Posted By: Taylor Durbin
I recently watched a Ted Talks presentation that brought up some interesting points revolving around cyber security and internet control. Misha Glenny in his presentation, uses the examples of six convicted hackers to illustrate his point that our government should be following Russia’s lead in hiring hackers instead of putting them behind bars. He relies on these examples as well as research from a U.N. funded organization known as the Hackers Profiling Project. He points out that most hackers learn their hacking skills when they are teenagers and their moral compass is a bit off. He also claims many of them have social disorders. The most intriguing point he makes is that in speaking with numerous convicted hackers, they almost all want an opportunity to work in a legal position for a government or company but never knew how to get there.
I profoundly agree with Mr. Glenny’s assessment that our government and corporations should be looking to hire hackers. Our world is going through a digital revolution, a lot of these hackers are some of our most brilliant technological minds and we should be using them as tools for good as opposed to putting them behind bars. If Mr. Glenny is accurate in that most hackers have social disorders it makes sense that they would have difficulty finding positions in the government or with companies. They may be experts sitting behind a computer, going out and taking interviews to find a job could be a completely different story. In my opinion, our country would be better served by actively recruiting them to jobs where they work to secure the internet.
This topic leads me to thinking about the unfortunate event of Aaron Swartz taking his own life earlier this year after being prosecuted under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (“CFAA”) for hacking into the J Store. There is a lot of debate over how that prosecution was handled as well as whether what he did even violated the CFAA. Irrespective of those arguments, it is clearly a tragedy that we lost such a brilliant mind at a young age over what occurred. I think we would all have been better served if we hired this hacker instead of prosecuting him. It would have been interesting to see what Aaron was capable of had he been working in the right environment.
Not only is hiring the hackers what makes most sense for them it also makes tremendous business sense. Companies and governments are spending tens of billions of dollars in internet security. The problem is they seem to typically be one step behind the hackers. I believe that hiring them not only produces excellent employees who are at the cutting edge of the hacking world but it also makes for one less hacker in the world on the other side. The goal of internet security should be less about throwing money at the problem and more about putting the best, the brightest, and the highest quantity of gifted hackers on the good guys side.