DefCon Plays “Spot the Undercover Reporter”

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Filed under: Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Dateline Mole Allegedly at DefCon with Hidden Camera
Updated: Mole Caught on Tape
By Kim Zetter
Wired Blogs
August 3, 2007

dateline_mole.jpgDefCon 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.

DefCon, an annual underground hacking convention in Las Vegas, has a strict policy against filming conference attendees — TV media outlets are barred from sweeping a room with their cameras and also have to get permission from any individuals before capturing them on film. All journalists covering DefCon sign an agreement upon registering for the conference that outlines the rules, but the DefCon organizers say the mole apparently registered as a regular attendee, thereby bypassing the legal agreement.

Dateline NBC is best known for its controversial To Catch A Predator series, which uses hidden cameras to tape men who are allegedly seeking to have sex with minors they met online.

Dateline spokeswoman Jenny Tartikoff would not confirm or deny the allegations about Madigan and the undercover camera at DefCon, saying only that “It’s not our policy to comment on our newsgathering.”

Before opening the show for business Friday, the DefCon goons announced to the crowd that there was a media mole among them. DefCon has been broadcasting her picture on the screens in conference rooms before each talk.

Note: The original version of the story did not have the picture or name the journalist or outlet. The story was updated once Dateline responded to a request for comment.

Update 2: NBC’s mole, Michelle Madigan, became the target of predators herself this afternoon when she was outed at DefCon as an undercover reporter and bolted out of the conference hotel with about two dozen reporters with cameras and others chasing after her — in the manner of an NBC Dateline To Catch a Predator episode.

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. Federal law enforcement agents from FBI, DoD, United States Postal Inspection Service and other agencies regularly attend DefCon to gather intelligence on the latest techniques of hackers. DefCon holds an annual contest called Spot the Fed, in which attendees out people in the audience they think are undercover federal agents. The contest is good-natured, but the feds who get caught are generally ones who don’t mind getting caught.

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.

DefCon staff lured her to a large hall telling her that the Spot the Fed contest was in session and that she could get a picture of an undercover federal agent at the contest. When she sat down, Jeff Moss, DefCon’s founder, announced that they were changing the game. Instead of Spot the Fed, they were going to play Spot the Undercover Reporter and then announced, “And there’s one in here right now.” Madigan, realizing she’d been had, jumped from her seat and bolted out the door with reporters carrying cameras chasing after her through the parking lot and to her car.

photo: Dave Bullock
via: BoingBoing