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Citing the days of yore, when firms hired private security to protect their interests, General Michael Hayden, One of the architects of US foreign policy under George W. Bush, floats the idea of a sort of digital version of the oft-illustrious Blackwater firm (since renamed Xe); a modern day cyber rent-a-mercenary program for governments.
He contends that when other systems break down, mercenaries, in this case the cyber variety, can be contracted to handle the heavy lifting of online security, sans the black tactical gear and compact automatic weaponry all tricked out with laser sights. These warriors would be equipped with highly hacked laptops, a bag of cyber tricks and the requisite underworld sensibilities needed to get the job done, or so the plan goes.
North Korea has been ramping up the ranks of budding cyber warriors with a handsome perk package for the hacker’s family back home while they’re off abroad brushing up on hacking skills. It seems Gen. Hayden thinks the U.S. Government may also want to think about bolstering its own security ranks, this time with private contractors. Citing the hopeful ability of the private sector to respond with more agility and leading edge tactics when not saddled with onerous bureaucratic structure, he thinks it may be more effective. And he has reason to care, in light of his former involvement with CIA and NSA, both of which have been recent targets of highly-publicized hacker efforts. He continues with the cyberwarfare theme, saying this “might be one of those big new ideas in terms of how we have to conduct ourselves in this new cyber domain.”
I’m typing this in an airplane enroute to the Blackhat security conference, on the heels of the announcement that NSA will be recruiting there for hackers with the right mix of talents to suit their tastes. While no one can say for sure whether the purported initiatives are related, Gen Hayden comments, “these are the kinds of things that are going to be put into play here very, very soon.” Since he was instrumental in building the relationships between Blackwater and the U.S. Government, he certainly is familiar with this type approach, if only in the physical security realm.
In the meantime, there’s still time to hack your laptop, brush up on your cyber skills and wait for a phone call and stiffly attired, non-descript recruiters to visit. Probably not as much need to study spec op tactics, aside from maybe first person shooter video games, hackers love games, especially ones with compact automatic weaponry and tricked out laser sights.
Author Cameron Camp, ESET