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DHS Turns To Unpaid Interns For Nation's Cyber Security 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the probably-still-an-upgrade dept.
theodp writes "A week after President Obama stressed the importance of computer science to America, the Department of Homeland Security put out a call for 100+ of the nations' best-and-brightest college students to work for nothing on the nation's cyber security. The unpaid internship program, DHS notes, is the realization of recommendations (PDF) from the Homeland Security Advisory Council's Task Force on CyberSkills, which included execs from Facebook, Lockheed Martin, and Sony, and was advised by representatives from Cisco, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Northrop Grumman, the NSF, and the NSA. 'Do you desire to protect American interests and secure our Nation while building a meaningful and rewarding career?' reads the job posting for Secretary's Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteers (salary: $0.00-$0.00). 'If so, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is calling.' Student volunteers, DHS adds, will begin in spring 2014 and participate throughout the summer. Get your applications in by January 3, kids!"
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DHS Turns To Unpaid Interns For Nation's Cyber Security

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  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:15PM (#45747503)

    Ooo! Outsiders worked so well before! Snow-den! Snow-den! What fun.

    • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:22PM (#45747577) Homepage Journal

      Ooo! Outsiders worked so well before! Snow-den! Snow-den! What fun.

      If youi're taking a snipe at contractors vs govt personnel here on this one, there really isn't much a difference in the loyalty or trustworthiness of the two.

      If you're working on something security related, you have to sign the same forms saying you're liable to the same laws and penalties if you divulge secrets, etc.

      It isn't like the govt. worker is held to any standards higher than the contractor is, if working on the same system/data.

      And a secret clearance background check isn't any more thorough for a govt employee than it is for a contractor, they pretty much use the same exact methods and entities for them.

      • by the_B0fh (208483)

        Most people just don't get this. Strange, isn't it?

      • Why in the hell would you have a limited time internship that requires a secret level clearance that will probably take the UNPAID intern months to get?

        Seems like a ton of hassle for very little reward.
        • by TheCarp (96830)

          Someone once said to that while people complain about the salaries of politicians, some of the states with the most blatant corruption are the ones that don't pay their politicians much....so they have to be wealthy or in some pockets; nobody else can take the job.

          So what little reward? Clearly they are not looking tor people with much conscience. Conscience is a luxury of those who can afford it.

        • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday December 20, 2013 @03:13PM (#45748123)

          Why in the hell would you have a limited time internship that requires a secret level clearance that will probably take the UNPAID intern months to get? Seems like a ton of hassle for very little reward.

          Because it gets you that security clearance before graduation. When you and your peers begin applying for jobs after graduation you have an advantage, you already have security clearance.

          • by matfud (464184)

            I don't know how it works in the US. In the UK a security clearence is bound to your employer. Getting a new job involves transfering it.
            Mind you getting a SC is easier if you have had one previously.

            • by Githaron (2462596)
              If I understanding it correctly, in the US, your clearance is deactivated when you leave but can easily be reactivated by another employer with a certain period of time. Otherwise, you have to start the whole original expensive and time-consuming process over.
            • by parkinglot777 (2563877) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:28PM (#45748801)

              If you want to know about security clearance in the US, you can check it at http://www.state.gov/m/ds/clearances/c10978.htm [state.gov]

              For the cost of getting security clearance, you who is an employee would not be paying but your employer. I believe the cost is varied depended on case by case. http://news.clearancejobs.com/2011/08/07/how-much-does-it-really-cost-to-get-a-security-clearance/ [clearancejobs.com] gives some idea about how much but it is 2 years old...

            • Same in the US. However, getting the security clearance transferred is *much* easier than getting one from scratch (which, as someone else noted, can take months). It's especially easier if the clearance is currently active. So it's worthwhile to get one with whomever will get you one and then move to where you really want to be; having a currently active clearance will be a big leg up.

            • by s.petry (762400)

              Almost, but a bit more involved.

