Homeland Security Seeks a Few Good Hackers

Monday, 25 Mar 2013 11:24 PM

By Todd Beamon

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking for a few good hackers — and they’re hoping to grow them from as young as possible.

Secretary Janet Napolitano needs at least 600 of them, The New York Times reports, as foreign hackers have attacked Homeland Security’s computer systems, stolen trade secrets and even have begun probing the nation’s power grid.

But many of those with the skills head into the private sector — and those that do head into government most likely end up at the National Security Agency, where they work on offensive digital strategies, The Times reports.

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At Homeland Security, the need is to keep hackers out, The Times reports.

“We have to show them how cool and exciting this is,” Ed Skoudis, one of the nation's top computer security trainers, told The Times. “And we have to show them that applying these skills to the public sector is important.”

How do you do it? Hit such contests as the Virginia Governor's Cup Cyber Challenge, a battle royal for high school hackers that award scholarships and prizes to top finishers. The competition was sponsored by the nonprofit group Cyber Aces, The Times reports.

“You want people who ask: How do things work? But the very best ones turn it around,” said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, a computer security training organization.

“We have no program like that in the United States — nothing,” Paller added, referring to programs to find future digital experts by the People’s Liberation Army in China. “No one is even teaching this in schools. If we don't solve this problem, we're in trouble.”


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