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Hackers as Heroes

The first blog of 2015 comes from a new voice on the LEO Learning blog, Taylor Brundage, who is a Learning Designer working out of LEO Learning’s New York office. 

The stigma of hacking

As society plunges headfirst into a more technologically-dependent world, it’s no surprise that there is a growing importance on computing skills. For one, the computerised realm opens up a plethora of job opportunities, and knowing how to build and understand programmes and software is considered a highly desirable skill for an employee to have. Besides basic programming, there is also a growing need for skills in managing and maintaining computer security. This is where the Hacker Community comes into play.

Consider the term ‘hacking’, and a particularly demonised definition comes to mind. One can easily cite numerous examples of criminals hacking into security systems, committing destruction and theft among many other unfavourable acts. These types of malicious hackers do exist, unfortunately; but does this deem hacking strictly as a criminal activity? The answer is absolutely not. On the contrary, many are ethical hackers working to thwart security breaches, considering themselves social activists working towards a greater good.

The ethical hacker

Although general computer education in schools worldwide is growing and expanding, hacking and technological security is not something that is taught to children from a young age. To become an ethical hacker and join the Hacker Community, one must seek training and practice independently. There are websites that currently exist to facilitate this training, translating hacking skills into gameplay. One particular site, www.hackthissite.org, takes this gameplay a step further: providing not only entertaining and comprehensive challenges, but discussion forums and constantly updated articles. HackThisSite is more than your typical war game site; it is a self-proclaimed online movement of artists, activists, ethical hackers and anarchists organising to create a more tech-savvy world.

Obviously with a name like ‘HackThisSite,’ there were bound to be some ethical quandaries. Their rebuttal was as follows:

“We like to consider hacking itself to be a tool, a skill which in itself is neutral, a means without end . . . We do not encourage negative use of the information we provide. We are more concerned with the greater risks of not distributing this information and are ready to accept the consequences.”

In layman’s terms, the more people are educated about how hacking works, the more our technological security capabilities increase. The Ethical Hacker Community is beneficial and important for this very reason. Many people rely solely on automated software to keep their computers ‘secure,’ but fail to see the huge underlying issue in doing this. Putting up a firewall is temporarily blocking a problem, but not fixing it. In order to make progress in the world of computer security, we must first expand our human knowledge – starting with the basics. HackThisSite makes this learning not only possible, but entertaining and engaging through gamification.

Like any other crime, hacking boils down to personal responsibility. A Bruce Schneier quote comes to mind, and is one to ponder for those who consider hacking an entirely problematic activity:

“If you think technology can solve your security problems, then you don’t understand the problems and you don’t understand the technology.”

Whether you need to upskill your workforce in cyber security to protect sensitive data, or teach the art of hacking in order to help keep your organisation and its systems safe, LEO Learning is perfectly placed to work with you to get to the essence of what your people need to know. This allows us to provide an engaging, interesting and beneficial architecture of learning content to benefit both you and your workforce.

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