Crack Sandia team hacks - but only if asked

Tuesday, 20 January 2004, 4:34 AM EST

What does a hacker look like? It's not an easy question for Sandia National Laboratories scientists to answer - even when they're the ones doing the hacking.

"It's got to be the curly hair," said Barbara Surbey, a slender, straight-haired hacker, holding up a strand of her coworker's curly hair. "It's a dead giveaway: hacker!"

Surbey and about 20 others work on Sandia's Red Team, a group that tests vulnerabilities in government and private computer networks.

In other words, they hack before real hackers can do serious damage.

They find ways to protect confidential government information and private infrastructures such as the power grid and telephone system from terrorists and others with dubious motives.

This month Red Team won a Sandia President's Quality Award for its work. The awards are given yearly to recognize well-managed, high-impact efforts by teams across the labs.

By Sue Vorenberg at the Albuquerque Tribune.

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