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UK cyber defense unit may recruit convicted hackers news
23 October 2013

In a tech version of setting a thief to catch a thief, UK's cyber security top brass are thinking of recruiting convicted hackers to join the defence effort if they passed security vetting.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Michael White, told BBC Newsnight he would "look at individuals in the round" when assessing applicants.

He added, recruitment would focus on "capability development" rather than "personality traits.''

The government had announced setting up of the Joint Cyber Reserve Unit in September (See: UK to set up new cyber unit to help defend national security).

Under the initiative costing 500 million, the ministry of defence (MoD) would recruit hundreds of reservists as computer experts to work alongside regular armed forces.

The unit would defend national security by safeguarding computer networks and vital data, and it would also launch strikes in cyberspace if required.

The move is aimed at addressing the shortage of people with the technological skills and knowledge to protect corporations, the military, and government systems from cyber attacks.

According to the MoD, the recruitment, which started in early October, would target regular personnel leaving the armed forces, current and former reservists with the required skills, and civilians with the appropriate technological knowledge.

Meanwhile, defence secretary Philip Hammond admitted that convicted hackers could be signed up to a new government cyber unit despite their criminal past.

He added convictions would be acknowledged but for candidates that got past the vetting process, he could not rule it out.

The Joint Cyber Reserve Unit would protect the UK from online attacks.

The recruited hackers would also have the authority to strike at enemies.

Heads of the new unit would have 'considerable flexibility' in recruiting criteria, without the same constraints as in other defence departments such as infantry reservists.

Hammond further told the show he could foresee circumstances for convicted hackers to play a role.

He added each individual case would be looked at on its merits.

He said the conviction would be examined in terms of how long ago it was, how serious it was, and what sort of sentence had followed and he could not rule it out.

He added, there were many professionals who would have the skills associated with those of hackers who had never done anything illegal and who scrupulously maintained their activities on the right side of the law.

According to Hammond, it would be a matter of judgment in individual cases, but the armed forces overall did not have an absolute bar on people with criminal convictions becoming members.

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UK cyber defense unit may recruit convicted hackers