Print 39 comment(s) - last by crystal clear.. on Aug 7 at 8:02 PM

NBC's Michelle Madigan bolted out of the convention, embarassed and humiliated. Typically winners of the "Spot the Fed" game at DefCon stay for the duration of the convention.   (Source: Wired)
Hackers at DEFCON outsmart mole sent in to uncover information for Dateline NBC

Every year in Vegas, a conference consisting of industry leading computer and network hackers gather for an event called DEFCON. Usually, you can find -- or not -- undercover federal agents at the event. The agents attend DEFCON to gather information on the latest trends and techniques employed by hackers. The goal for the attendees is to exchange information on the latest security information and for the agents, to be prepared for new types of attacks.

DEFCON has strict rules on who attends and what they can and cannot do, bring and take from the event. Journalists are allowed to attend the event but must sign strict agreements. This year, Dateline NBC sent along producer Michelle Madigan to DEFCON as an undercover mole. Unfortunately for Madigan, DefCon staff members are highly suspicious people and she fell into a trap set up by the staff members.

Madigan signed up for the event as a regular attendee, thereby bypassing some of the rules imposed onto regular press members. A tipster notified DEFCON staff that the reporter was a mole sent in by NBC for the television series Dateline. On four separate occasions she declined press credentials.

Aware of the reporter, DEFCON staff monitored Madigan as she recorded events during the show with a hidden camera, against event policy.

In good nature, DEFCON usually holds a contest called "Spot the Fed", where attendees attempt to point out a real undercover federal agent. This time when Madigan was on the show floor, DEFCON staff lured Madigan into a room with other people and DEFCON founder Jeff Moss announced that the game would be changed from spotting a fed to spotting an undercover reporter.

"And there's one in here right now," announced Moss.

Realizing that she was caught, Madigan bolted from her seat and dashed out of the event. Following her was a mob of over 20 reporters, all with cameras snapping and all running after her for an interview. Madigan was chased outside of the building and into the parking lot, all the way to her car.

Madigan claimed that she was sent to try and uncover federal agents that attend the event.  According to ZDNET blogger George Ou, who attended the event, Madigan's real intentions during the show were to show middle-America "what's really going on at DEFCON."

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Few Comments
By deeznuts on 8/6/2007 8:15:08 PM , Rating: 1
First, she is not cute unless that is a horrible pic of her.

Second, I'm not a typo nazi, but her name is Madigan (spelled wrong several times).

Third, I don't think it was the Feds that tipped off the organziers, but someone at Dateline itself. I mean, it's only in the link provided in this very article.

DefCon security on Friday warned attendees at the annual hacker conference that Dateline NBC may have sent a mole with a hidden camera to the event to capture hackers admitting to crimes. DefCon says it was tipped off by their own mole at Dateline who sent them a pic of the undercover journalist who DefCon employees identified as producer Michelle Madigan.

RE: Few Comments
By KristopherKubicki on 8/6/2007 8:21:41 PM , Rating: 2
There is an update to the Wired blog that disagrees with the initial posting at Wired:

According to DefCon staff, Madigan had told someone she wanted to out an undercover federal agent at DefCon. That person in turn warned DefCon about Madigan's plans ... DefCon staff say that Madigan was asked four times -- two times on the phone and two times at the conference -- if she wanted to obtain press credentials, but she declined.

We fixed the spelling though, thanks.

RE: Few Comments
By deeznuts on 8/6/2007 8:28:46 PM , Rating: 2
Ok, but isn't this statement still incorrect?

In an interesting twist, a federal undercover agent tipped DefCon staff that Madiga was a mole sent in by NBC.

Nothing on that page notes that it was a fed agent who tipped off DefCon. Also, in other stories they said they distributed pictures of her BEFORE the event, which would be hard unless she told someone of her plans before the event, and that person in turn notified DefCon.

Oh well, I've read so many different versions already might as well choose one and run with it.

RE: Few Comments
By KristopherKubicki on 8/6/2007 8:37:02 PM , Rating: 3
Apparently she told more than one person her intentions. According to George Ou, she even notified staff what she was planning to do.

