Hacker convention mined by feds for recruits
If you can't beat the hackers, join them. Or rather, get them to join you.
CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that the latest national security recruiting drive revolves around that very idea.
The 19th annual Def-Con in Las Vegas is a convention of free spirits, free thinkers, geeks and hackers, like the one who calls himself "Mar."
"I think the hacker mindset is tinkering with stuff anywhere from hardware to software," Mar says.Group says it hacked U.S. law enforcement websites
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Recently, Def-Con has drawn more and more unlikely conventioneers: clean cut, buttoned-down representatives of the U.S. government.
DOD, NSA, DHS, NASA, CID - it's an alphabet soup of federal agencies wandering the floor and hosting panels.
"If there's folks with wild red hair that have skills and have an interest and a wherewithal to be a federal agent, those are the kinds of folks we want to reach," says Daron Hartvigsen, US Air Force, Cyber Investigations and Operations.
CBS News got some first-ever pictures inside the top-secret National Security Agency's Cyber Command (at left), the hub for defending against computer attacks. Deputy Defense Secretary, William Lynn, told CBS News that cyberattackers are finding the U.S. with its defenses down.
"The technology for intrusion is far ahead of the technology for defenses and we need to catch up," Lynn says.
Unidentified cyberattackers penetrated Pentagon firewalls this year and stole plans for the war in Afghanistan, designs for satellites, drones and a top-secret, next-generation fighter plane.
Top computer security firm McAfee reported this week it had found hackers rummaging through computers of 70 corporations and organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the International Olympic Committee, the United Nations.
The loss of trade secrets to hackers costs U.S. companies as much as $20 billion a year. The loss of government secrets to cyber-espionage is incalculable.
"Protecting information, securing information is crucial," says Ahmed Saleh with the NASA Computer Crimes Division.
The Air Force's Daron Hartvigsen says it's more important than that.
"It's a national security issue, actually," Hartvigsen says.
So, the federal agencies went to Las Vegas to an important hacker convention, seeking the next generation of national defenders -- cyberwarriors.
"The government can't solve this problem by itself," says Tony Sager with the NSA. "There is no end state to security, so it's constant learning, part of what makes it exciting, but challenging."
The Def-Con convention of computer wizards is what the fighting force of the future looks like.
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