The War Between The White Hats And The Black
There is a war going on today in this country. You may not be aware of
it, but it affects you. It affects your credit rating, your financial
information, your passwords and bank account numbers, your personal medical
records, even your very identityanything that is stored anywhere within a
The war is between the "white hats" and the "black
Simply put, "white hats" are hackers and computer engineers who
work to protect you and your information (think "The Lone Gunmen"
from X-Files). They fight "black hats," who are the hackers
who break into government computer systems, or steal your Visa card number
and sell it on the Internet to some 15-year-old who wants to spend four
hours and $1,200 on a pay-for-porn Web site.
The black hats are winning.
First, let me backtrack and discuss how I arrived at this topic this
morning. While browsing through some of today's headlines, I noticed a
couple of stories that seemed to instantly link together in a mad way. I
thought it merited observationso bear with me while I expound on a
seemingly unrelated topic.
There's been a lot of ink lately on childhood obesity. In the last 10
years, health care practitioners have observed, with some alarm, that the
percentage of overweight and obese children has skyrocketed. High-fat,
high-sugar fast foods and snacks, not to mention soda, are often justifiably
blamed. Compounding the intake of food with poor nutritional value is the
corresponding decrease in school spending on physical education due to
budget cuts, plus a more sedentary leisure life spent in front of the TV and
DVD playerand the computer and its game console. I think this one is more
important than the food connectionmy generation ate scads of
nutritionally-challenged foods, and while some kids in school were
overweight, it was the exception, not the norm.
Wired News recently printed a story called, "Tech Smart Kids
Pay In Pounds." This makes sense, I thoughta lot of the most
tech-savvy people I know are self-taught. They carry around reams of
knowledge gained through thousands of hours of hands-on experience behind a
computer. These are the people who sit at their computers late at night and
into the wee hours of the morning, the screen reflecting off the glasses
they inevitably have to wear due to a case of permanent monitor-related eye
strain. I hate to stereotypebut here it comesfew of them are triathlon
competitors. It seems, from recent news, that this divide between the jocks
and the geeks is even greater in the next up-and-coming generation of the
American workforce, which is busy working its way through middle school and
puberty right now.
The second story I spotted on Wired News had to do with an
alarming lack of skilled white-hat hacker types in the FBI. Lately, we
haven't had to go far to find stories on the abysmal failures of the FBI to
prevent terrorism, identify criminals, communicate with other government
agencies, or even just give credible and competent press conferences. Their
computer systems were a joke ten years ago, now they are just plain scary;
their "experts" minimally experienced. But the most interesting
part of the article dealt with the fact that the really skilled people,
those computer geniuses who know how to think like the wicked-bad-naughty
black-hat hackers, can't get into the FBI.
They can't pass the fitness requirements.
Isn't this ironic? The same federal and state governments that
continually cut education dollars in areas they deem unimportant (i.e.,
physical education), are under threat because they don't have enough
computer experts in the FBI. Why not? Many of the experts can't pass the
fitness, age, health, education or morality (clean record) standards set by
the agency that's supposed to protect the rest of us.
Fitness requirements aside, to be considered as a candidate as an FBI
special agent with a career emphasis on IT, you must be between the ages of
23 and 37, have a Bachelor's degree in computer science, have perfect
hearing and uncorrected vision better than 20/200, be in top physical
condition with no "defects," and be of excellent moral, upstanding
character. What this means is you can have no felony or major misdemeanor
convictions, and no history of any kind of illegal drug usage. (Yes, that's
"usage" not "conviction.") How do they know you're not
crossing your fingers behind your back during the interview? They give you a
Solet's put it in black and white terms. Remember that guy or girl you
went to high school with, who never did anything Mother wouldn't approve of,
who studied what he/she was told, memorized huge tracts of textbooks (though
didn't necessarily absorb the ideas), always drove 55 mph on the highway
while wearing a seatbelt, exercised every morning without fail and never
once considered treading over the boundaries set by moral society? (I'll
avoid using the term "drip" here.)
That's who works for the government.
Remember the other guy you went to high school with? The brilliant one
who couldn't apply himself, ate pizza for all three meals a day, rarely
studied though still passed classes, never saw a rule he didn't break, never
met an authority figure he respected and believed laws were put in place for
the sole reason to give him some amusement while he ignored them?
That's who works for the bad guys.
Know why? The bad guys don't care if you can't run five miles. The rest
of us, in the meantime, can comfort ourselves with the fact that everyone
who works for the government agencies that stand between us and global
disaster at the very least have their cholesterol levels under control.
The author, who couldn't run five miles in three weeks, let alone 30
minutes, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.