Cyber recruits key part of NSA hiring blitz

Monday - 8/15/2011, 8:58am EDT

Dickie George, technical director of the Information Assurance Directorate, NSA

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

The National Security Agency is on a hiring blitz. The cryptologic intelligence agency — home to the government's chief codemakers and breakers — announced its intention to hire as many as 3,000 people over the next two years, many of them cybersecurity experts.

In fact, NSA recruiters even took a trip to Las Vegas in the last few weeks to look for potential hires at DefCon, a high-profile hacker conference there.

Dickie George, the technical director of the Information Assurance Directorate at NSA, told the Federal Drive the agency is partnering with academia and industry to find the "best and brightest" in cybersecurity.

"We really need people who can solve hard problems," George said. "And network security is one of the hardest problems around."

However, the shortage of cyber pros doesn't only affect government, but also industry, he added.

"We need to develop the talent in this country to protect us from what's going on," he said. "And there's a lot going on." By joining forces with universities, he said, NSA and other government agencies hope to show a cyber career with the government can be an attractive option.

"There are great careers in this field," he said. "We want them to think about not being rocket scientists, but being cyber warriors, because that's what the country needs right now."

And the agency is looking in some unconventional places.

NSA raised some eyebrows when it was reported that the agency had visited the hacker convention, DefCon, in search of new cyber personnel.

"The community there is very vibrant; it's got a lot of talent," George explained. "Most of the people out there are doing the right things: They're trying to make products better, they're trying to improve the security of the Internet. And we need to work with those people ... We need to make sure they understand that we are the good guys."

But with many areas of the Defense Department preparing for flatter budgets and civilian hiring freezes already in the offing, NSA's robust hiring may be hard to account for.

But George characterized the current environment as a "cyber cold war," and said he's been given no indication to slow hiring.

"The importance of this mission and the importance to the nation of cybersecurity - it can't be understated," he said.

Today, the big value is intellectual property. "It's in the ideas," he added, in contrast to a bygone age where the value of industry was in large-scale manufacturing plants and material.

"This country is constantly being threatened by our adversaries," he said, which includes nation-states, terrorists and organized crime. "They're coming into this country and siphoning off our intellectual property. And that makes us really vulnerable."

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily Cybersecurity Update. For more cybersecurity news, click here.

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