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  • Crossing the line

    Attending the meet the Fed panel, we were encouraged to send our resumes in, so long as we "had not yet crossed the line" and were "clearable". I appreciate Robert Morris and his assoicates and counterparts in other agencies encouraging us, yet there was no clear definition of what "clearable" or not crossing the line is.

    It was mentioned that not smoking pot in the last 3 years was an issue. This is objective and easy to understand. But what about hacking? Is running a port scan across the Internet crossing the line? How about a distributed port scan using IRC bot-nets? For me, I think the line would be actually damaging information or a system (wether locally or via network) or stealing information to use for profit or distribute outside the intended distribution of the originator.

    What is your opinion on this subject?

    Also, perhaps a discussion of the clearance process is in order.

    Here is a url fora PDF of the SF-86 forms and instructions. http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/SF86.pdf

    Looking at the form, it seems to be a history of eduction, jobs and places lived, as well as some personal references and family member information as well as a few questions about being fired from jobs, drug use and alcholhol use. It seems that you are providing information for an investigator who will track down people to ask their opinions of you. They may be asked about your drinking or drug habits, their opinion of your honesty, and if they feel you are trustworthy. They would probably be asked questions about your patriotisim or if you have ever talked about hurting the United States Government. When "interesting" things are reported, I would expect that you would be interviewed and asked about any potential problem areas. I would suggest not lying in that interview.

    The sensitivity of the potential employer to one's foibles is probably proportional to the level of sensitivity that the job carries with it. A lower level clearance may allow certain things in your history which a higher level clearance would not.



    Thoughts ?

    Zoot
    Enough is too much

  • #2
    Originally posted by oldzoot
    Is running a port scan across the Internet crossing the line? How about a distributed port scan using IRC bot-nets?
    Here are some things I think would be considered crossing the line, or at least decrease chances of employment:

    Obviously crossing the line:
    Recent arrest(s) and/or conviction(s) in felony or misdemeanor. (Maybe if you have a really old criminal record, in something else, they might overlook it.)

    Friends and Family know you still (habitually*frequently] break laws. (Problems with Background Checks.)

    You know what you did was illegal and would not want it discovered or discussed in an interview. (Polygraph issues.)

    Beyond those, I don't know. Could they use arrest without conviction against you in choosing to not hire you?
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    • #3
      Been There...One Man's Story

      Crossing the line is exactly what it sounds like. For the Feds, it means committing a serious crime like murder, rape, and probably breaking into someone else's computer to steal their shit. If you've controlled a botnet of other people's systems, they would consider that crossing the line. In fact, admit this to them during an examination and they might decide to prosecute you.

      I've been through the Top Secret clearance process and have had an SF-86 submitted to the National Security Agency. It requires you to be explicitly detailed about your whereabouts over the last 15+ years, and it has the standard questions included in many corporate background check questionnaires.

      The questions are designed to develop an absolute record of your activities, including every place you have lived, worked, and breathed. You also have to answer questions about your contacts with foreign nationals, time out of the country, etc, etc. Any discrepancy is thoroughly dissected. (and I mean any...my first examiner noticed a missing 20-day span between my 2nd and 3rd college addresses...this was a short time I lived at home).

      The SF-86 form is used (aside from being an official account of your identity) as a precursor to the POLYGRAPH. This device, a logical evolution of such great truth-tests such as witch dunking, is the ever faithful lie detector. Questions are taken from the SF-86 and mixed in with general questions about your loyalty to the United States, "serious crimes", drug involvement etc. These questions are then given to you in a battery while you are strapped to a chair with breathing tubes (measuring your inhalation rate), a blood pressure strap, and electrodes on your fingertips to detect sweat.

