I’ve been reading Stephen Levy’s Crypto which gives a nice history of public cryptography (vs. private crypto which has been around much longer) and follows Whit Diffie at least in the chapters I’ve read so far. I will post a full review once I finish the book. In the meantime, Levy mentions the NSA’s involvement with creation of the Data Encryption Standard (DES) and pressuring IBM to reduce the key size to 56bits.
The book really has me wondering where and how the NSA is recruiting such top talent (mathematics, scientists, engineers). I’ve been scouring the web and haven’t been able to find much information. I find it hard to believe that the NSA sits back and waits for top talent to approach it. I’m thinking of the usual nerd stereotype: aspergers and introverted. I just can’t imagine these folks dying to work for the government in a stuffy cubicle from 08:00-17:00.
I came across one well documented account of someone’s experience with the actual NSA interview process: http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/nsa-interview.pdf Unfortunately, he was not accepted.
I know nowadays the NSA appears at college career fairs and can even be found on facebook. However, what was the process 50 years ago during the height of the cold war?
Is the NSA secretly recruiting? Monitoring doctoral dissertations and white papers and then approaching the authors? I’ve heard from folks that the three letter agencies have plants on college campuses watching for potential rising stars.
The private sector may be winning over candidates because of the salary gap. However, the NSA still has the allure of the best technology, biggest budget, and access to the most information (beat that Google!).