Information Warfare: Government Goes After Grungy Geeks

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August 20, 2006: The U.S. government, and especially the Department of Defense, is facing a computer security crises. The first generation of computer security people are nearing retirement age, and some 40 percent of the senior people are expected to leave government service in the next few years. Many will take new jobs with civilian computer security firms, and make a lot more money than they did as government employees. But now the government is desperate to replace a lot of talent in a short time.
The solution is apparently to toss the recruiting rule book. As a result, government recruiters are pitching hackers at conventions, and online, and telling them that it's become a lot easier for a skilled hacker to become a fed. First of all, a college degree is no longer required. This has long been a stumbling block for government recruiters. They all know that Bill Gates, and many other hotshot hackers, are college dropouts.
Next is a major revision of "lifestyle rules" that previously kept many skilled hackers out of government jobs that required a security clearance. These are the best paying jobs, and ones that are most attractive to the most capable people. The major change has been a new lie detector (polygraph) test, which basically just looks for loyalty to the United States, and not an in-depth survey of your life. If you've been off illegal drugs for the last year, you're probably free of any problems in that area. Jobs that only require the lowest level of security clearance (Secret, as opposed to Top Secret and above) don't require polygraph at all.
Another obstacle to recruiting was the months it took for a new hire to get a security clearance. That has been cut down to under a month. Moreover, potential candidates are also told that there are similar jobs available with companies that provide contract services to the government. Some candidates who can't make it past the government screening, can get in at a civilian firm. After a year or so of good service there, it's much easier to get jobs with the government.
Applicants still have to survive a credit check and search for warrants or other legal problems. Some slack will be cut if an applicant is particularly talented. The government recruiters are willing to deal, because the situation is bad and getting worse.

 


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