In his own words: Confessions of a cyber warrior

A longtime friend working as a cyber warrior under contract to the U.S. government provides a glimpse of the front lines

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Grimes: I know you from many years ago, and I think the young you would revile hacking any government by any government. I think I heard you say this many times, and you were passionate about it.

Cyber warrior: I'm still passionate about it, but the older self realizes that the young self didn't have all the facts. We have to do what we do because [other nation states and other armies] are doing it. If we didn't, we would literally be dead. It's already something that I don't know if we are winning. I know we have the best tools, the best people, but our laws actually stop us from being as good as we could be.

Grimes: What about your job would surprise the average American?

Cyber warrior: Nothing.

Grimes: I really think the average American would be surprised you do what you do.

Cyber warrior: I don't agree. I think everyone knows what we have to do to keep up.

Grimes: What does your work location look like?

Cyber warrior:  I work in obscure office park in Northern Virginia. It's close to DC. There's no lettering or identifiers on the building. We park our cars in an underground garage. There are about 5,000 people on my team. I still work for the same staffing company I was hired by. My badge does not say "U.S. government" on it. We are not allowed to bring any computers, electronics, or storage USB drives into the building. They aren't even allowed in our cars, so I'm the guy at lunch without a cellphone. If people were to look around, they could spot us. Look for the group of people being loud that don't have a single cellphone out -- no one texting. Heck, they should let us carry cellphones just so we don't look so obvious.

Grimes: What do you do for a hobby?

Cyber warrior: I play in a hardcore rap/EDM band, if you can imagine that. I play lots of instruments, make beats and percussion stuff. I wish I could make more money doing music than hacking. I'm even considering now leaving my job and doing music. I don't need much money. I have enough for retirement and enough to support my lifestyle.

Grimes: What do you wish we, as in America, could do better hacking-wise?

Cyber warrior: I wish we spent as much time defensively as we do offensively. We have these thousands and thousands of people in coordinate teams trying to exploit stuff. But we don't have any large teams that I know of for defending ourselves. In the real world, armies spend as much time defending as they do preparing for attacks. We are pretty one-sided in the battle right now.

Grimes: What do you think of Snowden?

Cyber warrior: I don't know him.

Grimes: Let me clarify, what do you think of Snowden for revealing secrets?

Cyber warrior: It doesn't bother me one way or the other.

Grimes: What if it could lead to your program shutting down? You'd be without a job.

Cyber warrior: There's no way what we do will be shut down. First, I don't intentionally do anything that involves spying on domestic communications. I don't think anyone in my company does that, although I don't know for sure. Second, it would be very dangerous to stop what we do. We are the new army. You may not like what the army does, but you still want an army.

If I was out of job I'd just get better at playing my instruments. I like to hack them, too.

This story, "In his own words: Confessions of a cyber warrior," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Keep up on the latest developments in network security and read more of Roger Grimes' Security Adviser blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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