PC Mag reports that, in 2011, Facebook welcomed 21-year-old George Hotz onto its development team. Why did this make the news? Prior to being hired by Facebook, Hotz had been involved in a months-long court battle against Sony because he had hacked into the company’s Playstation 3 platform.
Hotz’s case is far from an exceptional occurrence. The same article from PC Mag listed other black hat hackers whose unlawful exploits landed them jobs at top companies. Why do so many large business turn toward hackers to help them create better, more secure products?
Hackers Have a High Level of Knowledge
Writing for CSO Online, one expert commented, “The rationale for hiring criminal hackers is based on the thinking that, ‘It takes a thief to catch a thief’.” Some formerly criminal hackers, such as Kevin Mitnick, who served five years in prison for criminal hacking, have started their own legitimate cyber security consulting firms. Indeed, the knowledge that hackers gain through their exploits might furnish them with knowledge they could not gain through more traditional avenues of education.
Black Hat Isn’t the Only Hat
Black hat hackers are not the only ones who find jobs via their hacking skills. According to Eric Geier, writing for PCWorld, government and business organizations are now hiring ethical hackers, also known as white hat hackers, to prevent data theft.
CBS News reported on the hacker hiring phenomenon, bringing out the example of a firm called Bugcrowd, which helps companies connect with hackers. The hackers dig through the systems of major businesses, such as Pinterest and Western Union, and receive payments when they find flaws in those companies’ security measures. The CBS article mentioned other major companies, including Square and Google, that also enlist professional hackers’ help.
Even Apple, whose products are famous for their resistance to viruses, has hired hackers. The company hired the hackers who created the first virus to affect MacBooks, according to a report from Business Insider.
Will it Always Be Necessary for Companies to Hire Hackers?
White hat and gray hat hackers might always have a place within companies, but what about black hat hackers? An article from Tech Target stated that many companies are struggling to find qualified cyber security professionals, in part because many job applicants do not have the necessary experience to perform well on the job. Some companies are filling open positions by sponsoring H-1B workers from other countries.
It seems the shortage of cyber security experts might make it necessary for companies to continue to hire hackers — regardless of what hat they wear — for the foreseeable future. However, universities might soon provide the employees that companies are so desperate to hire. At Maryville University, our bachelor’s programs in cyber security focus on things such as general cyber security, offensive cyber security, and defensive cyber security.
Hackers might not be the cyber security force of the future, but they certainly play a role in its present.