Dateline NBC Caught in Sting

Yes, everyone’s favorite vigilante news program has been hoist by its own petard.

It seems Dateline sent reporters to the Defcon IT Security convention, an event I personally know nothing about but it sounds like it’d be full of people who still differentiated between “hackers” and “crackers” and get pissed if you misuse the terms. Now, reporters are allowed in the convention, but they have to wear ID tags identifying themselves and their employers, and get permission from anyone they photograph.

Of course, Dateline was there “To Catch a Hacker”. They wanted to catch someone admitting to illegal deeds and then confront the con’s organizers with the tape. A guy dressed like a tree may or may not have been also involved. This being a convention of security experts, who play “spot the federal agent” as an annual event, saw her coming a mile away, and called her out on stage. They again offered her press credentials, but she probably didn’t hear that as she was hounded back to her car by camera-wielding nerds.

Harsh, but hilarious.

Sadly, at no point did anyone dress like a tree.

“Today we got to be Chris Hansen and she became the Nigerian spammer,” said Priest as he alluded to the Dateline specials titled “To Catch a Spammer”.



I am not a fan of the ‘Catch a Preditor’ series* and this just too funny. Whom ever came up with the idea of sending a undercover reporter to a conference on security was pretty freaking dumb. The Defcon guys and gals ain’t stupid and whomever decided to take them on obviously didn’t do their homework. My favorite quote is:

Guy 1: “You must feel like Lindsey Lohan right now.”

Guy 2: “I don’t know, Lindsey Lohan is pretty smart.” <–That line is funny on so many levels.


*I am all for getting guys who try to have sex with minors (assuming, of course, that it isn’t a 18 y.o. guy and a 17 y.o. girl kind of situation) sent to jail. I am, however, less than enthusiastic about the Dateline series because I don’t think that journalists should be trying to do law enforcement. I used to work at AOL and dealt with some of these kinds of situations. The process there was basically to get law enforcement involved as soon as possible and have them take care of the problem.

This video is awesome.. And hell, even the guys following her were pretty mild; I didn’t hear any vulgar insults or comments, and no one laid a hand on her, from what I could tell.

She gets what she deserves. Karma, baby,

Her profile was too unbelievable. She’s the typical Bond villainess. A hot blonde with nerdly appeal. She was contrived and cynically chosen as a lonely, horny, guy trap, and I know there’s a dirty male producer at nightline who chose her for this job based on her “credentials”.

I think it would be funnier if the people chasing her weren’t so goddamned nose honk-laughing DORKY. I thought she was crying at first, but then I realized it was just the obese camcorder-carrying dork wheezing while trying to keep up with her.

I’ve read about Defcon in PopSci.
These people obsess about outsmarting everyone. Their list of targets goes:

  1. Feds
  2. Reporters, especially one that thinks she can sneak in a hidden camera
  3. OpalCat
  4. Each other
  5. Some random guy who thinks he can sneak in a hidden camera
  6. The general public

The list of difficulty, from most-dificult to least-difficult to outsmart:

  1. OpalCat
  2. Each other
  3. Feds
  4. The general public
  5. Some random guy who thinks he can sneak in a hidden camera
  6. Reporters
  7. A reporter that thinks she can sneak in a hidden camera

I mean, for Og’s sake they started trailing her before she even got on a plane.

I’m not sure that this qualified as a “sting.” Did they do something deceptive to lure her in? Was she breaking any laws? Had she signed an agreement to wear identification?

And why was what she was doing unusual? Do you expect investigative reporters to wear ID badges?

Of course, she was caught fair and square. Job well done – by defcon.

She was using a hidden camera in a place where they weren’t allowed. I don’t think it’s illegal, but it’s a violation of the rules of the convention, according to the linked article. She wouldn’t have signed anything saying she wouldn’t wear a hidden camera, but the person who arranged the sting would have.

This is DefCon-which is a hacking convention. They are all about security. One of the biggest security holes at most companies is the people at the company, social engineering hacks*. The reporter basically tried a social engineering hack at a convention full of people who are way better at this than any Dateline employee. A dumb move. And yes, they expect reporters to identify themselves as reporters, they did offer her a press pass.

I don’t know if the term sting is quite right but the Defcon guys knew she was an undercover reporter before she even got on the plane. The definately set her up. Rightfully so, in my mind. If you are going to play these kind of games you ought to be prepaired to be caught.


*IIRC, Kevin Mitnick (sp?) was pretty dang good at social engineering hacks. Getting employees to reveal usernames/passwords/codes, etc. Of course, he ended up in jail for a while.

Considering the principals, the only proper word for this episode is pwned.

She seriously looked like she was about to cry. :stuck_out_tongue:

One thing I’m not clear on was whether they knew she was a reporter when she registered at the event. The article said that she was offered press credentials, which implies they did know. I would think that she’d at least have tried to register as a civilian, although I don’t know how well that would have worked.

I think that they meant that in general the press can get in if they get credentials and that NBC was offered them for their reporters.

Great tape though. I love stuff like that.

This blog says

So, is Dateline going to ignore it while the rest of the world laughs their asses off at them?

Man, I was hoping this would be about one of their own getting caught in a “To Catch a Predator” sting.

I haven’t watched that many videos on YouTube, but that’s definitely the most annoyingly crappy 6 minutes I ever saw. There’s a guy talking that you can’t understand, then black, then shots of a sidewalk, then a girl walking. You can tell this wasn’t the American Society of Cinematographers Convention. I’ll have to take everybody’s word for what it is said to depict, which sounds pretty cool. Is there a video anywhere that shows what happened?

I think you just watched it.
Compared to some YouTube videos I’ve seen, that wasn’t too bad.

Haha! Busted! That was awesome.

What would be even funnier is if Dateline now does a show using footage produced by the real undercover reporter and not the bait they hung in front of the convention organizers.

On one hand, serves her right. She played the game. She got pwned. On the other, I feel kinda bad for her. Even though she was being followed by people who break a sweat just unwrapping a burrito, that’s still gotta be scary for her.