It’s one of the biggest open secrets today: the world is currently fighting a big cyber-war. Get a job at CSIS, Canada’s intelligence agency, and you’ll be part of the action.
From the Stuxnet worm to the recent allegations by Edward Snowden, it’s becoming clear that governments around the world are getting into the hacking business. Close Canadian allies, including the U.S. and the UK, are collecting massive amounts of personal data (either at home or abroad) and have allegedly used viruses to destroy critical infrastructure in other states.
Wait a second: weren’t we warned recently that criminal hackers were planning on doing the exact same things? What’s the difference?
The ethics of cyber-war
Since it was legal for a group of people to create the Stuxnet worm, we have to talk ethics instead of law. Is there any ethical or moral difference between a lone hacker knocking out a power grid in Ontario and a team of government hackers damaging centrifuges in an Iranian nuclear reactor?
It’s comes down to personal opinion. But remember that people’s ethics change in different circumstances. Anybody engaged in warfare has historically been given a code of ethics that completely reverses certain social norms—for example, a soldier is not only allowed, but required to kill people. Apparently, the rules are similar in cyber-war: you’re allowed to send viruses to the bad guys.
But working for CSIS as an internal IT professional or as a consultant “hacker,” you’re not likely to run into these ethical dilemmas. It’s a government agency whose duties are frequently misunderstood, and in a cyber-war, its role is basically limited to defense.
Canadians: The nicest spies in the world
As Canadians, we’re lucky to have one of the most regulated and responsible intelligence agencies in the world. There are a few reasons why CSIS tends to play by the rules. First of all, Canada is really not looking for trouble with anyone. A lot of people think that CSIS is our version of the CIA. That’s not true. We don’t even have a foreign intelligence service, even though we could easily establish one. CSIS is a internal intelligence organization that is only legally allowed to operate on Canadian soil. Officially, we don’t spy on anyone outside of Canada.
Sorry, movie fans—no assassinations, black ops, or car chases through the streets of Paris and Moscow.
CSIS does things like keeping tabs on that suspicious “cultural attaché” at a foreign embassy or consulate who walks around parks with a briefcase at 2 a.m. Or eavesdrops on cell phone conversations and Internet communications involving suspected terrorists. They also help protect Canadian government systems from getting hacked.
Also bear in mind that CSIS’s operations are nowhere even close to those of the NSA or CIA in terms of scale. We just don’t have the money, the personnel (CSIS is tiny compared to the CIA or NSA) and we have less need for an agency with wide-ranging powers since we have very few enemies. All this means that CSIS’s doesn’t need to be aggressive or overly secretive. Its powers can be regulated by the federal government without much trouble, and it’s about as transparent as such an organizations can be.
CSIS needs people with IT skills
If you’re a skilled IT professional, preferably with a strong security background, who has a strong sense of duty towards Canada and is good at keeping secrets, CSIS wants you.
The old-boy’s club of recruitment for secret agencies is long gone, and jobs are now posted publicly. You really shouldn’t be doing it for the money, but salaries for IT pros at CSIS are generous: a DBA can make around $75,00-$90,000, while an IT project manager is looking at a salary of around $85,000-$100,000. Plus, as a government employee, you’ll receive an excellent benefits package. And if you’re an independent white or grey hat hacker brought in as a consultant, you’ll effectively make double the hourly rate of a someone on salary.
Have a look yourself at https://csiscareers.ca/available-jobs. You’ll find the IT-related positions under the ‘Science and Technology’ heading.