How computer security pros hack the hackers

If you want to meet a really smart hacker, talk to a cybersecurity defender. These talented professionals are working every day to make cybercrime harder and less lucrative.

By Roger A. Grimes
June 7, 2017


My “work” was a file that would have reformatted his computer’s hard drive and destroy everything on it if he rebooted his computer. I had “remarked” the fatal lines out of my script so that it was currently harmless. But I could have removed literally three characters (i.e., rem) and rendered the previously harmless script quite deadly, at least to his computer.

The DDoS attack stopped immediately. The obviously humbled remote hacker came back online to the chat channel and incredulously asked, “Man, how did you do that?” Finally, he was talking like a normal human with all the false swagger gone. I replied, “Rick, there’s a lot of hackers who are better than you. Stop your malicious hacking and use your skills to do good. Spend more time with your new hot wife. One day you may mess with the wrong guy or agency. This is your wake-up call.”

With that, I dropped the chat channel and started to get to work on my day job. It’s not the first time that I had to do a little offensive hacking to get another hacker to leave me alone, and I’m certainly not the only one with the skills to do so. In fact, the best, smartest hackers I know are the good guys and girls, not the malicious creeps who plague our digital lives. I’m a 30-year computer security veteran, always out fighting the good fight, along with tens of thousands of others just like me. Our adversaries are, on average, less smart than we are.

This is not to say that all malicious hackers are dumb. That’s not the case. It’s just that the vast majority aren’t overly bright; they are average. In a given year, I’ll see maybe one or two smart hackers do things that no one else has ever done before. But most malevolent hackers I come across aren’t brilliant or creative. They simply use tools, techniques and services that other smarter hackers previously created. Far from being the mythic hackers that Hollywood celebrates, most are regular, run-of-mill rubes who couldn’t code an emoji icon.

If you want to meet a really smart hacker, talk to a cybersecurity defender. They have to be experts in their technology and able to figure out how to stop all the threats that are trying to take it down. They are the hidden Henry Fords and Einsteins of our digital society. While the media is portraying rogue hackers as the smarter element, the defenders are tightening the net and helping to stop and arrest more of them than ever.

 

Right now hacking is almost risk-free

Like the Tommy Gun-toting bank robbers of the early 1900s, hackers today are very successful. The riches of our digital society have been accumulating faster than the needed protections. And the chances of being caught, much less arrested, for cybercrime were nearly zero. A hacker could steal millions of dollars with almost no risk.

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