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Reasons to be thankful for cybersecurity experts and hackers

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reasons to be thankful for cybersecurity experts and hackers is If we had to pinpoint one tech career with truly great prospects over the next couple of years, it’d be cybersecurity. Demand for cybersecurity/hackers pros is huge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in network systems and information security are expected to grow by 77 percent through 2018.

Hackers have a bad reputation, but these tech renegades actually do serve a purpose.

5 Reasons You Should Be Thankful For Hackers

Hackers are an interesting subculture and, as such, they get a fair bit of attention from the media. The idea of a teenager breaking into high security databases is fascinating and more than a little terrifying. However, hackers aren’t all teenagers, nor are they all focused on breaking into places they shouldn’t be. In this article, we’ll look at some reasons why the general public can actually be thankful for hackers. Advertisement

The White Hat Hackers

The first reason people should be thankful for hackers is that not all hackers are fixated on breaking into your computer and stealing your data. In fact, hackers see themselves as a group with several subgroups. The black hat hackers are the ones who break into systems for material gain. Gray hat hackers, on the other hand, are in it for personal recognition mostly, but they still break important rules. It’s the white hat hackers that really do good work, however, by hacking into sites in order to help those sites test and improve their security so that the other types of hackers can’t gain access so easily. All three groups use the same methods, but their motives are very different. (For more on white hat hacking,

Reasons to be thankful for cybersecurity experts and hackers

Hackers Helped Make Your PC

Going back to the early days of the personal computer, many of the members of the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley would have been considered hackers in modern terms in that they pulled things apart and put them back together in new and interesting ways. Although there were no secure sites for these early computer hobbyists to hack, many in the group were also phone phreakers, who cracked the telephone network by using whistles and blue boxes to make free calls whenever they pleased. Advertisement

This desire to explore systems and find out how they worked made many of these proto-hackers more knowledgeable about the different technologies available – and their shortcomings – than even those who created those technologies. Two former phreakers, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, built Apple; others, like the legendary Captain Crunch, went on to design software and play a role in the development of Silicon Valley culture. (Learn more about the history behind Apple in Creating the iWorld: A History of Apple.)

Hackers Are Some of the Best Coders

Just as many of the early computer enthusiasts turned out to be great at designing new computers and programs, many people who identify themselves as hackers are also amazing programmers. This trend of the hacker as the innovator has continued with the open-source software movement. Much of this open-source code is produced, tested and improved by hackers – usually during collaborative computer programming events, which are affectionately referred to as “hackathons.” Even if you never touch a piece of open-source software, you still benefit from the elegant solutions that hackers come up with that inspire (or are outright copied by) proprietary software companies.

Hackers Have Done Some Amazing Things

Hacking is something that hackers don’t grow out of as much as they find avenues to turn it into an actual career. In addition to becoming security specialists, hackers go on to be star programmers and even founded their own companies. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, is a self-professed hacker, but he is far from the only hacker whose programming skills helped launch major ventures. Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux was a hacker too, as was Tim Berners-Lee, the man behind the World Wide Web. The list is long for the same reason the list of hackers turned coders is long – they all saw better ways of doing things.

Hackers Are Vocal Critics

The last reason to be thankful for hackers is a controversial one. For the average user, it can be difficult to tell right away if a new version of software is actually an improvement, or a quickly cobbled together grab for more of our money. Hackers, however, seem to take offense when a company releases subpar software or a buggy OS, and makes these issues public in a way that the average consumer can’t. Every time a hacker rips through a security gap or flaw in a system, this draws attention to the fact that the company didn’t, perhaps, take enough care in creating the product. This, in turn, encourages most companies to be more careful in the future – something that benefits consumers in a roundabout way. Advertisement

The Takeaway

Black hat hackers are always going to be seen as a menace to society, and in many cases they should be. However, many white hat hackers and even some gray hat and reformed black hat hackers have done great things for technology and the internet. In truth, hackers are almost in the same situation as motorcycle enthusiasts in that the existence of a few motorcycle gangs with real criminal operations tarnishes the image of the entire subculture. You don’t need to go out and hug the next hacker you meet, but it might be worth remembering that the word hacker doesn’t equal criminal – at least not all the time. Advertisement

Getting Into and Working In Cybersecurity

“What does it take [to work in cybersecurity]? Curiosity. A burning desire to understand how things work. A mischievous streak. Creativity. The ability to teach yourself new things without a lot of guidance. Dogged persistence. Communication skills.”

