Help me figure out how I can do really cool computer security stuff for a living. The catch: it can't be work for the NSA or Justice Department or anything that requires a security clearance.
A little background on me: I'm 24, I have a BS in computer science from one of the NSA centers of excellence and was involved in the "Cybercorps" Scholarship for Service
program, and I live and work in DC. A part of this scholarship is federal service doing information assurance (IA) work for two years after graduation. That's fine: I've been working with the DOD for the past 18 months or so, and have 6 months left to fulfill my obligation to the government.
There are two problems with my situation. The first is that I hate my current job. It has nothing to do with IA and there's absolutely no chance that it will. The only reason I'm here is to fulfill the remainder of my service obligation. The second is that I'm having real problems getting a security clearance. I haven't been flat-out denied (yet), but they denied my interim secret clearance and I've been stuck in adjudication for the past 3 months. In addition, I'm pretty sure that I've had TS/SCI clearances denied from the NSA in the past, although I haven't FOIA'd the information to find out exactly why I was considered ineligible for the conditional job offers. I assume that this all stems from a period from around from 18-20 where I smoked pot frequently, plus extensive foreign travel and having lived abroad during my teenage years. If my secret clearance is denied, I'll be fired from my current job, which, to be honest, I would not mind too much.
So while I'm qualified professionally to work for the feds doing security work, they don't trust me. I'm cool with that, but I'm still interested in doing security stuff for a living. So my questions to the hive mind are:
1. Where and in what industries can I find cutting-edge computer security work? (People have suggested financial in NYC to me. I am not yet sure I want to leave DC, but I'm open to moving.)
2. How can I land an entry-level computer security job in one of these industries when I've spent the last 2 years putzing around doing stuff not related to the field I'm interested in?
3. What further work experience would be useful to prepare for this sort of a career? (I have experience with Linux and other free OSs but I haven't used this professionally in the past few years. It's a little under 11 years of hobbyist experience, but I have been paid to be a sysadmin before, and I wouldn't mind doing it again. Bonus: what sort of a career track can a sysadmin expect?)
Any other advice would be appreciated.
You can contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org