              In the US it depends on what type of clearance you get. Higher level clearances are tied to an employer, and will be suspended if you leave. A new employer can reactivate the clearance within 5 years, and of course a new more brief checking. Lower level clearances can be personal, and not tied to an employer. Those also expire in 5 years if not renewed (spend $$)

              That said, the clearance by itself does not give you access to anything. Each assignment will have it's own rule

      • by iamgnat (1015755) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:17PM (#45748691)

        Ooo! Outsiders worked so well before! Snow-den! Snow-den! What fun.

        If youi're taking a snipe at contractors vs govt personnel here on this one, there really isn't much a difference in the loyalty or trustworthiness of the two.

        If you're working on something security related, you have to sign the same forms saying you're liable to the same laws and penalties if you divulge secrets, etc.

        It isn't like the govt. worker is held to any standards higher than the contractor is, if working on the same system/data.

        And a secret clearance background check isn't any more thorough for a govt employee than it is for a contractor, they pretty much use the same exact methods and entities for them.

        All true, but at least we'd be paying the Fed employee less to screw us over. I did a stint as a DoD contractor and was paid a little more than twice what a Fed doing the same work (in the same group) was getting paid. And I was getting about a quarter of what was going to my contracting company for the position. Hell, given that math I'd be more worried about disgruntled Feds than contractors

      • by pubwvj (1045960)

        No, you completely and totally missunderstood that. Makes me wonder why you're so defensive.

    • "Hi, I'm Jihad McMuhammed, I'm here to start data analysis as your newest intern."

      "fine, why don't you take the Assistant Leader Personal Security desk over here, and coordinate our reactions to intelligence... you can text when you're not busy."

      what could possibly be wrong about that?

    • Ooo! Outsiders worked so well before! Snow-den! Snow-den! What fun.

      What makes you think these interns are sys admins? They are probably the folks playing world of warcraft and looking for sinister activities in chat.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      We need the return of the "what-could-possibly-go-wrong" tag.
  • by phoenix03 (3348193) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:16PM (#45747515)
    "...100+ of the nations' best-and-brightest college students.."
    "..to work for nothing"

    Boy. Can't imagine how they could say no to that.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      well hey, it will put people back to work right? I mean who cares if they arent getting paid as long as people are working!
    • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:56PM (#45747961)

      Exactly. What they're demonstrating here is the difference between saying "We're serious about fixing the problem" and "We're serious about fixing the problem and have allocated resources to demonstrate that". Promises of changes like these are worthless unless they're backed up with a budget, personnel, or infrastructure.

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:58PM (#45747989)

      "...100+ of the nations' best-and-brightest college students.."
      "..to work for nothing"

      Boy. Can't imagine how they could say no to that.

      They are college students. They get course credit for things like this, each quarter/semester is the equivalent of an elective class. That has a monetary value.

      Plus a key to getting hired is to have something on your resume other than your degree and its assigned coursework/projects. So it has monetary value in that regard too. Its not terribly different than voluntarily contributing to a FOSS project, well other than HR departments probably consider DHS experience and references more valuable.

      Thirdly, if you want to work for DHS this gets your foot in the door. In governmental bureaucracies like this knowing someone inside and/or having an insider reference is quite valuable. Works in corporations too. I think the newly announced General Motors CEO started at GM as an intern when she was in college.

      That said, I am not against paid internships. I am merely pointing out that as a student even an unpaid internship can have a value.

      • by whoever57 (658626)

        They are college students. They get course credit for things like this, each quarter/semester is the equivalent of an elective class.

        That's part of the problem. Credit should not be given for "internships" like this, which are clearly (read the description) used to obtain free labor with no training given back (just on-the-job experience).

        • by perpenso (1613749)

          They are college students. They get course credit for things like this, each quarter/semester is the equivalent of an elective class.

          That's part of the problem. Credit should not be given for "internships" like this, which are clearly (read the description) used to obtain free labor with no training given back (just on-the-job experience).

