ASK THE GENERAL COUNSEL
Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com.
If you’re like many of my scientist, engineer, and computer expert clients, your hobbies and personal habits outside of work are, well, interesting. To be clear, I am not passing judgment. I actually say this with a sense of admiration, considering my own lack of technological prowess. But I sometimes find myself reminding these same clients that their recreational activities can raise eyebrows from the rest of us – including federal security officials. Here are a few examples that my “tech-y” friends would do well to keep in mind:
Long gone are the days of Napster and the general unawareness that file sharing copyrighted material was illegal. Now, many of my clients are being called to the carpet for this behavior – especially at the National Security Agency (NSA), which has an intense infatuation with this issue. If you have in the past downloaded anything illegally, make like Anthony Weiner and “hard delete” those files immediately. Then stop doing this! When the issue comes up later in security processing, as it inevitably will, you can at least say that you no longer have any of the illegally downloaded material in your possession, you have ceased the activity, and you have no future intent to re-start it. I know many of you see no reason why this should be a security concern, but trust me: your pre-polygraph interview is not the time to wax philosophical about what should and should not be in the public domain. I am not exaggerating when I say that roughly a quarter of the intelligence community denial cases I encounter involve illegal downloading.
Hacking the Neighbor’s Wi-Fi
For whatever reason, some of our clients view hacking their neighbor’s wireless internet as a test of their technological skills that demands to be accomplished: a rite of passage, if you will. This is a bad idea on many levels, but even worse when the hacker then piggy-backs off access as a means of avoiding a home internet bill. You may be surprised to learn that this issue arises with some frequency, so agencies are apparently onto the trend and actively asking security clearance applicants about it. Resist the urge to stick-it to the cable company and just pony-up the thirty bucks a month for your own internet. The risks are really not worth it.
Hacking the Neighbor’s Cable Signal
(See above). Resist. The. Urge.
Hopefully by now you get the point. For reasons that may (or may not) be obvious, federal agencies have deep concerns about any appearance of immoral conduct in the e-realm, despite the fact that these same agencies often need their own defenses tested or require offensive hackers to execute their mission. That rubs many folks’ sense of ethics the wrong way, but I’m only the messenger here and agencies are only implementing their interpretation of the National Adjudicative Guidelines for Security Clearances.
Just remember this: it’s better to be indignant and employed than righteous and broke.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.