Warfare has entered the cyber realm. Infrastructure and regimes can be taken down now, not by missiles or guns, but with worms, viruses, and other cyber breaches.
The U.S. government has a high demand for skilled hackers. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) courses are springing up in many technical schools. Such classes are available for any member of the general public to attend. All of the agencies involved in defense including the DOD, NSA, CIA, DHS, as well as defense contractors and NASA who all have an interest in recruiting qualified hackers.
Recently Ralph Langler explained in a TED talk how his team in deconstructed the Stuxnet Worm. He concluded that the worm was so sophisticated it likely could only have been created by a state entity and only one state entity is sophisticated enough to have created it – the U.S. government.
Despite the sophistication of the US government, there is no question that the government has a huge demand for skilled hackers to defend against cyber attacks. The Department of Defense recently unveiled a cyber security strategy which leaves questions unanswered. This reveals how the United States’ cyber policies are still in the formation stages.
For example, how will different countries cooperate with each other? The boundaries where the good hackers and bad hackers live are not clear cut. The targets of cyber attacks are typically developed countries such as the U.S., Japan, Australia, and countries in European. Where these attackers live and where the attacks originate from is not always clear. An attacker could live under a friendly government such as the United Kingdom as easily as he or she could live in a hostile country such as North Korea.
In that case, it becomes important for the U.S. to coordinate with other countries so investigations do not stop short when attacks cross borders.
The Department of Defense and agencies such as the NSA are willing to take great measures to recruit cyber hacking talent and beef up cyber military assets but the overall policy is still somewhat up in the air. The U.S. Strategic Command Cyber Command Division (USCYBERCOM) is still in the early formation stages. China is well known for investing heavily in cyber infrastructure including cyber warfare and cyber espionage abilities, but the United States still holds an enormous advantage in its capability in this area as can be surmised from the sophistication of the Stuxnet worm.
The NSA is publicly announcing that there will be massive opportunities for hacking talent to become cyber warriors on the front lines of national defense. However, the NSA has to get in line with other major corporations who will also be courting such skilled labor.
The NSA’s top cyber soldier is Richard “Dickie” George and he explains that either someone is a true hacker or they are not. Certainly there is a culture to hacking, but true hackers are more easily able to recognize and defend real threats among all the “ankle-biters”. A true problem for many government institutions, especially following the recent attacks on the Pentagon and IMF, is finding significant threats that hide out in the hacker noise populated mostly by unskilled hobbyists or benign enthusiasts. In this sense, it is actually easier to find a needle in a haystack than a needle in a stack of needles.
As more and more skilled programmers come online and hacking technology develops, the demand for cyber defense among state sponsored agencies will grow exponentially. This is especially true when the state sponsored agencies are the most prominent targets of such attacks.
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