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NSA Leaker Snowden Wins Black Hat Pwnie for 'Epic 0wnage'

Hackers at the Black Hat conference awarded former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden the top Pwnie award and remembered the renowned hacker Barnaby Jack.

LAS VEGAS—For as many years as I've been coming to Black Hat, one of my favorite activities has been sitting in the Pwnie awards.

The Pwnie Awards is a set of awards that are given out in different categories symbolizing the triumphs of security researchers and the failures of security product vendors or corporate IT security organizations. The actual award is the My Little Pony figure for children.

This year, two categories were most interesting to me personally. The first is the Pwnie for Epic 0wnage.

The official Pwnie Awards sitedescribes the category as the "0wnage, measured in owws, can be delivered in mass quantities to a single organization or distributed across the wider Internet population. The Epic 0wnage award goes to the hackers responsible for delivering the most damaging, widely publicized, or hilarious 0wnage."

This year it's an award that went to none other than man-on-the-run Edward Snowden. Snowden of course is the former Booz Allen Hamilton employee, working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), who revealed secret intelligence about the NSA's electronic surveillance program, known as PRISM. Coincidentally, the director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander was actually at Black Hat on Wednesday talking about his agencies programs, though sadly he was not in the room for the Pwnie Awards on Wednesday night.

Neither was Snowden.

HD Moore, renowned hacker and creator of the open source Metasploit penetration testing framework, had the honor of announcing the award. With a clear and serious voice, Moore spoke into the microphone and said, "Ed, if you're here, please come up!"

Remembering Barnaby

While the Pwnie awards have always had a somewhat comedic tone, this year that was tempered by the untimely passing of Barnaby Jack. Jack was posthumously awarded a Pwnie Lifetime Achievement Award.

In a toast to Jack, Pwnie judge, Chris Valasek suggested to the crowd to "drink all the booze, and hack all the things."

Those who knew Barnaby Jack are sure he would have strongly endorsed that advice.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.