US security agencies to go hacker hunting at Defcon

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US security agencies to go hacker hunting at Defcon

Warwick Ashford

US security agencies in search of cyber skills to help shore up cyber war defences will be looking out for top talent at this week's Defcon hacker convention in Las Vegas.

The National Security Agency (NSA) said the race is on to find the best and brightest cyber warriors, according to Reuters.

The NSA is hiring around 1,500 people in the current fiscal year, which ends 30 September, and plans to hire another 1,500 in the next year, most of them cyber experts.

At Defcon, the NSA hopes to expand its ranks of hackers, but along with other security agencies is in fierce competition with big businesses also seeking to employ people with the skills to test and harden their network defences.

Employment opportunities for hackers

Jeff Moss, a former hacker who founded Defcon and the companion Black Hat conference for security professionals, is now a member of the Department of Homeland Security's Advisory Council.

"They need people with the hacker skill set, hacker mindset. It's not like you go to a hacker university and get blessed with a badge that says you're a hacker. It's a self-appointed label - you think like one or you don't," Moss told Reuters.

The NSA does not offer fame, but it does offer hackers the opportunity to work using the latest technology, he said.

Cybersecurity competitions discover talent

The US, like the UK, is facing a critical shortage of people with key cyber defence skills, and in addition to recruiting hackers, is running national cybersecurity challenges to identify and foster talent.

Postal worker Dan Summers shot to prominence and won a transfer from the postal department to cybersecurity at Royal Mail by winning the first UK competition.

The Cyber Security Challenge UK, now in its second year, is backed by a growing consortium of local commercial, academic and public sector organisations.


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