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FBI seeks to bolster its ranks with ‘cyber special agents’

Hiring ‘ethical hackers’ to meet threats

Becky Yerak Chicago Tribune

To battle hackers, you have to think like one.

The FBI said Monday it’s seeking technology experts – including those with experience in “ethical hacking” – to become “cyber special agents.”

“Cyber permeates every aspect of what we do, whether it’s counterterrorism, criminal investigations or traditional cyberattacks, as we’ve seen in the recent past,” the FBI said.

North Korea, for example, is at the center of a confrontation with the United States over the hacking of Sony Pictures. The hacking is believed to be tied to Sony’s movie “The Interview” about the assassination of North Korea’s leader.

“The FBI seeks highly talented, technically trained individuals who are motivated by the FBI’s mission to protect our nation and the American people from the rapidly evolving cyber threat,” Robert Anderson Jr., executive assistant director for the bureau’s criminal, cyber, response and services branch, said in a statement Monday.

In its job post, which is open until Jan. 20, the agency said it has “many vacancies” for cyber special agents.

Such agents, the FBI said, should have the skills to “conduct multi-faceted investigations of high-tech crimes, including cyber-based terrorism, computer intrusions, online exploitation and major cyber fraud schemes.”

Preferred backgrounds and work experiences include computer forensics, computer programming and “ethical hacking,” according to the job posting. One way to get a resume to stand out at the FBI: Get certified in ethical hacking.

The EC-Council, which provides certification in information security and e-business fields, offers, for example, a “Certified Ethical Hacker” course as a way to get professionals to think like a hacker.

“To master the hacking technologies, you will need to become one,” EC-Council says on its website. Students in the council’s training will “scan, test, hack and secure their own systems.”

Some companies hire ethical hackers to try and bypass their own computer security systems. They aim to locate weak points that could be exploited by malicious hackers.

The annual salary range in the FBI’s job posting is $59,340 to $76,568.

Prospective cyber special agents are expected to meet the same threshold as special agents. Key requirements to be a special agent include passing a background check and fitness test. Agents must be at least 23 and no older than 37.

Applicants for the cyber special agent job must also have at least a four-year degree from an accredited college or university. Preferred degrees include applied and computational mathematics; digital and computer forensics; and computer information systems.

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