From The Hacker Crackdown, by Bruce Sterling

See: The Hacker Crackdown: Preface to the electronic release for copying info

America's computer police are an interesting group. As a social phenomenon they are far more interesting, and far more important, than teenage phone phreaks and computer hackers. First, they're older and wiser; not dizzy hobbyists with leaky morals, but seasoned adult professionals with all the responsibilities of public service. And, unlike hackers, they possess not merely *technical* power alone, but heavy-duty legal and social authority.

And, very interestingly, they are just as much at sea in cyberspace as everyone else. They are not happy about this. Police are authoritarian by nature, and prefer to obey rules and precedents. (Even those police who secretly enjoy a fast ride in rough territory will soberly disclaim any "cowboy" attitude.) But in cyberspace there *are* no rules and precedents. They are groundbreaking pioneers, Cyberspace Rangers, whether they like it or not.

In my opinion, any teenager enthralled by computers, fascinated by the ins and outs of computer security, and attracted by the lure of specialized forms of knowledge and power, would do well to forget all about "hacking" and set his (or her) sights on becoming a fed. Feds can trump hackers at almost every single thing hackers do, including gathering intelligence, undercover disguise, trashing, phone-tapping, building dossiers, networking, and infiltrating computer systems -- *criminal* computer systems. Secret Service agents know more about phreaking, coding and carding than most phreaks can find out in years, and when it comes to viruses, break-ins, software bombs and trojan horses, Feds have direct access to red-hot confidential information that is only vague rumor in the underground.

And if it's an impressive public rep you're after, there are few people in the world who can be so chillingly impressive as a well-trained, well-armed United States Secret Service agent.

Of course, a few personal sacrifices are necessary in order to obtain that power and knowledge. First, you'll have the galling discipline of belonging to a large organization; but the world of computer crime is still so small, and so amazingly fast-moving, that it will remain spectacularly fluid for years to come. The second sacrifice is that you'll have to give up ripping people off. This is not a great loss. Abstaining from the use of illegal drugs, also necessary, will be a boon to your health.

A career in computer security is not a bad choice for a young man or woman today. The field will almost certainly expand drastically in years to come. If you are a teenager today, by the time you become a professional, the pioneers you have read about in this book will be the grand old men and women of the field, swamped by their many disciples and successors. Of course, some of them, like William P. Wood of the 1865 Secret Service, may well be mangled in the whirring machinery of legal controversy; but by the time you enter the computer-crime field, it may have stabilized somewhat, while remaining entertainingly challenging.

But you can't just have a badge. You have to win it. First, there's the federal law enforcement training. And it's hard -- it's a challenge. A real challenge -- not for wimps and rodents.

Every Secret Service agent must complete gruelling courses at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. (In fact, Secret Service agents are periodically re-trained during their entire careers.)

In order to get a glimpse of what this might be like, I myself travelled to FLETC.

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