Humans as Heroes: Hackers Working to Make the Internet a Safer Place

Posted on by Kacy Zurkus

If I could be a cybersecurity superhero, I’d most definitely want to be Alex Kobray, but I fear I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. For the sake of sanity, I think I’d be better off as a security researcher. Yes, Echosmith’s catchy lyrics I wish that I could be like the cool kids is playing in my head.

Ethical hackers, WhiteHat hackers, call them what you will. These are the men and women, sometimes even kids, who are using their hacking skills to make the Internet a safer place. They are helping everyone from developers to security teams succeed in fortifying their defenses by identifying vulnerabilities before the bad guys find them and are rewarded for their findings.

According to Bugcrowd’s CEO, Ashish Gupta, there is no one way to define a win for these heroes because of the truly diverse community. Some are heroes because they are altruistic in their efforts. Yes, they are compensated for finding the right vulnerability, but some generous individuals actually give all of their proceeds to charity.

Other researchers enjoy the fun of using their skills, and some see looking for vulnerabilities as a way to hone their skills, learn a new way to do research and collaborate with others. “Security researchers are one in the same with pen testers in that they have chosen to be on the right side of morality,” Gupta said. “They search for vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed before adversaries get to them.”

What Gupta takes great pride in is that the platform enables human beings around the world to connect in meaningful ways with others. “What we do is democratize the ability of these creative humans to provide vulnerability assessments from anywhere in the world. They are able to provide feedback to companies that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with,” Gupta said.

Not surprisingly, Gupta’s Twitter feed is littered with tweets from researchers the world over, and he couldn’t possibly respond to all of them. One tweet that came in from a researcher did grab his attention. “I just bought a car from bug hunting,” a researcher had tweeted.

“The researcher was Indian, so as is customary in our culture, I reached back out to congratulate him and said that the next time I’m in India I’d love to get a ride in his car and have tea with him,” Gupta explained. Oddly, he didn’t receive an immediate response. Nor did he receive a response a day or two later.

Finally, after a few days, the researcher tweeted him back something to the effect of, “Sorry for the delayed response, I am in high school, and I used the money to buy a car for my mother. I had to ask her if I could give you a ride, and she said yes, so the next time you are in India, I will be able to give you a ride.”

According to Gupta, he hears stories like these on a day-to-day basis. “It’s so fun bringing the creativity of millions of people around the world together,” said Gupta.

Kacy Zurkus

Senior Content Manager, RSA Conference

RSAC Insights

hackers & threats

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