Calling all hackers.
The Pentagon is kicking off an aggressive hiring spree to beef up its team of cyber warriors. It’s aiming to fend off vicious malware attacks that, officials say, are targeting the Defense Department’s infrastructure every day.
Last week, the DOD sent a request to the Office of Personnel Management for permission to bypass the government’s traditional candidate rating system. The bypass would allow DOD to expedite hiring at least 3,000 cybersecurity personnel, which on its face sounds like a smart move—as long as candidates are trustworthy and don’t leak military secrets.
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The job posting calls for candidates with “unique cybersecurity skills and knowledge to perform cyber risk and strategic analysis, incident handling and malware vulnerability analysis,” among other things. Translation: We need “white hat” hackers to secure our systems against “black hat” invaders.
Last month, during an interview on 60 Minutes, Dan Kaufman at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) said the U.S. military is getting hit with cyber attacks every day. The number and sophistication of the attacks are “dramatically increasing,” he said.
While the need for cyber security has never been greater, the government has struggled to recruit people with the necessary skills to join its cyber team. A previous survey by the Government Accountability Office reported a major skills gap government-wide in cyber security jobs, as well as in IT and engineering.
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As the Pentagon tries to change that, officials are concerned that budget constraints could make it challenging to compete with private sector firms that are also hunting for the same talent, in the wake of the attack on Sony and other major companies.
“As the economy continues to improve, we expect to see more challenges in recruiting and retaining our cyber workforce,” Vice Admiral Jan Tighe, the top official at the Navy Fleet Cyber Command, testified last week. “We are aggressively hiring … consistent with our operational needs.”
The Pentagon has also been on a cybersecurity contract-awarding spree. Just last week it awarded a $7 million contract to a VA-based tech startup with the unfortunate name of Isis Defense. The contractor will help DOD sniff out cyber threats from big data research.
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Meanwhile, the White House is building up its own team of cybersecurity wonks as the president looks to advance the government’s cybersecurity efforts agency-wide.
It’s not just the Pentagon that faces threats from hackers. Just last week, the GAO reported that the Federal Aviation Administration is vulnerable to cyber threats—putting the nation’s airports and air traffic control centers at risk.
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