RE: Few Comments
By Scabies on 8/6/2007 9:57:45 PM , Rating: 2
Announcing/broadcasting sensitive information? why am I not suprised?

RE: Few Comments
By crystal clear on 8/7/2007 1:00:30 AM , Rating: 3
Now you can see her on vedeo !

RE: Few Comments
By crystal clear on 8/7/2007 12:20:30 AM , Rating: 2
First, she is not cute unless that is a horrible pic of her.

Then you can see more of her,

RE: Few Comments
By deeznuts on 8/7/2007 1:17:45 PM , Rating: 3
Confirmed. Not cute.

She'll look like Nancy Grace in a few years

RE: Few Comments
By crystal clear on 8/7/2007 8:02:58 PM , Rating: 2
ok & did you see below the picture,this-

"Picture © Charlie Demerjian 2007"

He got her in action with the taperecorder.

Strange how he managed to be at the right time & at the right place.

By BioRebel on 8/6/2007 5:24:26 PM , Rating: 2
I find it funny that it was a fed that tipped off the hackers...

By stromgald on 8/6/2007 5:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
I just shows that the hacker community and the federal government aren't as distrustful of each other as the TV and movies may lead you to believe.

By KristopherKubicki on 8/6/2007 6:04:14 PM , Rating: 3
I went to a DefCon a long time ago. The feds and organizers have somewhat of an uneasy truce for the most part.

If anyone saw "Shattered Glass" or was around the internet long enough to remember "Hack Heaven," you might know that some elements of Defcon were introduced in the TNR "report" and the movie.

Reporters that fabricate or take the event out of context are public enemy #1 during the show :) -- and that doesn't matter whose side you're on.

By smitty3268 on 8/6/2007 7:06:30 PM , Rating: 2
The one thing the government and hackers can both apparently agree on: reporters suck.

By Ringold on 8/6/2007 7:59:44 PM , Rating: 3
DefCon Special: To Catch a Reporter

By Samus on 8/6/2007 11:27:05 PM , Rating: 2
The one thing the government and hackers can both apparently agree on: reporters suck.


Tough one
By v1001 on 8/6/2007 6:52:45 PM , Rating: 5
I'm sure that was a tough one.

guy, guy, guy, nerd guy, guy, nerd guy, fat guy, nerd guy, HOT BLONDE , Nerd guy, zit faced guy, awkward teen guy.

RE: Tough one
By Lord 666 on 8/6/2007 7:31:34 PM , Rating: 3
Believe it or not, the IT demographics are quickly changing. Was just at Cisco Networkers in Anaheim and noticed a huge increase of decent Earthling women attendees.

One in particular caught my eye (and the rest of the class) as she walked into a CCIE session. She later claimed to be going for her second CCIE cert.

RE: Tough one
By jarman on 8/6/2007 8:39:00 PM , Rating: 3
guy, guy, guy, nerd guy, guy, nerd guy, fat guy, nerd guy, HOT BLONDE , Nerd guy, zit faced guy, awkward teen guy.

Hot??? With those chalky white flabby arms, I think that "hot" is quite an overstatement...

RE: Tough one
By Omega215D on 8/7/2007 12:15:29 AM , Rating: 3
To nerds she very well may be.

By Polynikes on 8/6/2007 5:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
Madiga claimed that she was sent to try and uncover federal agents that attend the event.

Yeah, I bet she was.

RE: Hehe
By FITCamaro on 8/6/2007 5:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
TV stations will risk all for ratings. Including their integrity. If they still have one.

RE: Hehe
By theapparition on 8/6/2007 8:07:37 PM , Rating: 3
Ratings >> Integrity as far as networks are concerned.

RE: Hehe
By Treckin on 8/6/2007 6:00:05 PM , Rating: 2
Well, coupled with the fact that she was there to expose federal agents... I wouldn't be surprised if the feds got wind and were pissed. Blew her cover instead of letting her publish some story about them in the paper...

Still, no way to know without insider information...

Time for the Tinfoil Hat party!!

