Federal authorities aren't looking to prosecute them, but to pay them to secure the nation's networks.
To quote: General Dynamics Information Technology put out an ad last month on behalf of the Homeland Security Department seeking someone who could "think like the bad guy."
Applicants, it said, must understand hackers' tactics and be able to analyze Internet traffic and identify vulnerabilities in the federal systems.
In the Pentagon's budget request submitted last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon will increase the number of cyberexperts it can train each year from 80 to 250 by 2011.
With warnings that the U.S. is ill-prepared for a cyberattack, the White House conducted a 60-day study of how it can better manage and use technology to protect everything from the electrical grid and stock markets to tax data, airline flight systems, and nuclear launch codes.
President Barack Obama appointed a former Bush administration aide, Melissa Hathaway, to head the effort, and her report was delivered Friday, the White House said.
While the country had detailed plans for floods, fires or errant planes drifting into protected airspace, there is no similar response etched out for a major computer attack.
David Powner, director of technology issues for the Government Accountability Office, told Congress last month that the U.S. has no recovery plan for a digital disaster.
"We're clearly not as prepared as we should be," he said.
Administration officials says the U.S. has not kept pace with technological innovations needed to protect its computer networks against emerging threats from hackers, criminals or other nations looking for national security secrets.
U.S. computer networks, including those at the Pentagon and other federal agencies, are under persistent attack, ranging from nuisance hacking to more nefarious assaults, possibly from other nations, such as China. Industry leaders told Congress during a recent hearing that law enforcement and other protections are too outdated to fend off threats from criminals, terrorists and unfriendly foreign nations.
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