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NSA: Looking for a few good cybersecurity professionals

Agency partners with academia to train students for careers in cybersecurity

By Dirk A. D. Smith, Network World
November 13, 2012 02:00 PM ET

Page 3 of 4

From the perspective of protecting an office's network, is it different at the NSA than at a typical company?

[Lt. Love] "It's not that different because organizations, be they private sector or government, run into the same problems. You have networks to manage, lots of different users and - while we have a few special intelligence requirements - on top of that it's like any large corporate infrastructure as far as networking goes."

[Lt. Greene] "When you come here there is more personal responsibility. When we are on the NSA internal net you have to make sure that you never bridge the outside world with that internal network."

What do you like most about working as an intern at the NSA?

[Lt. Greene] "They gave us a real problem. They said 'This radio system needs improvement. Here is how it works. Figure something out.' Then they let us run with it. We had deliverables; papers, updates, but other than that they kind of left us alone. They gave us equipment and said, 'Tinker with it. If you fail, that's OK. At least we'll know what doesn't work.' "

[Lt. Love] "The impetus that drove everything was real. We worked to improve a real-world system and, if proved successful, it would be implemented. It would help soldiers."

What did you like the least about working as an intern at the NSA?

[Lt. Greene] "Can't Tweet from the office. Have to leave my cell phone outside. And, oh, because of the security requirements at NSA, back up at West Point we couldn't work on certain data sets in our project because they were classified. That was frustrating because we only had one data set and, in order to get an accurate test, you've got to run more than one. We had to work our way around that and still make sure that we met the security requirements of the NSA.

So, what did you do while here at the NSA?

[Lt. Love] "Our project was to improve the performance of an aircraft system that picks up radio signals and figures out where that signal is coming from. We began by analyzing what this system was, right down to the gears turning in it then asked where does it fail and how can we improve it."

Who is tweeting from NSA's parking lot?

[Lt. Greene] "I worked on the same project as Max and, last year, we did a lot of research. We talked to experts in the software and hardware fields as well as in global information systems. Basically, everyone from the nerdiest mathematician to the most hippy biker out there; we talked to 'em and we worked with 'em and we tried to come up with a solution for improving the system. In the end we pumped out a working solution, our academic paper was published and we presented our findings at a conference where we ended up talking with people in industry from Microsoft, GoogleMaps and Yahoo. We even got to brief the Deputy Director of NSA, John "Chris" Inglis, up at West Point."

Do you think a network admin or CTO from industry, with some years of experience, would have much to offer the NSA?

[Lt. Love] "Very much so because, as the size of an organization grows, you start to run into a lot of the same requirements. A lot of the same functions a network admin has experience which carries over to this kind of enterprise structure that we have set up."

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