      This is the most difficult part of any background investigation, and here is why. The test sucks. It has a long and lengthy history (and a professional org that swears by it), but it has an accuracy comparable with throwing darts. The device is designed to help an agent or examiner with psychological interrogation training to "read" your lies (if you're lying, that is). Guess what? YMMV. The test has a good track record for ferreting out actual liers, but it has an ENORMOUS false positive rate when dealing with truthful responses. In fact, the device's accuracy is poorest when dealing with a completely honest person. It's also very easy to beat, as any good double agent might tell you. Diane Sawyer beat it on national television.

      How do I know all this? Doing high-tech government work was my dream from the age of 10. I studied, learned, experimented, programmed, read, and absorbed. Most of all, I did it while keeping my nose (and record) clean. Knowing that my dreams would be ruined if I blew it, I tred lightly. And everyone who ever knew me would have said the same. And they did, when questioned over the phone and in person by NSA.

      Yet after a 6-month background verification, a psychological examination, and numerous interviews, I "failed" not one, but two polygraph examinations. By "failed" I mean I tested Inconclusive, which means they thought I was lying and I told them I was Not. And I was Not. I had never conspired against my country, I had never done any drugs (I didn't even try pot in college because I didn't want to blow my chances), and my worst crime ever had been getting caught with a beer at 19. The state police busted my high school graduation kegger (long story).

      The NSA invited me for a third examination, with the HR goon telling me "this happens all the time" but I had had enough mental torture to last me a lifetime. I felt like Chunk from the Goonies, when the Fratellis tell him to tell them "everything"...I decided to stay with my girl in Massachusetts rather than move to Maryland. Same girl became my wife. I win.

      The sad part of the tale is I had already been all but offered the job (an SNEIP summer internship, the college portal to Agency work) by the hiring manager. The NSA was (and still is) desparately in need of talented infosec staff, especially from the younger crowd that has been raised in the electronic age. But because of its reliance on an antiquated, questionable, and possibly pseudoscientific device to "filter out" bad apples, they burned themselves and and they burned me. I lost a lot of faith in the people that are running the show, and to this day I wonder how I would have been able to help protect and defend the country's information.

      In the end, the real diff would have been a cool badge. If thats really what you want, more power to you. Today I do the exact same work I would have done at NSA, helping to protect a critical national infrastructure but without any help from the Feds. I get paid a lot better and I have a lot more free time than the average FBI or NSA Special Agent.

      And no badge is cooler than a Defcon badge. They make GREAT case grills.
      Last edited by Grond; 08-02-2005, 01:22 AM.
      Jesus built my car
      It’s a love affair
      Mainly Jesus and my hot rod

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      • #4
        Originally posted by TheCotMan
        Here are some things I think would be considered crossing the line, or at least decrease chances of employment:

        Obviously crossing the line:
        Recent arrest(s) and/or conviction(s) in felony or misdemeanor. (Maybe if you have a really old criminal record, in something else, they might overlook it.)
        I'm sure they'd overlook a misdemeanor as long as it isn't that serious. Not all misdemeanors are created equal.
        Last edited by klepto; 08-02-2005, 04:54 AM.
        Delicious Poison:

        The difference between a nerd and a geek? Well a nerd does not wear Spider Man butt huggers.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Grond
          I've been through the Top Secret clearance process and have had an SF-86 submitted to the National Security Agency.
          snip

          Yet after a 6-month background verification, a psychological examination, and numerous interviews, I "failed" not one, but two polygraph examinations. By "failed" I mean I tested Inconclusive, which means they thought I was lying and I told them I was Not. And I was Not.

          In the end, the real diff would have been a cool badge. If thats really what you want, more power to you. Today I do the exact same work I would have done at NSA, helping to protect a critical national infrastructure but without any help from the Feds. I get paid a lot better and I have a lot more free time than the average FBI or NSA Special Agent.

          And no badge is cooler than a Defcon badge. They make GREAT case grills.
          Excellent response Grond. Your experience with the NSA sounds truly unpleasant, and your suggestion that there are many other places to work providing similar challenges and potential to benefit society is a great one. There are many jobs in infosec - even within the .gov world which do not require polygraph tests even for high level clearances. I have personally spoken with people in such positions who did the SF-86 and had a yearlong background investigation and were granted very high level clearances without having been subjected to the vagaries of the polygraph. I suppose it depends on the specific agency or department or contractor's HR / security rules as well as the specific level and type of clearance one is seeking.

