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Convicted hacker gives advice at DefCon

July 13, 1999
Web posted at: 9:12 a.m. EDT (1312 GMT)

by Matthew Nelson

DefCon 99: Games hackers play

LAS VEGAS (IDG) -- If convicted felon Kevin Poulson has one piece of advice to impart, it is that if federal agents show up on your doorstep, don't say anything.

Speaking to a gathering of hackers, crackers, and programmers at DefCon, a "hacker" convention in Las Vegas Friday, Poulson warned attendees to say nothing and ask for an attorney.

"The best thing to do is ask for your attorney," Poulson said.

Poulson, who went by the code-name Dark Dante, started his brief speech with a tape of the now-defunct television show "Unsolved Mysteries." The show depicted his purported hacking attempts and eventual capture by federal agents in southern California for attempting to illegally gain entrance to networks and stealing phone company property.

Poulson plead guilty to unauthorized possession of classified documents, but explained to the audience that the document in question was originally obtained legally.
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"The FBI went out and classified the document because of my case," he said.

Poulson, who is revered as the poster child of illegal government prosecution and is seen as a pariah because of his work with the news organization ZDtv according to some attendees, was also joined on stage by San Francisco lawyer Jennifer Grannick, who explained to attendees their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

"If there is no warrant, then the search is illegal," said Grannick. "You never need to consent to a search."

"If a confession is achieved in a nonvoluntary way, it precludes it as exempt from evidence," she added.

Poulson's talk was interrupted repeatedly with problems with his microphone, as well as the air conditioning in the room, which lead organizers to make a plea to attendees to "be adults" and to stop attempting to surreptitiously interfere with proceedings.

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