For the past few years, the federal government and its contractors have noted an ongoing, critical need for experienced cybersecurity talent to protect infrastructure and government networks. Strict requirements for specific, current skills and certifications make the available talent pool incredibly small. But beyond that, the feds have two new issues to contend with that could cause the hiring of cyber security gurus to come to a grinding halt.
The field of cybersecurity is unique in that many people who are considered some of the nation’s most talented cyberattack and cyberdefense gurus have broken various laws in the process of developing their skills. Hacking into the protected networks of both industry and government may be a suitable challenge to test or fine-tune one’s abilities, but is obviously very illegal. The same goes for cracking copyrighted software, tapping into someone’s Wi-Fi service, or entering many systems without authorization.
Unfortunately, while these are fairly common activities for cybersecurity experts to regularly engage in, the same activities can make these people unsuitable to receive a federal security clearance. The government already regularly denies clearance to individuals who misuse technology, show poor judgment, and/or break the law. If the government holds the typical cybersecurity expert to the same standards as other cleared workers, some of the most talented and brightest minds in the field can’t even be considered. It’s a quandary.
At the same time, federal intelligence and defense agencies are all in desperate need of a good public relations makeover. One of the many outcomes of the recent leaks of classified information by contractor Edward Snowden is the public’s increasing distrust of government – specifically the very agencies that are in most dire need of fresh cybersecurity talent.