          Zoot
          Enough is too much

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          • #6
            I can tell you from my experience (this is my personal opinion) that the clearance process is less about what you have done, and what you actually tell them. For example, if you smoked pot once in college and admitted to it, they probably wouldn't care so much. If you denied ever using drugs but they found out you actually did, now you're in deeper. That being said, admitting to a long list of crimes is probably not going to get you a job.

            Also, the investigation focuses on information about you that could lead you to be blackmailed. Generally, this is financial information but could be just about anything.

            As for actually process, the SECRET clearance is a basic background check that runs your name through various databases. The TOP SECRET clearance actually involves a DSS agent(s) interviewing your friends/relatives/neighbors/teachers and asking them information about you. At the TS level, you will generally be cleared for one or more compartments (that's the SCI portion of the clearance) that deal specifically with your job.

            The SECRET clearance is (relatively speaking) cheap, a TS clearance may approach six digits.

            I have some decent work experience in this field, with SF-86s and the clearance process, please feel free to ask away and I'll answer anything I can.
            "*x74*x68*x65*x70*x72*x65*x7a*x39*x38";

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            • #7
              I took their statements regarding crossing the line to mean "do not attack or try to intrude or otherwise compromise the DOD networks, they have enough trouble fighting the people that really want to do the U.S. harm and the casual hacker wastes resources" Now thats not verbatim, but I remember someone on the panel saying something very close to this.. Of course a long rap sheet and history of drug abuse isn't going to land you a spot on the short list either...
              Chi-Town Knuckleheads . . Winners of the DC 11 cannonball first time out!!!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by montare
                I took their statements regarding crossing the line to mean "do not attack or try to intrude or otherwise compromise the DOD networks, they have enough trouble fighting the people that really want to do the U.S. harm and the casual hacker wastes resources" Now thats not verbatim, but I remember someone on the panel saying something very close to this.. Of course a long rap sheet and history of drug abuse isn't going to land you a spot on the short list either...
                I wasn't there, but that makes a lot of sense. They are not likely to to find a talented "hacker" who, at some point in their learning, hasn't "crossed the line" in the most strict interpretation of the law.

                Here is a decent discussion of the legality of a simple port scan.
                Last edited by theprez98; 08-02-2005, 07:49 PM.
                "*x74*x68*x65*x70*x72*x65*x7a*x39*x38";

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by TheCotMan
                  Could they use arrest without conviction against you in choosing to not hire you?
                  Anything that could potentially subject you to blackmail is a likely reason for them to take a very close look at your background.
                  "*x74*x68*x65*x70*x72*x65*x7a*x39*x38";

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                  • #10
                    Check out these stories:

                    http://www.defenselink.mil/dodgc/doha/industrial/

                    Basically NEVER LIE. If they say you stole a candy bar and you stole three, tell them they missed two. You do NOT want them coming back later. Better YOU tell them than another source.

                    I knew a guy who was dropped from high school ROTC. He never mentioned it and thought nothing of it. It was not the fact he was dropped that hurt him, it was that he kept it quiet after they already knew. Stand in front of a mirror and admit to yourself all your fuckups. Now the hard part is done and you can face another person easily.

                    Are you doing pot now? Or other illegal stuff? Stop! The first thing you need to do to get out of a hole is to stop digging.

                    Download the SF-86 right NOW and fill it out. Mail it to yourself at Gmail, and anytime you need to fill one out, use the same one and add to it. It sucks to be a month off on the next one you fill out. Accuracy counts.

