American federal investigators are having a hard time hiring computer-savvy staff, according to a memo from the Inspector General for the US Department of Justice.
"Even as it works to expand the ranks of its cybersecurity team, the department continues to face challenges recruiting and retaining highly qualified candidates to do this work," the memo [PDF] states.
Last year the FBI got the authorization and budget to hire 134 computer scientists for online investigations. We're told the agency could only find 82 people interested in working for Uncle Sam. As a result, five of the FBI's regional 56 Cyber Task Force teams don’t have a computer specialist on hand.
The DoJ's Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that recruitment was being hampered by private industry, which is willing to pay more than the government could afford. Computer security specialists are in high demand at the moment, and universities aren't putting out enough of them, so wages are only going to go up.
Another problem, Horowitz notes, is that the Feds have much stricter hiring guidelines than private companies. Last year FBI Director James Comey complained that he was having problems recruiting white hat hackers because too many of them were fond of a joint or two.
One logical way around this is for the government to work with private companies and borrow their expertise. But this too had run into problems because the Snowden revelations that the government was playing fast and loose with hacking into corporate servers had reduced trust over privacy.
"In an era of ever-increasing cyber threats, the Department will be challenged to sustain a focused, well-coordinated, and robust cybersecurity approach for the foreseeable future," Horowitz concluded.
"The Department must continue to emphasize protection of its own data and computer systems, while marshalling the necessary resources to lead the effort to combat cybercrime, identify and investigate perpetrators, and engage the private sector and its state, local, and global partners in this crucial effort." ®