(Adds responses from hacking community)
By Andrea Shalal and Jim Finkle
DENVER/NEW YORK May 24 Washington is
considering using visa restrictions to prevent Chinese nationals
from attending popular summer hacking conferences in Las Vegas
as part of a broader effort to curb Chinese cyber espionage, a
senior administration official said Saturday.
The official said that Washington could use such visa
restrictions and other measures to keep Chinese from attending
the August Def Con and Black Hat events to maintain pressure on
China after the United States this week charged five Chinese
military officers with hacking into U.S. companies to steal
China has denied the charges, saying they were "made up."
Organizers of the two conferences said they knew nothing
about any efforts under consideration by Washington, but that
they believed limiting participation from China was a bad idea.
Jeff Moss, founder of both Def Con and Black Hat, could not
be reached, although he posted his thoughts on Twitter: "First I
have heard of it, boarding flight to D.C. now. I don't think it
helps build positive community."
Chris Wysopal, a Black Hat review board member, said
restricting access would have little impact. Hacking talks from
both conferences are videotaped and sold on DVDs or posted on
Members of the community of hackers and security
professionals who present at Def Con and Black weighed in on
Twitter. Responses ranged from bemusement to anger.
"That is terrible," said Richard Westmoreland.
"Racism by the U.S: No Chinese people allowed at Defcon,"
tweeted Valdes Nzalli.
"Something tells me that the Chinese hackers who the U.S.
gov are worried about don't go to defcon anyways," said Steve
Def Con's official Twitter feed posted a tongue-in-cheek
response: "If you are going to speak at or attend #DEFCON & you
need a visa to enter U.S. please contact us for invite letter to
help your app."
At Black Hat, an employee of Chinese security software maker
Qihoo 360 is scheduled to speak on software vulnerabilities
while two researchers with Chinese University of Hong Kong are
set to talk on hacking social media. Def Con does not have any
Chinese nationals on its roster.
It would be tough to prevent Chinese from attending Def Con
because its privacy-conscious organizers only take cash and
badges have no names.
U.S. agencies are weighing a range of options if China does
not a curb its cyber espionage, said the official, who was not
authorized to speak publicly.
"We've tried to have a constructive dialogue. The State
Department and the Defense Department have traveled to China to
share evidence of hacking by the (People's Liberation Army), but
those types of interchanges have not sparked a lot of progress
or reciprocity," said the official.
The possible visa restrictions were first reported by the
Wall Street Journal. It said other options for increasing
pressure include releasing new evidence about the alleged
Ten to 12 Chinese citizens were unexpectedly denied visas
last week to attend a space and cyber conference hosted by the
Space Foundation in Colorado this week, the organizers said.
Speakers included Director of National Intelligence James
Clapper and other high-ranking U.S. intelligence and military
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said visa
applications were confidential, but cautioned against drawing a
connection between the denials and indictments of the hackers.
(Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and Lesley
Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Stephen Powell, David Evans
and Gunna Dickson)