PC World - SAN FRANCISCO -- Attention, hackers: Uncle Sam wants you.
And hackers are answering the call, or at least listening. A well-attended session at the recent Defcon 12 hackers' conference was "Meet the Feds," a recruitment presentation by a group of federal cybercrime law enforcement agents, who fielded questions from would-be cybercops.
"We're looking for good, talented people. We need a lot of help," said Jim Christy, director of the U.S. Department of Defense's Cyber Crime Center.
"The Department of Defense understands how important computers are to defending the United States, and is always on the lookout for good people," said Alvin Wallace, a supervisory special agent with the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations.
Patriotic hackers sought
The largely twentysomething crowd was receptive to the pitches, snapping up business cards and making note of the Web sites where they can apply.
Many of their questions pertained to college scholarships from the military and the National Security Agency, security clearance issues, and pay, especially as opposed to private sector jobs.
Sept. 11, 2001 marked a turning point for government recruitment, said former NSA Director of Information Assurance Mike Jacobs, who now works in the private sector. Before the terrorist attacks, the NSA typically received about 200 applications monthly, he added. In the three months following the attacks, more than 20,000 people applied for employment at the NSA.
In the presentation, he urged computer-savvy patriots to put their skills to use defending the country from spies, terrorists, and other criminals.
"Playing defense [for the U.S.] is often more difficult than playing offense," Jacobs said. "I would urge you to take your talents, your intellect, your curiosity, and your aggressiveness, and play defense."
He said that during his time at the NSA, he often reminded colleagues that "the hacker community is probably our ally, and we need to pay attention to what they're doing out there."
Clean living advised
One hitch, of course, is a security clearance -- elusive for some hackers.
The DOD's Christy and Tim Huff, a special agent with the FBI's Computer Analysis Response Team, fielded questions about so-called gray-hat hackers, who sometimes break the law but aren't charged. Christy and Huff made it clear that cybercriminals--even those who haven't been caught--are not likely to be invited to join the ranks of cybercops.
"If you're not accepting people who crossed the line, aren't you afraid you're limiting yourself to wannabes?" asked one audience member.
"Everyone's broken the law at some time in their life, so it depends on when you did it," Christy answered. "If you were breaking the law yesterday and want to come
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