Help Wanted: Government Hackers

Thursday, August 4, 2011 @ 03:08 PM gHale

Want to hack for a living, give the National Security Agency a call, or DHS, or NASA or DoD.

Computer hacker skills are in demand in the U.S. government in the ongoing battle to fight the cyber wars that pose a growing national security threat. Good guy hackers are in short supply.

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A panoply of government agencies — DOD, DHS, NASA, NSA — are even going to Las Vegas for Defcon, an annual hacker convention. There should be close to 10,000 hackers at the conference.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is among the keen suitors. This agency plays offense and defense in the cyber wars. It conducts electronic eavesdropping on adversaries and protects U.S. computer networks that hold top secret information.

“Today it’s cyber warriors that we’re looking for, not rocket scientists,” said Richard George, technical director of the NSA’s Information Assurance Directorate, the agency’s cyber-defense side.

The NSA is hiring about 1,500 people in the fiscal year which ends Sept. 30 and another 1,500 next year, most of them cyber experts. With a workforce of just over 30,000, the Fort Meade, MD-based NSA dwarfs other intelligence agencies, including the CIA.

It also engages in cyber-spying and other offensive operations, something it rarely discusses publicly.

NSA, along with the other federal agencies, are facing stiff competition with corporations also on the hunt for hacking talent.

The NSA needs cyber security experts to harden networks, defend them with updates, do “penetration testing” to find security holes and watch for any signs of cyber attacks.

The NSA is expanding its fold of hackers, but George said there is a shortage of those skills. “We are straining to hire the people that we need.”

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