          I had a "paid internship", actually it was called "cooperative education" - I have no idea if there is a distinction between the two, and to get credit I had to write a report at the end of the quarter explaining how this work related to and contributed to my field of study. I'm not claiming that this report is some great hurdle but there is supposed to be some educational aspect, well at least in the co-op class I had.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      But they get a "meaningful and rewarding career," that is, if you define "meaningful" to mean "unpaid" and "rewarding" to mean "dead-end."

    • However if they can get elevated security access. That could be helpful for them in future jobs. As there are a lot of jobs that require security access, however they don't want to pay to put the candidate in the process.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:17PM (#45747525)

    $0 is a great price for being shunned by your peers for the rest of your life.

  • Evil Plot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie (914043) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:17PM (#45747535)
    Sometimes I wonder if unpaid internships are just part of a sinister plot to keep the class divide as large as possible. In college I knew lots of really bright people who had to skip internships because they had to do things like work so they could pay for school and, well, eat.

    I know that they are not intended that way, but it is one of the side issues with the 'internship' culture, they tend to be a step based off how much cash you have that can have major effects on your long term career options.
    • Re:Evil Plot (Score:5, Interesting)

      by realmolo (574068) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:30PM (#45747679)

      That's exactly what this is.

      The position requires a security clearance, for God's sake! This is an internship for the children of congressman and other highly-placed public officials (and, of course, children of big donors to the Republican and/or Democratic parties). Nothing will get accomplished, but a lot of rich kids will get to put it on their resume.

    • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:39PM (#45747775) Homepage

      DHS is clustered heavily in DC and the areas immediately outside of DC within the beltway. The cost of moving to this area just to work could easily add $10k-$12k in debt or lost savings for just a single summer. This is simply not an internship that makes sense for any student who comes from a family lacking real wealth.

      • It makes complete sense for the families of DC middle management, for the children of federal employees and lobbyists and military families with college age kids.

      • It should be noted that DC is the only place in America with an active baby boom going on now! These people are swimming in wealth and prosperity!!! For them, it's like living in 1998 all funded by -you- the tax payer.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      Sometimes I wonder if unpaid internships are just part of a sinister plot to keep the class divide as large as possible. In college I knew lots of really bright people who had to skip internships because they had to do things like work so they could pay for school and, well, eat.

      I don't know if there is such a plot, but it is definitely an effect of the increasing income disparity. I rather doubt a plot, because historical evidence suggests that an increasing divide in wealth distribution results in less

      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        Sometimes I wonder if unpaid internships are just part of a sinister plot to keep the class divide as large as possible. In college I knew lots of really bright people who had to skip internships because they had to do things like work so they could pay for school and, well, eat.

        I don't know if there is such a plot, but it is definitely an effect of the increasing income disparity. I rather doubt a plot, because historical evidence suggests that an increasing divide in wealth distribution results in less wealth for all (including the wealthy) over time.

        A quick glance at history suggests a shorter lifespan for those at the top of the wealth distribution curve. Shorter by a head, that is...

        • by femtobyte (710429)

          The wealthy might have learned a bit from history --- each time around in the cycle, they're able to hold a bigger advantage; centuries of work to perfect propaganda techniques and control the masses, allowing ever greater levels of accumulated power and wealth. Meanwhile, the common people are convinced to forget their struggles every generation --- and accept a re-written history in which all progress was benevolently and peacefully handed down from our Capitalist overlords.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        I doubt that it's a plot, largely because I tend not to believe in plots rather than because it's intrinsicly unlikely. However:

        While increasing the income disparity has the long term effect of decreasing the wealth of those at the top, that's only in the long term. In the short term it's to their monetary benefit.

        Also, an increased disparity in wealth translates into in increased disparity in social status, and that advantage doesn't evaporate in the long term. (Well, not until the revolution.)

