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Hire that Hacker

That a private-sector computer consultant was able to easily hack into the FBI's computers and gain access to the passwords of Director Robert S. Mueller ...

That a private-sector computer consultant was able to easily hack into the FBI's computers and gain access to the passwords of Director Robert S. Mueller III and 38,000 other G-men and -women, along with gigabytes of other sensitive information, is certainly an embarrassment for the agency, where it sometimes must seem that not much has gone right since J. Edger Hoover's boys took out John Dillinger in 1934.

But Joseph Thomas Colon did the FBI a huge favor, exposing weaknesses and vulnerabilities that might have led to far worse consequences than the time and treasure expended to plug the holes Colon exploited. Just ask the Veterans Administration. Or government people in Alabama, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Washington, D.C., all of which in the past month or so have suffered hacker attacks or other security breaches -- in Minnesota, a tape containing sensitive personal data was lost in the mail!

Colon, who says in court filings that his motives were pure and that agents in an FBI field office approved his actions, nevertheless lost his job and could face up to 18 months in prison. If he goes to the slammer, when he gets out he might hang out a security-consulting shingle.

It's a rare week that goes by without news of a computer-security breach at one level of government or another, and of course it is people like Colon, doing exactly what he did but but with the full knowledge and support of government officialdom, whose services are desperately needed all the way up and down the government data chain.

John Martin is a senior editor for Governing.
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