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#BHUSA: Cult of the Dead Cow Members Discuss Hacktivism, Influence & Politicians

In a panel at Black Hat USA, former members of the hacking collective Cult of the Dead Cow were joined by author Joseph Menn, who wrote the recent memoir Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World.

Asked about the legacy of the hacking group by Menn, former members Christien 'Dildog' Rioux. Peiter 'Mudge' Zatko and Luke 'Deth Veggie' Benfey said that there was an issue with claims made that “passwords were uncrackable” and “buffer overflow” doesn’t work in Windows.

Dildog and Mudge, who were also members of the Boston-based hacking group L0pht, said that the two groups existed and drove each other, as Dildog said that “it was good for the L0pht as it was driven by Cult of the Dead Cow and acted like marketing for L0pht” and the work done “provided a good opportunity to do something technical, and raised the level of discussion.”

Deth Veggie explained that the intention of the group was to “try to make a difference” as operating systems were marketed as being safe, and they were not “and they were forced to change.” Dildog said that patches were usually issued once or twice a year, and the work done by the groups forced the change.

Menn asked the three panelists about the move to hacktivism, which was preceded by “not for profit hacking,” which Deth Veggie said was inspired by discussions of having “power and influence” and where it could be leveraged. “We used it to go through the media and through technology and influence” he said, and working with human rights organizations “showed us a way to influence to focus our message.”

Deth Veggie acknowledged that there are still disagreements about what is valid hacktivism and what is not, as “some believe denial of service is now applicable as a means of protest and it is still going on.”

Mudge added that the Cult of the Dead Cow was “drawn to environments that were complex” and it was about “opening doors so others can do it.”

Asked by Menn if the Cult of the Dead Cow were to come together now, what form could it take, Mudge pointed at Germany’s Chaos Computer Club who have followed the model “with policies and steps for government,” while the Cult of the Dead Cow “opened the door for me and hopefully for other people.”

The subject of former member, and current democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, was raised, after it was revealed earlier this year that he had been a member of Cult of the Dead Cow. Deth Veggie said he had seen what Beto had written about “and this influenced my own views and other viewpoints than my own development,” while Mudge said that he was a “friendly guy.”

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