “The work that has been done out here is important in educating the secretaries of state all around the country, as well as the election administrators,” about secure technologies and practices.
Langevin and Hurd’s comments seemed to strike the right notes with hackers in attendance. Following Edward Snowden’s leaking of NSA documents and Apple’s refusal to create an encryption backdoor for law enforcement to the iPhone, relations between the hacking community and Washington have been strained at best, notes Herb Lin, a computer security policy expert and research fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. But markedly improving the relationship will require more than a plea for collaboration, he warns.