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March 18th, 2010
11:52 AM ET

To battle computer hackers, the Pentagon trains its own

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Mark Thompson
TIME

After years of building firewalls and other defenses against relentless hacker attacks, the Pentagon is going over to the dark side of computer warfare. Only ethically, of course. The Defense Department, like most large organizations, has recognized that no wall is high enough to keep out skilled and determined hackers for keeps. Instead, it has decided that in order to anticipate and thwart those attacks, it needs to know what the hackers know.

"More than 100 foreign intelligence organizations are trying to hack into U.S. systems," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn warned last month. "Some governments already have the capacity to disrupt elements of the U.S. information infrastructure." So the Pentagon recently modified its regulations to allow military computer experts to be trained in computer hacking, gaining designation as "certified ethical hackers." They'll join more than 20,000 such good-guy hackers around the world who have earned that recognition since 2003 from the private International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (also known as the EC-Council).

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