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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 4 of 4

[Lt. Greene] "Definitely. Depending on what their interest is, and remember that NSA doesn't just do intelligence; there are a lot of mathematicians and computer scientists doing research as well as people managing the internal networks."

What would you say about the importance of cybersecurity for military and intelligence to someone on the outside?

[Lt. Greene] "It's important because people need to realize that we are not the only ones doing it. There are about 20 countries that have developed cyber warfare programs but they, unlike the United States, are not bound by the restrictions of Title 10 and Title 50. These Titles prevent the NSA, CIA and all the Defense agencies from spying on or monitoring U.S. citizens without a warrant just like the police can't monitor a citizen without a warrant. But in countries that don't love America, apple pie and baseball there are state-run efforts to steal information and to disrupt our nation's IT infrastructure. The Department of Defense works hard to prevent this, but when it comes to your private computer we can give good advice but you have to take the initiative to protect yourself. Then you have to talk about non-state actors - terrorists - and there are no restrictions on them. In the world of cyber security a single person can do something really bad."

What about someone from NSA moving to work at a business?

[Lt. Love] "Oh, big time. Working here you gain an in depth understanding not only of how the infrastructures work, stuff that you could easily apply over to the private sector, but you also get really far ahead in terms of advanced education. When you leave here you are ahead in the field and you could help any business you go to."

Who should apply to the intern program?

[Lt. Love] "Anyone who's interested - not just military - but a civilian school as well. Anyone who wants to get a look at the practical side of some of the theoretical stuff they have been learning. Also get more in-depth into the theoretical things they have been working on."

[Lt. Greene] "Obviously cyber security guys - and gals - anyone who is interested in intelligence, signal communication, math, really anybody. We have a history major who working on the history of cryptology and we have math guys working in research math and experimental mathematics. We interact with a lot of electrical engineers, software engineers, computer science. If you have a degree or you are trying to get a degree you could pretty much work here and would find some form of interesting work. There are a lot of people making sure we follow those Title 10 and Title 50 restrictions so that we have the trust of the American public."

In general, who should apply to work at the NSA?

[Lt. Love] "I'd say patriotic people. Also, anyone who values competency and responsibility because there are a lot of citizens counting on you. And, if you'd like a cool job; when you come down to it it's a pretty cool place to work."

When you returned to the academy, what did you do that was different from what you would otherwise have done?

[Lt. Greene] "Something changed. Once we got wrapped up in the research everything just kept getting more and more interesting. We spent a lot of time in the lab and, well, our weekends got cut very short. We realized that our capabilities were getting better; me as a computer scientist, our electrical engineer, the GIS person we had assigned to the group. Everybody was getting better at programming, at figuring out how the system works, at designing software. I started programming in different computer languages including Ada, Java, Python, C, Perl scripting, C++ and now Mathlab.

Have you been able to give any feedback to the NSA that might help the agency?

[Lt. Greene] "Definitely. We gave our results and our code back to the NSA. They looked at it and said 'Wow, this works! Let's do some further testing . . . ' "

Growing our nation's cybersecurity professionals

As Deborah Curry, the Service Academy Program Coordinator, added, "We are preparing tomorrow's IT professionals. We are also preparing people so that they can live safely by creating a more aware population. You know, people who know what we know or learn what we learn here are a lot more security conscious - and cautious - but we are also helping to create a safer environment, a safer world for everyone else."

And, although NSA's Service Academy Intern Program is for military students, the agency has a wide range of opportunities for other students as well. More information is available online.

Smith is a freelance writer. He can be reached at DirkADSmith@gmail.com.

Read more about security in Network World's Security section.

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