Black Hat

DHS secretary asks for more participation and cooperation with cybersecurity pros

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies May 26, 2021, at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security in Washington. Mayorkas asked for increased cooperation from the largely expert audience Thursday during a keynote address at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas closed Black Hat Thursday evening with a keynote address asking cybersecurity professionals to consider working for the Department of Homeland Security and, if that is not for them, help in other ways, including helping foster a diverse next generation of cyber talent.

"We're increasing access to the field of cybersecurity," he said. "Across every level, we seek to draw on every ounce of talent and maximize the incredible potential that exists in communities across our country. We want every voice at the table. We need your creativity, your ideas, your boldness, and your willingness to push limits."

Mayorkas echoed earlier comments from CISA Director Jen Easterly, who also asked for increased participation and cooperation with DHS from the largely expert audience.

The secretary highlighted upcoming changes to the hiring practices for cybersecurity staff at DHS designed to make his department more competitive in recruiting talent and more flexible in receiving mid-career transfers from the private sector. He noted that the power to create that policy, known as the Cyber Talent Management System, was first enacted in 2014.

"It's taken too long to get here," he said.

While Mayorkas said he "cannot overstate the pride and sense of profound fulfillment one will have in joining our team," he did offer ways to help the mission even without joining the DHS workforce. For one, he said, people could act as a bridge between the hacker community and DHS, increasing collaborative work and the flow of outside research to bolster cybersecurity projects. A second way, he said, was to get involved in mentorships. Mayorkas highlighted DHS's recent partnership with the Girl Scouts to produce security-capable youth as an example.

"We need you to help us navigate a path that has not yet been mapped," he said. "What's at stake here is nothing less than the future of the internet, the future of our economic and national security, and the future of our country"

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