-Chris Eng, vice president of research at Veracode


“Are you truly competitive? Do you enjoy the lessons of defeat as much as the thrill of winning? Do people refuse to watch films with you, because you figure out the twist ending 10 minutes into the film? We could use you in information security. Every day we wake up to a job where the rules have changed, and something new waits to be discovered by the curious.”

-Conrad Constantine, senior research engineer at AlienVault

“In cybersecurity, you get to wear a the proverbial white hat, since you’re trying to prevent cybercriminals from doing their illegal activities. But then again, to stop a hacker, you’ve got to think like a hacker. Your hat will have a touch of gray as you work the edges, possibly getting into chat rooms with hackers, etc. “

-Craig Kensek, senior manager at AhnLab

“Working in cybersecurity requires an aggressively analytical mind behind a thoughtful countenance. It is a field that offers a large list of options where someone can find a niche and break the mold of what it is to be successful, while simultaneously rewarding institutional knowledge and historical perspective, all of which is good for long-term employment. It attracts people who enjoy physics, math, engineering, philosophy, art, creative writing, reading, economics and anything having to do with technology. If you have an appreciation for good grammar and can diagram a sentence in your head then you have the mind that fits well in computer science.

-Adam Wosotowsky, messaging data architect at McAfee

“Cybersecurity, as a discipline, is becoming increasingly sophisticated, requiring not only an understanding of the technical implementation of security measures, but also extensive data analysis to monitor networks, detect anomalies and attacks, as well as conduct forensic analysis to understand the genesis of attack … There are several emerging areas in the area of cybersecurity too, including international cyber warfare, policy and legal framework in security, and SCADA security, all of these have tremendous growth potential and are high compensation fields.

-Sanjay Goel, director of research for the NYS Center for Information Forensics and Assurance at University at Albany State University of New York


Cyber criminals are getting smarter and more creative by the minute. The cybersecurity market is always changing and the demand for talent is relentless. Before getting into this field, it’s important for job seekers to understand the role next-generation technologies play in the effort to stay ahead of advanced cyber threats and the blurring lines between physical and digital assets.”

-John Trobough, president of Narus

Cybersecurity jobs can range from a firewall administrator, incident response analyst, auditor, compliance analyst, security consultant, forensic analyst or penetration tester. Each of these jobs comes with a completely different lifestyle. Qualifications for a job in a testing or research capacity are hard to nail down. We’ve found that a passion for security and an obsession with ‘deconstructing’ things to find how they work (and how they can be abused) is the top qualifier.”

-Mike Weber, managing director of Coalfire Labs

“To survive or even thrive as an expert in this field often requires a healthy background on how various applications communicate within IP. Malware developers often piggyback reconnaissance messages on port 80 and even 443 these days. For this reason, knowing what traffic is normal and what traffic is suspicious takes experience when monitoring HTTP and SSL connections.”

-Michael Patterson, CEO of Plixer

When I interview cybersecurity candidates, the most important thing I’m looking for is the security mindset. The ability for a candidate to think divergently, and look at a system not in terms of what it can do, but in terms of how it can be exploited to do that which it was not intended to do, is the key attribute of a candidate that will excel in the field.”

-David Campbell, CEO of Electric Alchemy

“Breaking into security requires a lot of internal motivation. It’s not the kind of career where you can go to college, get a degree, and find a job. A lot of successful people in the industry don’t even have four-year degrees. It’s about passion; you have to want to spend your own time learning new toolsets and crawling through security blogs. Security is a steep learning curve that never really straightens out, and not everyone can deal with it.”

-Ken Smith, staff security consultant for the Profiling & Penetration team at SecureState

“The field of cybersecurity represents a shining light of opportunity both now and in the foreseeable future. It has never been more important or more valued in private industry, and this is an increasing trend. Qualified candidates are in demand, and as a result command compensation commensurate with their experience and capabilities. In short, cybersecurity is a field ripe with opportunity, career potential, and reward.”

-Joe Fisher, president at Affinity IT Security

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