Hackers can actually turn into cyber warriors, and help companies fight against information breach big time. The term “hacker” has now an unpleasant connotation associated with criminals, thanks to a series of damaging hack attacks that cost millions of dollars.
Notable cyber attacks are those done to Target, Dairy Queen, Home Depot, U.S. Postal Service, J.P. Morgan Chase and restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s. They put millions of confidential data, including debit and credit card information, to risk. The hackers did not let 2014 pass without catching up with more victims – Sony Pictures, whose hacking is linked to North Korea, as well as shutting down gaming sites Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.
Year 2015 is said to be the year of cyber security. If there is a need, then there is money for people and firms who have solutions.
Being more escalated now is the cyber security industry, wherein the leading figures were native hackers, who now helping government agencies and companies fight against cybercrimes, such as Greg Martin, 33, founder of startup ThreatStream. Martin is just one of those guys who grew up with computers, who at a young age already infiltrated networks simply for childish tricks; and outsmarted authorities, parents and teachers.
As their mischief turned into a hobby, the computer world child hackers grew with, became an economic foundation. While the scope of hacking widens, from stealing information to espionage and terrorism, the need for hackers escalates. Other hackers still retain the feel of pranks and power. Some turn into trouble making while others even steal money. There are those who live silently in their private world, only coming out if they see a dire need, such as sending war declarations, as in the current Charlie Hebdo issue in Paris.
However, others build careers and venture into their own companies, protecting the thing they value most. They are called “white hat” or ethical computer hackers.
Dan Kaminsky, 35, founder of a malware detection company White Ops said the Internet was not designed to be secure and safe. Martin sees this and is among the child hackers turned into cyber warriors, harnessing his skills into something legally productive. He is a self-taught coder, getting his first computer learning from an IBM Clone 8086 his real estate broker father bought in 1988 while they were in Texas and he was 7.
After a year, he has programmed a local Domino’s Pizza to be flooded with fake calls, and joined hacker forums to discuss new programming techniques. He studied about operating systems and stayed up until 2 a.m. for many nights. At that time, when Internet was not everybody’s way of life, hacking simply means breaking into others’ place and see what one could get, and earn respect in their small world – something which made a couple of youths like Martin, very engaged.
For Martin though, he was just interested in being in control, but did not want to cause problems. He went into his school’s network, not to alter his grades but to program the computers to shut down simultaneously. He then got a summer job administering such network.
At 16, he already made $500 weekly helping run a local Internet service provider. It was when he became a victim of a competitor hacker, who stole the passwords of his customers. So upset, his focus changed from simple hacking to protecting people from hackers. He also realized that his computer skills could give him real career and dreamed about starting a company.
Good hackers are risk takers, confident, have the compulsion to break things to understand them and the desire to be recognized – qualities that are required to succeed as entrepreneurs. Deloitte and Touch Head Lance James said hackers need validation and like controlling things. Thus, they are better understood when forming a company. People listen to companies more and take them seriously.
As hackers can turn into cyber warriors and be in the forefront of fighting security henceforth, there is only one thing left for them to prove. These young hackers that have turned into entrepreneurs just need to make the digital world more safe and secure.
By Judith Aparri
Photo courtesy of Minnesota National Guard – Flickr License