RE: Hehe
By Souka on 8/6/2007 7:48:54 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder how many federal agents are unregistered...


i ahte this god damned subject field
By Howard on 8/6/2007 5:50:36 PM , Rating: 2
How is the picture in the image linked? You get a bigger version if you left-click it, but it doesn't seem to behave like a regular linked image. e.g. there's no link in the status bar when you hover over it, and I can't open the link in a new window with Opera.

RE: i ahte this god damned subject field
By threepac3 on 8/6/2007 5:54:40 PM , Rating: 2
That was done on purpose, so you are forced to left click. Anyways it will open a new window regardless.

By leexgx on 8/6/2007 6:19:56 PM , Rating: 2
its an bit lame

clicking on the pic is norm the Same size, not an bigger one why have it if its Not going to be bigger ...

By Coca Cola on 8/6/2007 6:19:38 PM , Rating: 2
Just because they catch people acting all slick using chat rooms to get under age girls, they think they can go and do an undercover report at a hacker convention, where most or all of the people there are some of the smartest around, dateline producers must have some ego to do something like that and try to succeed.

RE: ego
By Gul Westfale on 8/6/2007 9:06:20 PM , Rating: 2
when was teh last time you saw real news on TV, or on the CNN website, for that matter?

RE: ego
By Coca Cola on 8/7/2007 4:05:37 AM , Rating: 2
local news at 10, watched abc news now yesterday morning, cnn every now and then, why?

By CuriousMike on 8/6/2007 6:48:56 PM , Rating: 2
How many blond females attend Defcon each year?

Like she would have been hard to detect.

RE: Female
By florrv on 8/6/2007 8:29:49 PM , Rating: 3
A fair number, actually.

I've been to every DefCon since 1999, and the female ratio has steadily increased. IMO, that is partly due to more women joining the InfoSec community and partly due to a lack of stereotyping amongst younger computer experts.

This is even more true amongst DefCon's sibling conference -- Black Hat.

Show some balls Dateline
By Misty Dingos on 8/7/2007 8:00:05 AM , Rating: 2
OK Dateline you got caught. Now run your piece now anyway. Put a spin on it that doesn't make your producer look like an utter idiot. That would be some real work.

And does anyone in Kansas want to know who is being hired by the Feds to hack for them? No really. Outside that small insular community of hackers does anyone really care? Will they watch Dateline? Or was the this little bit of reporting going to try and scare the hell out of the average American. When was the last time Dateline did a story that didn't try to scare the viewer senseless? The power of fear will make you watch TV. Information my shiny metal ass.

I can just imagine their catch line for this story. “Tonight on Dateline, (Ann Curry looking dead serious at the camera, connecting with the audience) Computer Hackers and the government handlers that pay them. What are they doing to the internet right now? And why is George Bush hiring them?”

I so wish that one of the networks would run a piece on this little editorial faux pas. I know it won't happen. But a guy has got to dream.

RE: Show some balls Dateline
By Dfere on 8/7/2007 8:28:49 AM , Rating: 2
Excellent, if a bit pissy, post!

By Kromis on 8/6/2007 5:23:27 PM , Rating: 2
Pure Pwnage!

By StuckMojo on 8/6/2007 5:26:16 PM , Rating: 2
LOL! The image for this post is awesome!

*rolling my eyes*
By ncage on 8/7/2007 1:21:50 AM , Rating: 2
OML. These dateline people out to realize they are not dealing with your everyday idiot at his show. These people are actually VERY smart and as you can see their attempt to fool them utterly failed. I kind of like how me made a fool of her in that room though :).

They Knew Before She Arrived....
By Googer on 8/7/2007 4:32:55 AM , Rating: 2

"The people from Defcon talked to her four times, two before the show, two on the scene, and offered her press credentials and the opportunity to officially talk to the people she wanted to talk to. Four times she declined.

Too bad. They knew when her plane took off. They knew when her plane landed. They knew when she picked up her non-press attendee pass (human in the vernacular). They followed her around. They knew when she walked into the ladies room to wire up, camera and sound. She knew that the camera was not allowed but did it anyway, and told a goon that she was doing so."

Sending a woman
By erikejw on 8/7/2007 5:52:11 PM , Rating: 2
If NBC wanted someone undercover it seems extremally stupid to send a girl to the event. Even as she is ugly as hell people will notice.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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