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Las Vegas — If you’re a hacker, a really good one, you now have even more career choices awaiting you — assuming you’re not a convicted felon.

At the Black Hat hacker conference last week, noted cyber security guru Mikko Hypponen spoke about how big changes in the cyber threat landscape had prompted aerospace and defense contractors like Boeing, Raytheon and Northrup Grumman, all billion-dollar-plus companies, to begin aggressively courting and hiring hackers to buttress their own cyber defenses.

All of these companies provide the technology and machines that keep the U.S. military amongst the best equipped and best prepared in the world. Where once these firms relied on their own cyber security defenses to keep unwanted intruders outside their firewalls, they now see the value proposition of bringing hackers into the fold.

“It is interesting. Times have changed,” Hypponen said.


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Indeed, Raytheon, which makes guided missiles, including the anti-missile missile platform called the Patriot, and advanced electronics weapons systems for ships and aircraft, was a sponsor of Black Hat this year at the Mandalay Bay. Raytheon has hired hackers without high school educations, and actively recruits for white hatters at college job fairs.

Hypponen, one of the world’s foremost security gurus and CRO for F-Secure, is based in his native Finland. During the conference this week, he pointed out that unconventional breaches require unconventional approaches to hiring talent. And this means recruiting in places that five years ago were off limits, like hacker forums.

“Democratic governments (and companies) using hackers sounds like science fiction,” he said.

Hacker gigs, without question, have become more ubiquitous in the face of rising cyber attacks by nation states like China, Russia, and even ally Israel, whose black hatters continually probe corporate and government networks to boost secrets hidden behind their virtual moats.

See a current Raytheon job opening for a Sr. Cyber Engineer II here.

But these jobs tend to be conservatively vetted; that is, weed smoking longhairs need not apply. The gigs require security clearances and drug testing. Clean records are, for the most part, required. So hackers used to operating with little corporate oversight, or any oversight, might not fare that well.

And remember, Boeing and Lockheed are intensely competing with well-funded startups who pay good money, don’t require credit and arrest checks, and don’t give a slice if you smoked dope three years ago.

So while these wealthy companies say they “want the best and brightest,” when it comes to hiring hackers, what they really mean is those with lily white backgrounds who are “cutting edge.”

Or those who haven’t been caught.







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