                    Oh and at DC13 one guy whined about not having a job in .gov yet. I had met him at DC8. In that amount of time you can do college or a military tour or anything positive besides watching for the MIB to knock at your door.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by astcell
                      Check out these stories:

                      http://www.defenselink.mil/dodgc/doha/industrial/

                      Basically NEVER LIE. If they say you stole a candy bar and you stole three, tell them they missed two. You do NOT want them coming back later. Better YOU tell them than another source.

                      I knew a guy who was dropped from high school ROTC. He never mentioned it and thought nothing of it. It was not the fact he was dropped that hurt him, it was that he kept it quiet after they already knew. Stand in front of a mirror and admit to yourself all your fuckups. Now the hard part is done and you can face another person easily.

                      Are you doing pot now? Or other illegal stuff? Stop! The first thing you need to do to get out of a hole is to stop digging.

                      Download the SF-86 right NOW and fill it out. Mail it to yourself at Gmail, and anytime you need to fill one out, use the same one and add to it. It sucks to be a month off on the next one you fill out. Accuracy counts.

                      Oh and at DC13 one guy whined about not having a job in .gov yet. I had met him at DC8. In that amount of time you can do college or a military tour or anything positive besides watching for the MIB to knock at your door.

                      I agree 100%. Also, the SF-86 only goes back 7 years, so that's a good baseline from which to start working your data. Also, they can be very particular about filling out certain portions. The more data you give them, the better.

                      The key to the job is getting the clearance. Once you actually have one, it's so much easier, and many more opportunities are opened to you.

                      Also, the SF-86 is in electronic form, in a program called EPSQ (Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire). This is much easier than a pdf or doing it by hand. And of course you can update it much easier. Here is a link to EPSQ.
                      Last edited by theprez98; 08-02-2005, 09:00 PM.
                      "*x74*x68*x65*x70*x72*x65*x7a*x39*x38";

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                      • #12
                        Hmm...my SF-86 required more than 10 years worth of previous addresses. Maybe that has changed (this was 1998).

                        I'm always interested in anyone else's experience with the polygraph. It really is the unfair part of the background check, and please believe me when I say that you can have a spit-shine clean record and be a goodie-two-shoes and still fail that test continually. I have an old friend in the FBI who says applicants can continually test Inconclusive and are usually re-invited to test until they pass (to a reasonable extent). According to him, the TLAs are far more interested (currently) in keeping BAD people out, even at the expense of not letting GOOD people in. I guess in that respect the graph is a useful tool (its true positive rate is 90%+ for someone who is being deceptive).
                        Jesus built my car
                        It’s a love affair
                        Mainly Jesus and my hot rod

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                        • #13
                          As far as I know, the current SF-86 goes back 7 years. I'll have to check on that.

                          Another thing they look for is your ability to account for periods of time. All of it. That generally means addresses where you lived, people who knew you while you lived there, etc. If you have trouble accounting for large periods of time (especially spent overseas), you will get the micoscope.
                          "*x74*x68*x65*x70*x72*x65*x7a*x39*x38";

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                          • #14
                            If you test inconclusive, ask what to do for the next visit. Maybe change your diet, don't drink coffee for a week beforehand, etc. Offer to make another appointment. Offer to help with the specificity of the questions if there is clarification needed in an answer. YOU be the one to get the info out there, don't you make THEM have to draw it out of you.

                            And once you have a clearance, stay squeaky clean. You have no excuses or freebies any more.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by astcell
                              Offer to help with the specificity of the questions if there is clarification needed in an answer.
                              This can be a big one. Polygraph "lie detectors" only report changes to your physiology. It is up to the person reading the results to understand the meaning.

                              If you had a family member (brother or sister for example) die from Drug Overdose, and you saw this, you might have a strong emotional association and response to drugs being mentioned. In such a case, when you are asked a question about your use of drugs, your physiological response may appear to be that of one of a lie, but in reality, is just an emotional reaction to trauma remembered.

                              Strong feelings and associatons can influence your physiology. Anger, hate, sadness, love, and lust can all alter your state.
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