Las Vegas (NV) – In a sweltering hot parking lot, a young woman clutches her purse and runs to her car, chased by dozens of people. But she’s not being robbed because the mob in pursuit – a strange mix of Defcon attendees, press and security personnel – just want pictures and video of the undercover reporter that’s just been outted by Defcon officials.
We reported earlier that the Defcon computer security convention was being infiltrated by a NBC Dateline team armed with hidden cameras. Their goal was to secretly record hackers admitting to felonies. According to “Priest”, a senior Defcon staffer, Dateline also wanted to videotape a federal agent going up on stage and then broadcast it on national television.
“It just really isn’t cool to do that,” Priest said, adding that criminals or terrorists could recognize the agent if they were to travel overseas.
Defcon’s security team wasn’t going to let that happen and hatched a plan to turn the hunter into the hunted.
“Today we got to be Chris Hansen and she became the Nigerian spammer,” said Priest as he alluded to the Dateline specials titled “To Catch a Spammer”.
According to Priest, the Defcon security team started tracking Michelle Madigan, associate producer of NBC Universal, when she boarded her plane for Las Vegas from the east coast. Other Defcon officials said the convention offered Madigan official press credentials, but she insisted on secretly filming attendees, something that is against convention rules.
Madigan purchased a regular attendee or “Human” badge at the Defcon registration and was then tailed by both male and female security personnel, according to Priest.
“We saw her go into the bathroom and wire herself up with a camera,” he said, adding that other security personnel or “Goons” saw her panning a hidden purse camera around the convention. “It was painfully obvious,” according to another senior Defcon staffer.
Since Dateline wanted to film feds going up on stage, Priest and other Defcon officials decided to lure Madigan into one of the sessions with a “Spot the Fed”, but in this case the “fed” was actually Winn Schwartau, author of several security books and an everyday civilian.
Everything swung into place at the 4:00 PM session as Priest stood in front of the audience and asked if anyone had spotted a fed. Charlie Demerjian from the Inquirer was in on the plan and brought up Mr. Schwartau, but Priest quickly said, “Hey he’s not a fed.”
That’s when Defcon founder Jeff Moss walked up to the microphone and told the audience that he wanted to make a new game of “Spot the Lame Reporter”. As he was talking, the blonde-haired Madigan bolted from her seat and ran for the exit. She pushed a Goon and kicked open the door.
Seeing the commotion, several dozen journalists, attendees and Defcon security Goons gave chase. With camcorders rolling and cameras flashing, Madigan briskly walked through the casino and into the parking. As she reached her car, the mob had grown to an estimated 150 people, according to Defcon officials.
Madigan eventually started the car and drove away without any incident. Priest lamented that the entire situation could have been avoided because Jeff Moss was going to happily give her a free press badge. “Unfortunately, she ran away before we could do that,” Priest said.