        Because o

    • by nbauman (624611)

      In addition to that, kids have to use their family connections to get the unpaid internship. A law firm, advertising agency or something will hire a kid because his father is one of their clients.

      It used to be that kids would use their family connections to get a paid internship.

      There are even agencies that will place kids in an unpaid internship for a fee in the thousands of dollars.

    • I think you're onto something, but paid interns are the ones who actually get jobs. Turns out those students convinced to work for free don't fair much better than students that get no internship. What's ironic is that unpaid interns are actually paying [tuition] to get college credits while working a job without compensation. Crazy. Here's the first source [washingtonmonthly.com] I could find.

      Not necessarily a plot, just another trick in the bag.
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:17PM (#45747539)

    Thought that was exploitive and slave like to use unpaid interns.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Thought that was exploitive and slave like to use unpaid interns.

      States have caught on to this (though probably not fully altruistically since they lose out on taxes from these unpaid workers), but it's nice to see that the federal government doesn't mind exploiting workers for no pay. Why should they pay when the workers will do it for free - besides, this work benefits everyone. Seems like a good move for government - don't pay workers, but give them all of the essentials that they need to live. They could even use a catchy slogan "From each according to his ability,

  • by JeremyR (6924)

    From each according to his ability...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I would have thought anyone working in this area would need security clearance - which can take quite a while to get. How is that effort going to make sense (or be done in time) for spring/summer 2014 temporary work?

    • They can start with an interim security clearance. The interim security clearance only doesn't hold up when the applicant perjures himself. At which point, of course, he winds up in Federal PMITA Prison.
  • Also relevants... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phoenix03 (3348193) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:26PM (#45747633)
    This position requires a Security Clearance of SECRET. SO, let me get this straight. Unpaid, FULL TIME, college age, best and brightest... with access to secret level items...

    Nevermind. This is a great idea. What could possibly go wrong?
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:28PM (#45747649)

    It ensures only the ideologically pure will come to work for them.

    • Doesn't work for the tech sector, or any other for that matter. Hey, genius, see that carrot dangling out there called "future job"? Yeah, it's made of money. The internship means that only the folks who aren't poor enough to need money will work for them.

    • batwing crazies are fixated, too

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:28PM (#45747653)

    ...during the Clinton years, but before the Monica Lewinski scandal where government would place ads in newspapers and certain periodicals asking for interns. The ads mentioned something along the lines of "gain experience under the nation's leaders". After the Monica scandal, this bit of wording was changed.

  • by Akratist (1080775) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:29PM (#45747657)
    "hey...wait...this looks like the Obamacare website..."
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:29PM (#45747659) Homepage Journal
    Not only you help spy on your family and friends, help to demolish remaining US freedoms, but also you get not paid for that! How you can refuse that great deal?
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:40PM (#45747791) Homepage

    Put that experience on a resume and you're likely to see more rejections than you would expect normally. There was a time when "government job" meant something but now it means something else entirely to a growing number of people and businesses out there. Things are getting polarized. Working and living in the DC area showed me exactly how polarized they are even 3-4 years ago.

    • On the contrary, if you get a TS/SCI clearance which is tagged to your person, it's a near guarantee of a quick job at a contractor with the intelligence or military.

      Government jobs are rarely free tickets to industry. Unless you were an insider with contacts and power (who could get jobs on the inside), or you happen to have worked for one of the exceptionally rare "shiny" departments (like NASA), a government employee just looks like someone who is going to expect a shit-ton of benefits *plus* the higher

      • by erroneus (253617)

        At the moment, until the people can trust their government again, participating in government makes you a bad guy especially if your job is essentially protecting the bad guys.

        The most significant move to protect the security of the US is for the US to stop ficking with people in other nations. While I recognize that won't stop the Chinese or the Israelis (the Israelis will consider the US an enemy if we stop supporting them) it's a step in the direction of regaining the trust of the people of the US and t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They don't get paid! It's the biggest safety mechanism that the government has left.

