You might think that the vast majority of hackers are simply interested in exploiting the computer networks of prosperous organisations to steal confidential customer information or valuable financial records. Without suitable security defences such as a foolproof password policy or the right web hosting services, multinational corporations worth millions leave the door to online offenders wide open.
However, you might be surprised to hear that the main motivation currently driving cyber attacks is ‘hacktivism,’ often relating to things like free speech and human rights. With so many cybercriminals concerned with politics more than profit, now could well be the time to view hackers in a different light.
If they want to change the world and make a difference, hackers could be recruited by governments to fight the cyber criminals who are compromising data for financial gain. However, there are still big obstacles to overcome, most notably a lack of tech talent.
Investing in hacking
“The demand for the cyber security workforce is expected to rise to six million globally by 2019, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million,” said Symantec CEO Michael Brown last year. This is on top of President Obama’s intentions to increase spending on cyber security to $19 billion.
Furthermore, the US government’s chief information officer Tony Scott says there are over 10,000 positions available in the federal government for cyber security professions.
Therefore, it is clear that both private corporations and national governments recognise the need to bolster cyber security, which includes a human workforce as well as various technologies. But while cyber security professionals can earn a six-figure salary, there is still a distinct lack of talent in this field.
The cyber security skills gap
A recent report published by the University of Massachusetts Boston revealed that 60 per cent of colleges don’t offer courses in network or information security.
Certain educational institutions might already have modules that address these subjects, but because hackers present a danger to national security as well as pre-eminent enterprises and members of the public, some say this isn’t enough.
There are now increasing calls to change the way we look at hackers, recognise cyber security as a skilled profession, and integrate basic skills into school curriculums.
Viewing hackers in a different light
David Brumley, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, argues that while a handful of hackers go rogue, they aren’t representative of the whole. “Many hackers I know are curious, highly imaginative professionals dedicated to finding—and fixing—even the most hidden vulnerabilities,” he said.
He also believes that IT professionals can’t be rebranded as security professionals because cybercrime requires a specifically trained mindset, including the ability to think about defence and offence.
This goes all the way down to early education as we live in a world where everyone makes cyber decisions, such as installing smartphone apps and downloading computer updates. “In short, let’s embrace hacking as a skill vital to protecting digital security,” Brumley concluded.