The National Security Agency (NSA) is looking for a few good cybersecurity experts. They’re hoping to hire as many as 3,000 people over the next two years - so the agency can be fully staffed for a "cyber Cold War."
According to FederalNewsRadio.com, NSA recruiters even traveled to Las Vegas within the last few weeks to scout the high-profile hacker conference - DefCon - for potential talent.
The technical director of the Information Assurance Directorate at NSA, Dickie George, confirmed the agency is active in both the academic and corporate worlds to locate 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 lack of cyber pros isn’t just a government problem - it’s also something corporations are struggling with.
"We need to develop the talent in this country to protect us from what's going on," he explained. "And there's a lot going on."
By teaming up with universities, he said, NSA and other government agencies hope to demonstrate that a federal cyber career can actually be appealing.
"There are great careers in this field... We want them to think about not being rocket scientists, but being cyber warriors, because that's what the country needs right now."
Of course, the agency has been looking in some unusual places. As noted above, the NSA set tongues wagging when it traveled to DefCon for its annual recon and recruit mission.
"The community there is very vibrant; it's got a lot of talent," George stated. "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 we are the good guys."
Although the NSA has stepped up its recruitment efforts, the DoD is bracing itself for reduced budgets along with civilian hiring freezes. As such, the NSA’s large hiring push might be hard to justify. Nevertheless, George insisted the current digital environment is a "cyber cold war" that required hiring to continue apace.
"The importance of this mission and the importance to the nation of cybersecurity - it can't be understated," he said.
Currently, the big issue is intellectual property. "It's in the ideas," he added, which contrasts a former era where the value of industry was focused in large-scale manufacturing plants and material.
"This country is constantly being threatened by our adversaries," including by nation-states, terrorists and elements associated with organized crime. "They're coming into this country and siphoning off our intellectual property. And that makes us really vulnerable," George added.
It now appears the NSA is preparing for an escalation of digital warfare. They are also getting involved in the intellectual property issue, which threatens to censor free speech on the Internet.
It makes you wonder who else will be dubbed an enemy in a digital cold war. Also, are hackers and online activists to be equated with organized crime? Will the government will invoke its "cyber cold war" mantra as way to limit the personal freedoms of citizens at home?