  • by Zephyn (415698) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:42PM (#45747817)

    You want to offer a bunch of impressionable young people, most of whom are accumulating large amounts of debt, the opportunity to learn as much as they can about the computer security infrastructure of the country. While they do this, we're not paying them a cent or giving them any guarantees regarding future employment, further increasing their financial insecurity in the present and the future, as well as exploiting whatever sense of loyalty they might feel for their country for the purpose of reducing government labor costs.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It has been diluted into what was called "sensitive but unclassified".

    In most cases, you have to have "secret" just to get past the guard house.

    When I started, the order was "unclassified","classified", "secret", "top secret", with variations within those categories. Nowdays unclassified means unemployed :), classified means its an official document... But to get on base you have to have a "secret" or "top secret" clearance. For DHS, it means than secret is needed to get past the front door.

    The other reason

  • by gapagos (1264716) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:57PM (#45747973)

    "Hey kid. They're not paying you, but we can help out! All we need you to do is run "trojanbackdoormasterleaker.exe" on the server with admin privileges. We can even pay you twice as much as McDonald's would! Your $30,000 salary's in the mail!"

  • by peterofoz (1038508) on Friday December 20, 2013 @03:04PM (#45748033) Homepage Journal
    If they're displacing regular employees or they derive immediate advantage from the activities of the intern...

    6 Legal Requirements For Unpaid Internship Programs [forbes.com]

  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Friday December 20, 2013 @03:16PM (#45748159)

    "which included execs from Facebook, Lockheed Martin, and Sony, and was advised by representatives from Cisco, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Northrop Grumman, the NSF, and the NSA."

    Aren't these chuckleheads a good representation of all that is evil and corrupt and driving Team USA into the ground?

    • by Bucc5062 (856482)

      I have mod points, but could not figure out Insightful, funny, or interesting so I post for all three and hope others mod you up.. Well said.

  • You're telling me the largest single discretionaru expenditure point of the government, the DoD, can't fork out minimum wage for Info Sec interns? Jesus the least I got when interning in college was $12 an hour. The other positions paid me $19 or $20 WHILE I got course credit. I know guys that interned with some bigger companies pulling down almost twice that.
    Good luck with this approach DHS. Not like there is any competition out there...
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Friday December 20, 2013 @03:57PM (#45748515)

    I hear Edward Snowden is looking for a job.

    • Better yet, he already has his security clearance, though it might need a minor update now that he's done some international travel. ;-)

  • by PPH (736903)

    All the data and documents you can carry.

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Friday December 20, 2013 @04:35PM (#45748845)

    Well there you have it. The USA government finds security so important they are willing to spend the grand sum of $0 on it. They could have some pretty good consultants if they'd pay $100/hour

    The interns they really want, easily get a decent pay for their skills in a lot of computer companies. Anyone willing to work for $0 will have ulterior motives to do so. Either they are so unskilled that even operating a cash register at a fast food restaurant at minimum wages is too difficult for them, or someone else is paying them to go do the work.

    If the government didn't want to be regulating prices and wages and income of their citizens, they would put out a bid and have the lowest qualifying bidders do the job. Now they are pushing the market by forcing the price to zero.

    I don't know who came up with this plan, but they really must hate their country and it's citizens a lot.

  • by lophophore (4087) on Friday December 20, 2013 @05:16PM (#45749203) Homepage

    The best and the brightest are going to shiny big companies that will pay them well for their internships. We've all heard the stories about compensation of interns at Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

    Further, in the post-Snowden world, I doubt many idealistic young computer scientists want *anything* to do with the feds "cyber"-anything.

    The DHS will get bottom-of-barrel "talent" -- if any at all.

  • You get what you pay for.
  • Shall I work for free protecting the very organizations that declined me even a job interview, or shall I work for a nice cushy salary pilfering from them? Decisions, decisions...

Uncompensated overtime? Just Say No.

Working...