If you like low pay and no privacy, the FBI has a deal for you

by Steve Blum • , , ,

On the other hand, it’s probably easier to pass than the math test at Google.

If it seems like the federal government is losing the war for cyberspace, it might be because it is. And that’s due to a lack of talent in key positions, particularly at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to a federal justice department study, as reported by Reuters, the FBI launched what it called the Next Generation Cyber Initiative in 2012, which involved hiring 134 computer scientists and creating cybersecurity task forces at all of its 56 field offices.

Three years later, though, only 52 computer experts had been hired and at least five of the field offices were trying to enforce law on the cyber frontier without a fast hand on the keyboard. According to the Reuters story, it’s a problem of money and culture

Lower salaries compared to the private sector made it difficult for the FBI to hire and retain cyber experts, the Office of the Inspector General said in the report.

It also said extensive background check procedures and drug tests excluded many otherwise qualified candidates.

For example, the FBI is unable to hire anyone who is found to have used marijuana in the previous three years or any other illegal drug in the past ten years, it said.

The FBI’s response was that they would try to do better and that it’s a problem “throughout the federal government”. True enough. The recent mega hack on the federal office of personnel management exposed employment records and security clearance information – which can be amazingly intimate in detail – of more than 20 million people or, as Reuters pointed out, about 7% of the U.S. population.

The only potential good news is that the Chinese government is thought to be behind the hack. Since it doesn’t seem to have a problem recruiting techno-wizards, the stolen data is probably in secure hands. For now.