Hackers with criminal convictions could be signed up by the government as digital spies, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said.
Hammond said the conviction and sentence would be examined but if the candidate got past the vetting process, "I can't rule it out".
The head of the new unit of "cyber reservists", Lieutenant Colonel Michael White, said he was not setting "hard and fast rules about individual personality traits".
As well as protecting against online attack, the Joint Cyber Reserve Unit will have an offensive capability able to strike at enemies, which is where hackers could come into their own as military assets.
Asked by BBC2's Newsnight whether someone with the right skills would be ruled out if they had a criminal record for hacking, Lt Col White said: "I think if they could get through the security process, then if they had that capability that we would like, then if the vetting authority was happy with that, why not?
"We're looking at capability development, rather than setting hard and fast rules about individual personality traits."
Hammond also told Newsnight he could foresee circumstances in which convicted hackers could be given a role.
"Each individual case would be looked at on its merits," he said. "The conviction would be examined in terms of how long ago it was, how serious it was, what sort of sentence had followed. So I can't rule it out."
"There are many professional people out there who will have the skills that you might traditionally associate with the hackers' skill set who have never done anything illegal and who scrupulously maintain their activities on the right side of the law.
"So this will be a matter of judgment in individual cases. But the armed forces overall do not have an absolute bar on people with criminal convictions becoming members of them."
The new unit will have "considerable flexibility" in recruiting criteria, without the same standards of fitness required for infantry reservists.
The "routine" would be for them to wear uniform but if they were carrying out work away from the public eye "they may not always do so".
Hammond said: "What we are trying to do is recruit the very brightest and the best from across the IT industry and use the skill sets they have got in the national interest to enhance our cyber defences and to help us build an offensive cyber capability."
Apple Macbook Air 13 Inch
<a href="http://www.apple.com/uk/" target="_blank">A light but powerful compromise</a> between the heavier-duty Macbook Pro, the new 13-inch Macbook Air has an incredible 12-hour battery, a new Intel Haswell chip and is just as light and portable as ever. A stunning machine.
Google Chromebook Pixel
<a href="http://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/chrome/devices/chromebook-pixel/" target="_blank">Google's ChromeBook Pixel</a> has the best screen we've ever seen on a laptop - and features stunning hardware design. It only runs the browser-based Chrome OS, however, and as such is severely limited in what it can actually do. But for the right kind of user, it's a wonderful machine.
Apple Macbook Pro 15-Inch With Retina Display
The Macbook with Retina display is just a beautiful, capable machine in every respect. WIth its elegant OS X software, stunning looks and lightweight, portable design, <a href="http://store.apple.com/uk/buy-mac/macbook-pro" target="_blank">it's an all-around classic.</a>
Samsung Series 7 Ultra
Samsung makes thin, beautiful, hard-wearing laptops, and this is no exception. It has an i% chip , a brilliant 1080P touchscreen and runs the always-improving Windows 8.1 OS. It starts at £1,000 and if you want a Windows machine at the same price-point as a Macbook Air, it's a good place to start.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13-inch
<a href="http://www.laptopmag.com/review/laptops/lenovo-ideapad-yoga.aspx#review">Laptop Magazine said</a> "the IdeaPad Yoga is an able contortionist, blurring the line between laptop and tablet, while enabling users to explore the full capabilities of Windows 8". We agree. With a bright touchscreen, an 180-degree rotating display and an all-important sturdy hinge, it's a decent bridge between tablet and laptop.
HP Chromebook 11
Like the bigger, and much more expensive Pixel, the Chromebook 11 only runs Google's very limited browser-based OS. But it also costs just £229, has a genuinely excellent screen and keyboard, and charges via MiniUSB rather than a traditional laptop charger. It's a storming machine for the price, as long as you're able to live within Google's walled garden.
ACER Aspire S7
The S7 is the same weight as the Macbook Air, has a great 1920 x 1080 pixels (touch) screen and is actually a little thinner than Apple's signature laptop. It has a lower-quality battery, though, and while it's cheaper by about £60 you might want to make sure Windows is that crucial for your workflow before making your choice.
For gamers you can't go far wrong with the <a href="http://www.dell.com/uk/p/alienware-17/pd?ST=alienware%20m17x&dgc=ST&cid=41141&lid=1069630&acd=239715600820560" target="_blank">Alienware M17x</a>. It's hefty, yes - you're not going to want to carry this around on the Tube too often. But it has a brilliant graphics card, as you'd expect, a 1080p 17-inch screen and runs an Intel Core i7. (Starts at around £1315)
Sony Vaio Pro
Sony's Vaio Pro line-up has all the basic high-quality features you want: they're light and thin, with decent battery life and excellent displays. They also have Sony's trademark black-ninja design and a few decent extras. They're not perfect - <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/4/4395926/sony-vaio-pro-review-were-going-to-war-with-the-macbook-air" target="_blank">The Verge notes they tend to feel a bit "flexible" in the middle</a> - but they're an excellent pro laptop range.