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FBI not changing the rules when hiring 2,000 hackers: Stoners need not apply

May 21, 20145 mins
CyberattacksCybercrimeData and Information Security

FBI Director Comey is having a hard time finding talented hackers who don't get high, but the agency is not changing the drug policy just to fight cybercrime...Speaking of which, eBay was hacked, so change your password.

FBI Director James Comey needs to hire 2,000 agents to fight cybercrime, but the agency is having problems finding applicants who are not also potheads. The FBI employment drug policy says applicants can’t have smoked pot in the last three years. This is not the first time the FBI has had trouble hiring talented hackers and programmers who don’t also get high.

Back in 2005, when FBI Director Robert Mueller was in charge, the rules stated that applicants need not apply if they had “used marijuana within the past three years or more than 15 times ever.” Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, former head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, added, “That 16th time is a killer.”

The agency said the more relaxed toking rules would not apply to FBI Special Agents; they had to have always been drug-free. That prompted Tommy Chong, as in Cheech and Chong, to state, “I don’t think you could find anybody who hasn’t tried marijuana, and I take a lot of credit for that. They’re going to have to change their policy.”

A polar opposite view came from retired FBI polygraph examiner, Harold Byford, who exclaimed, “If someone has smoked marijuana 15 times, he’s done it 50 times. … If I was running the show there would be no one in the FBI that ever used illegal drugs!”

And remarks like that prompted Washington attorney Mark Zaid, who represented stoners the FBI wouldn’t hire, to state: “Recreational marijuana use is a fact of life nowadays. It doesn’t stop Supreme Court justices from getting on the bench and doesn’t stop presidents from getting elected, so why should it stop someone from getting hired by the FBI?”

Yet the FBI’s pot policy did not change.

In 2007 the FBI was again hard up to find non-pot-smoking applicants while the agency was attempting “to hire 221 agents and 121 intelligence analysts.” That’s when the FBI finally relaxed the rules that had disqualified candidates who had smoked pot more than 15 times. Jeff Berkin, deputy director of the FBI’s Security Division, said “the previous policy was based on a scoring system that had become ‘arbitrary.’ He also said it created problems for applicants who couldn’t remember how many times they had smoked pot when asked in polygraph examinations.”

On Monday, Comey said the FBI is trying to figure out how to change the wording again to relax the don’t-bother-applying-if-you’ve-smoked-dope-in-the-last-three-years rule. In fact, during a conference at the White Collar Crime Institute, when a conference attendee said a friend shied away from applying at the FBI because of the pot policy, Comey said he should “go ahead and apply.”

“I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Comey said.

However, before hackers possibly get their hopes up, in yet another turnaround at the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning, Comey testified, “I am absolutely dead set against using marijuana.” He added, “I did not say I’m going to change that ban.” Pity, have fun finding 2,000 hackers then.

Another part we’ll likely never know is if hackers are high when they successfully breach companies. Speaking of which, eBay was hacked and said to change your password.

eBay hacked, says change password

Sometime between late February and early March, cyberattackers gained access to a “database containing encrypted passwords and other non-financial data,” eBay announced today. The compromised database “included eBay customers’ name, encrypted password, email address, physical address, phone number and date of birth. However, the database did not contain financial information or other confidential personal information.”

PayPal reportedly has seen no increase in fraudulent account activity on eBay. “The company also said it has no evidence of unauthorized access or compromises to personal or financial information for PayPal users. PayPal data is stored separately on a secure network, and all PayPal financial information is encrypted.”

eBay will start emailing its 128 million users later today, warning them to change their password. “For the time being, we cannot comment on the specific number of accounts impacted,” eBay spokeswoman Kari Ramirez told Reuters. “However, we believe there may be a large number of accounts involved and we are asking all eBay users to change their passwords.”

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.