FRHACK creates sexist award

The organizers of FRHACK, a french security conference in the making, came up with the idea of the “The Best IT Security Girl of the Year”. If you think I’m being over-sensitive, just look at the picture below and judge for yourself if it is a proper way to encourage women to participate in the field:

To add insult to – well, insult, they threatened a blogger who complained about this with a lawsuit, claiming copyright on the picture, even though it is very unlikely that they themselves own the copyright to it:

Observe the watermark in the lower right corner which says “” – after a little pocking around on the given site I found the “original” (even though it also probably is a repost from an other source).

Furthermore, they are are silently editing their site to hide their mistakes: their current page says “The Best Woman IT Security Researcher of the year”, even though the Google Cache proofs that they were using the phrase “The Best IT Security Girl of the Year”.

This behavior is contrary to the hacker ethos and is childish at best.

Update: It turns out that the organizers were talking about an other image, which I didn’t see, because they already taken it down. This doesn’t change the situation all that much, since it turns out that they didn’t own the copyright for that image either. They seem to have taken it from here. Also, they seem to have canceled the event entirely, because now it is missing from the page. For reference here is the Google cache, Yahoo cache and Livesearch cache.

Update: I tried to contact the organizers of FRHACK for a statement and if they provide any, I’ll update the blogpost with it. However, they don’t seem to provide much in the way of contact details (as this search reveals). Also an interesting note: they provide different e-mail addresses for paper submissions on the English and on the French version of the site (frhack-cfp[at] versus cfp[at]

6 responses to “FRHACK creates sexist award”

  1. Good going Anonymous. Let’s count the ways you managed to fail to convince me:

    – not leaving a contact address, rather choosing to remain – well, anonymous
    – using ad-hominem attacks
    – not providing any actual counter-argument
    – some of the information is factual: FRHACK silently edited their events page to change from “girl” to “woman” to remove it entirely

    So, you managed to fail in at least 4 ways to add anything useful to the conversation.

  2. I’m a believer in “audiatur et altera pars”. If you so wish, you can provide your version of the events (preferably using an email address which I can verify as belonging to the FRHACK organizers) and I will publish it here.

  3. Well, at least that picture is the best thing I’ve seen so far today. 🙂

    Nonetheless, shame on the con for something like this in 2009, on multiple levels. And even if that’s not the ‘full and real’ story, I think the only thing that would satisfy me is if some rogue organizer did all of that on his own without full endorsement of the organization. Otherwise enjoy the free publicity and learn from the mistake.

  4. We would like to clarify the situation because this story doesn’t reflect goals of FRHACK.

    1) It’s true that we planned the “IT Security Girl of the Year” award.
    First problem here was the bad translation from french.
    We absolutely never wanted to create a sexist award, at the opposite, we would like to promote the IT security field for women (using the french word “fille”, word-by-word translation of “girl” is not a sexist sentence for french people).
    So here, we had a problem of cultural shock.
    That’s a bad point for us.
    We apologize for that!

    We definitively didn’t want to create a “babe award”, but just give a chance to women to demonstrate that they can be as (or more) skilled than men.
    Do you know any IT sec conf trying to do so?

    Furthermore, we accept all criticisms when they are founded.
    So, we said that publicly in the 1st reply of sp blog’s post.
    “Thanks to pointing us on some misunderstood stuff and bad translations.”

    2) It’s true that we used badly chosen pictures to illustrate the award.
    We didn’t have sexism in mind.
    Again, sense of humour can cause cultural shocking problems (tongue-in-cheek humor).
    We apologize for that!

    3) It’s true that we used a picture, discovered later as copyrighted.
    We removed this picture from our website when the photograph sent us an email on Feb. 22:
    “I ask that you please remove it immediately from your site or I will take legal action.”

    On Feb. 23, sp posted his message on his blog, including a screenshot with the copyrighted picture.
    Afraid to have to deal with the photograph’s lawyer, we asked sp to remove this screenshot, firstly in our reply to his post:
    “Please remove your screenshot, since pictures are copyrighted. Thanks “

    Since we didn’t have feedback from sp, and still afraid to see us, or sp, to be sued and fired by the photograph, we sent an email to sp on Feb. 27:

    we accept your comments on “IT Security Girl of the Year” at the FRHACK Conference

    it helped us to find a better name to avoid misunderstood things

    We just ask you to remove this picture because these
    pictures are copyrighted.
    Thanks to delete your screenshot or we will take legal action.”

    That was the worst thing we do, with an horrible copy/paste from the photograph’s email.
    We understand that it was not cool.
    We apologize for this, sincerely. We are sorry.
    But please, consider that we never really thinking to sue sp!

    After that, we completely removed this award from our website.

    SORRY for the inconvenience.
    We really respect sp, hackers and bloggers.

    You have to know that it’s hard to organize a conference.

    The Frhack organizers
    – Happy hacking

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