Researchers wishing to apply to New York-based Red Balloon Security have to complete an unusual technical interview as part of their application process: unlocking a hard drive containing crypto.
According to a report from Business Insider, Red Balloon sends the hard drives to certain candidates for cybersecurity research positions at the firm. Anyone who has the “the skills and passion” to crack the encryption would be able to claim 0.1337 Bitcoin (BTC), or roughly $4,800 at the time of publication. Applicants who are able to access the coins are told to purchase a ticket to New York City for the next step.
"We're one of the few companies in the world that do this, outside of various intelligence agencies," said Red Balloon CEO Ang Cui. “We're a small company, we're looking for a very niche type of security person, and we don't have the massive amount of human energy to waste on screening through every single resume.”
Cui said that the cybersecurity firm sent the test packages to almost every applicant, but the success rate was roughly 1%. Red Balloon currently has 29 employees, 6 of whom have reportedly joined in the last year.
"If I send out 150 to 200 pounds of hard drives [with Bitcoin], I will typically get back one human team member. It's a worthy investment."
Founded in 2011, the firm has apparently taken this unique approach to technical interviews for some time. At least one Crypto Twitter user claimed to have received similar instructions to retrieve Bitcoin five years ago, while others pointed out Red Balloon had challenged programmers to unlock hard drives with crypto as part of the Defcon hackers' conference in 2017:
OK, this Red Balloon challenge is seriously cool!— Mudge (@dotMudge) July 19, 2017
Get a Hard Drive to reverse Bitcoin from (firmware) Saturday by the pool.#defcon pic.twitter.com/Z99igaDxcm