Home Government Tech Policy Weed gets in the way of FBI tech talent search

Weed gets in the way of FBI tech talent search

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is struggling to recruit fresh talent to defend the country's cyber borders but is unwilling to overlook the frequent use of marijuana by hackers in order to recruit them.

In a report about the agency's struggle to appear "cool" in order to attract security researchers, the Washington Post said there was a clash of cultures between skilled techies, who liked to work in casual or rebellious outfits, and the bureaucratic FBI.

One of the problems faced was the use of marijuana by many skilled hackers.

The agency's director James Comey spoke to this issue during an address at the White Collar Crime Institute in 2014.

"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," he was quoted as saying.

Comey said at the time the FBI was "grappling with the question" of how to approach cannabis and coders at the time.

However, the rules for hiring hackers still require them to not have smoked marijuana for three years before they join.

During a Symantec symposium last week, Comey said the FBI had not yet added beanbags, granola and whiteboards — characteristics of many West Coast start-ups — but was working hard at moving in that direction.

The Post report said other issues that hampered the FBI were the huge salaries offered by private security firms and the fallout over the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden about blanket surveillance of US citizens.

The FBI's legal battle with Apple earlier this year, to try and force the company to break in to a locked iPhone owned by a man involved in an attack in San Bernardino, California, had also contributed to the difficulty of recruiting researchers.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.