Banned social engineering specialist is suing DEF CON

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Christopher Hadnagy
Christopher Hadnagy, the former organizer of DEF CON’s social engineering village, has filed a lawsuit, claiming the ban caused “severe and irreversible” damage to his reputation.

DEF CON, one of the world’s largest and most notable hacker conventions, and its founder, Jeff Moss, are being sued after indefinitely banning social engineering and security expert Christopher Hadnagy for violating the conference’s code of conduct. According to Hadnagy, who used to be an organizer of DEF CON’s social engineering village, DEF CON’s decision to ban him caused “severe and irreversible” damage to his reputation. 

The defamation lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania covers other issues, such as invasion of privacy, emotional distress infliction, and interference with contractual relations. Hadnagy, the plaintiff of the complaint, said the organizers of DEF CON didn’t detail what caused the ban but told The Verge in an email recently that he denies any misconduct.

“My company and I consistently deny and continue to deny any and all allegations of misconduct,” Hadnagy said. “To address these false accusations, defamatory statements and innuendos I have filed a lawsuit against both DEF CON Communications and Jeff Moss.”

Meanwhile, though the DEF CON’s transparency report still didn’t divulge the reason for Hadnagy’s banning, the conference’s Code of Conduct gives us a pinch of an idea. “Harassment includes deliberate intimidation and targeting individuals in a manner that makes them feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or afraid,” it says. “Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. We reserve the right to respond to harassment in the manner we deem appropriate.”

In the end, DEF CON’s organizers said in a post-conference transparency report that “after conversations with the reporting parties and Chris, we are confident the severity of the transgressions merits a ban from DEF CON.”