R u h4X0R? n33d @ jo8? NSA wants you (locked up in a cubicle, not a cell)

NSA among leading recruiters at Black Hat, Defcon as feds try to get up to speed on cyberwar

If you spend a lot of your personal time hanging covertly around other people's roots, wearing a ridiculous mask to stay Anonymous, typing in leet or trolling in Tweet, you may already know that the U.S. government would like to talk to you.

You may not know that the years of confinement it would like to impose come with benefits, a pension and the chance to work on "the hardest problems on Earth."

They also come with a Black Suit and a neuralyzer, though no one will tell you that at this stage, because the agency most eager to hire more hackers is the NSA, once so secret and so widely denied the joke in D.C. was that its acronym stood for "No Such Agency."

[Hackers gone mild: 6 rebels turned insiders and NSA product accreditations lag behind IT security advances]

Still, it's better than working for the CIA, which spends a lot more time out on the messy streets, talking otherwise inoffensive foreigners into committing treason, occasionally attacking remote hillside forts and being listed as OGA (other government agency) on maps of U.S. bases and facilities in war zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and who knows how many other places?

You may know, if you go for one of the deals being offered by NSA, the DoD, Dept. of Homeland Security, NASA (!?) and other agencies that have realized the totally helpless position negligence has gotten the U.S. intelligence and defense communities into.

For the last two decades, rather than boning up on new cyberwar techniques and paying attention to the gaggle of users speaking Russian and mainland Chinese zipping past them in the virtual halls of the Pentagon's "secure" cyberspace networks, the DoD and intelligence agencies were preparing not for the last war, but for the one three or four wars ago (WWII).

Belatedly, they're realizing they need to catch up on what it means to fight a cyberwar – now that the constant penetrations and attacks by foreign governments on U.S. facilities now poses as much or more of a threat to the long-term security of the U.S. than either of the bloody tangles from which it has not yet extricated itself in the Middle East and central Asia.

The recruiting will be going on this week at the Black Hat and Defcon security conferences, which are aimed at and populated by often-criminal hackers, who play a mean game of "spot the fed" and "hack everyone else in the place."

It's not likely the feds will go unspotted or unhacked, but they will probably not be snubbed either.

Hackers need jobs just like the rest of us, and the intelligence agencies do offer the chance to spend all your time right up on the cutting edge technically, though often far over its far side ethically.

That's the price you pay in cyberwar.

The NSA needs people who can harden a firewall, keep up software patches and updates up to date, do penetration testing to make sure NSA knows where its known-unknowns are and suspects where it unknown-unknowns may be (follow the sound of Mandarin and smell of borscht; you'll find them).

The agencies want to hire "cyber warriors... not rocket scientists," according to Richard George, technical director for the NSA's cyber-defense branch.

NSA expects to hire 1,500 people during the next fiscal year – and to work in an atmosphere that has already adapted to be more friendly toward attitudes toward conventional dress and behavior that would leave them ostracized in many federal agencies – especially intelligence or law-enforcement agencies whose unassailable expectation of conservative dress and deportment means the straits are laced, the collars are buttoned down and the tips are buck.

At NSA, "when I walk down the hall there are people that I see every day and I never know what color their hair's going to be," George said. "And it's a bonus if they're wearing shoes. We've been in some sense a collection of geeks for a long, long time."

A hacker known to his family as Jeff Moss and to the underworld as Dark Tangent told Reuters that Black Hat and Defcon are good places for both hackers and intelligence agencies to hook up.

"They (the agencies) need people with the hacker skill set, hacker mind-set. It's not like you go to a hacker university and get blessed with a badge that says you're a hacker," according to Moss, who now works as one a member of the Dept. of Homeland Security's security advisory council.

"It's a self-appointed label -- you think like one or you don't," Moss said.

There is a huge difference between hackers – who tread the line of legality regularly and often step over, but not with the intent of doing great harm – and criminals who happen to work online, Moss said.

One group you can train or encourage to focus on solving problems that affect national security, and trust to the same extent you would experts in other fields.

The other "you wouldn't want to let in your house," he told Reuters.

Though, even if George said no one is fazed by bare feet or odd hair colors, given the hacks on the CIA, FBI, Senate and other government agencies, it would probably not be a good idea to show up for work even at a clandestine agency wearing an Anonymous mask.

Sense-of-humor emulation can make the patience of law enforcement or intelligence agencies expand like a big balloon, but the reaction tends to be drastic and unpleasant for those who were previously tolerated when the bubble does eventually burst.

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