Donna Smith – Director of Marketing

*The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of iSECURE or the individuals mentioned within it.*

“Hacker” can often have a negative connotation associated with it. In the media, we hear about these hackers stealing our credit card data, personal information, and costing businesses millions of dollars. When I started working in the Cyber Security industry, it was my job to tell customers how we can help them STOP the hackers. However, now I’m here to tell you that we need MORE of them… the good kind, that is.

There is another side to “hackers” that often get misrepresented and often goes untold. Webster’s definitions for “hacker” include “an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer” and “a person who gets unauthorized access to information on a computer system”.  At first glance, this can sound scary, but I personally know some “hackers” who are some amazing people, who are not scary at all, and ultimately here to help us.

chris-poulinLongtime colleague and comrade, Chris Poulin – Research Strategist for IBM X-Force, is a prime example of a “good hacker.” Chris has been researching the connectivity of cars and the dangers associated with vulnerabilities in vehicles. Chris states in one of his previous blogs, “We need to find and mitigate the vulnerabilities in connected vehicles before they’re widely exploited by the dark side of the cyber security battle.”  Exactly: We should not be waiting for “the others” to figure out how to hack these technologies before know how to; we have to be proactive in securing these technologies! As an expert in the Internet of Things (IoT), Chris continuously evangelizes how we should all become fervent about the security aspect of our technologies and to gain a better understanding of them, since most everyday items we use are becoming connected and leaving us all more vulnerable. IoT isn’t just a job for Chris – he lives and breathes it.  This passion is part of the reason he’s helped make so many advancements in the security industry.  (In fact, sometime I think he may even be looking for a way to become connected himself – hence the new ink.)

chris-robertsAnother “good hacker” I’ve had to privilege to meet and befriend is Chris Roberts, Chief Security Analyst at Acalvio Technologies and one of the world’s foremost experts on counter threat intelligence. You may have seen him in the news for his “unofficial” work in avionics (friendly reminder: not everything you read on the Internet is true), but I’ve actually had the honor to hear Roberts speak in-person at some of our previous iSECURE conferences (and believe me, he does not disappoint)! Although some may question Robert’s ethics in his research (particularly the government), I stand behind Robert’s work 100% because his motive is to help organizations to protect themselves against other hackers doing the exact same thing for criminal purposes. I appreciate his passion and motivation (and his beard chic), and especially that he is working on behalf of “our side.” We shouldn’t thwart the kind of “unconventional” developments that he and other “good hackers” make in security.

Finally, let’s not forget the certified ethical hackers at Cyber Security companies who offer their security services to help organization proactively identify vulnerabilities and mitigate their risk of breach, before the “bad hackers” identify them first. These ethical hackers, pen testers, and security engineers dedicate their time and efforts to continuously stay ahead of the evolving threats, and it’s not getting any easier, as the number of cybercrimes and ransomware continues to rise, malware attacks shift from PC to mobile, and we continue to deploy billions of under-protected IoT devices! Recent reports predict that “the demand for the (cybersecurity) workforce is expected to rise to 6 million (globally) by 2019, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million”.  With that said, we need more of the “good hackers” and we need them ASAP! We need to inspire more students toward this field of study in high school & college (especially women and minorities, but I’ll save that rant for the next blog), we need to encourage research in IoT (especially at the development-level), and maybe we should consider redefining the words “hacker/hacking” to be seen as a less negative term to encourage this growth of a much needed profession. We can start by spreading the word: Once you hack, you never go back!

This blog and corresponding t-shirt is dedicated to the Chris Poulins & the Chris Roberts of the world: You guys inspire me!