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Google engineer tweets about hacking at Defcon and finds himself in trouble

The rationale behind increased security and scrutiny seems to have failed here.

  • Published: August 13, 2018 10:56 AM IST

Matt Linton, a senior software engineer at Google, found himself in trouble after a tweet about hacking. Linton was asked to leave Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas on Thursday night after a tweet about hacking was reported to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

According to the Wired, the police have confirmed that Google software engineer is not considered a threat but he was not let back into Caesars. The hotel is hosting Defcon, the annual conference in Las Vegas, which attracts thousands of security researchers, academics, lawyers and hackers. Linton was asked to leave the hotel after he sent a tweet on Wednesday in response to a thread by another user criticizing the WiFi network at Defcon.

Since a number of hackers descend at Defcon, the WiFi network has been described as being notorious and vulnerable to attack. The original tweet argued that the network might be more secure than people think, since there were a number of users connected to the network simultaneously. It suggested that large number of users on the network would help users hide in the case of an attack.

Linton countered that notion with a response, where he said that incentive behind attacking a large crowd will be more fruitful. He added that the objective of attacking a large number of users attending BlackHat, a commercial cybersecurity conference that takes place right before Defcon, will be more valuable to the hacker. Linton was a speaker at BlackHat conference this year.

The Twitter conversation between Linton and another user centered around how a person’s device might be compromised during the biggest conference for hackers and security experts. Since Linton was replying to a protected account, most users could not see the original tweet until they followed that user on Twitter.

Linton’s tweet which began with the line, “If I had the time, budget, and motive to launch really good attacks in Vegas, I would:….” would read without context and seem like an attempt to hack. The concern got amplified considering the security precautions being taken in the city after a mass shooting at Mandalay Bay Hotel killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others.

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After the comment was noticed by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the police got his contact information from Caesars and then reached him on his phone. “LVPD interviewed me and I believe I had cleared it up with them satisfactorily when they liked and retweeted my second clarification tweet about how ‘attack’ means ‘hack a cell phone’ when you’re at Defcon,” Linton told Wired in a direct message on Twitter.

While Linton has been cleared as a threat and faces no charges, he found locked out of his room at Caesars and was then asked to leave the hotel. Linton says he was still charged half the price he paid for his room. After the whole incident involving Google engineer, other Defcon attendees are reporting increased security measures.

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  • Published Date: August 13, 2018 10:56 AM IST

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