A-Teams of IT: How to build a crack strike force

Your mission, if you choose to accept it: Build a crack special ops team ready to tackle the toughest IT assignments

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Sadly for your IT A-Team, the explosive babe is strictly optional, but a security expert is a must. The difference? Instead of trying to break into networks, your über hacker is there to keep the bad guys out.

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"For everything you're dealing with today, information security becomes key," says Tata's Ali. "For large programs, especially those involving Web 2.0, it helps to have an ethical hacker as part of your team -- someone who's working from the inside and incented to find the holes in your information privacy and security."

Here, temperament and ethics are every bit as important as skill. Even if they don't sport rippling biceps or gold chains, über hackers can be aggressively macho about their tech skills -- and equally quick to get their buttons pushed, says Mark Kadrich, author of Endpoint Security. We pity the fool who crosses them.

"It's not a good idea to piss off someone who can have you declared dead on every computer system on the planet," says Kadrich. "You're looking for people with the ability to break into systems and do things to people but who choose to use their powers for justice."

They also need to understand physical security as much as network security, a factor many organizations overlook. If attackers can physically touch a system, they can almost always extract data from it, Kadrich says.

The problem? The obsessive-compulsive geeks who make the best security wonks often have difficulty working closely with other bipeds, says Kadrich. And many of them are a little too good at their jobs, adds Scott Archibald, a managing director for Bender Consulting.

"A lot of guys who know security really well can make something so secure nobody else can use it," he says. "You need somebody who knows where to draw the line."

IT A-Team personnel No. 4: Infrastructure sherpa

Somebody's got to do the dirty work -- keep the lights on, the data center humming, and end-users happy (or as close to that state as you can reasonably expect). That job falls to the infrastructure sherpas on your team. Though they'll never be huge stars, they will have occasional heroic moments.

The exact kind of infrastructure infantrymen will vary depending on your environment, but if you must pick a generic skill set, networking expertise is a good bet, says Bender's Archibald.

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"If the environment isn't highly specialized, I'd look for someone who understands the networking/telecom side and the server infrastructure," he says. "Data centers have a lot of servers, and someone who understands the server infrastructure and hardware usually also understands the client connectivity issues that can come up. What you really want is someone who knows when to dig in and learn more and when to call other people on their BS."

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