FBI ‘could hire hackers on cannabis’ to fight cybercrime

The FBI has reportedly said it is “grappling with the question” of whether to hire cybersecurity experts who use cannabis.

The US agency’s current policy prohibits anyone working for it who has used cannabis in the past three years.

However,
its director James Comey has acknowledged that this is complicating its
efforts to recruit hacking experts, according to the Wall Street
Journal.

It said he made the announcement at a conference in New York.

“I
have to hire a great workforce to compete with those cybercriminals,
and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,”
the newspaper quoted him as saying at the White Collar Crime Institute’s
annual meeting.

It added that when one attendee asked how a
cannabis-using friend interested in working for the bureau should now
act, Mr Comey replied: “He should go ahead and apply.”

Unlike the
FBI, the UK’s National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU)’s vetting policy does
not make specific reference to cannabis, but talks of a general ban on
applicants involved in the “misuse of drugs”.

One expert thought it was sensible to review the anti-drugs policy.

“The
sort of hackers that you want to hire tend to be young, the young tend
to have bad habits such as smoking marijuana, and over time you’d expect
them to do this less,” Dr Richard Clayton, from the University of
Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, told the BBC.

“But equally, I
believe the FBI and the National Cyber Crime Unit have more problem
recruiting people because of the salaries they pay, which compare poorly
with the salaries available in the private industry.”
Criminal hires

The
UK’s Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told BBC Two’s Newsnight
programme in November that the NCCU might hire convicted hackers despite
a current ban against recruits with a criminal record.

“The
conviction would be examined in terms of how long ago it was, how
serious it was, what sort of sentence had followed. So I can’t rule it
out,” he said.

But Dr Clayton said he was concerned how this might be implemented.

“We like to send out the message that hacking is very bad and that if you get caught it can ruin your life,” he said.

“But
it’s a problem if you then say, ‘If you get caught we might let you
serve a few months in jail and then give you a nice cushy job.’

“Perhaps
we might want to have some sort of ‘we won’t hire you until your
conviction is at least five years old’ sort of policy.”

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Mr Comey said cannabis use should not prevent someone applying to join the FBI

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