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Why The World Needs More Hackers!

Aug 23, 2019 | Siemens, Siemens News

Mentioning the word hacker will probably conjure up the classic stereotype: images of a black-clad criminal mastermind typing at 1,000wpm with a stone face illuminated the glare from their screen. The term will also be synonymous with one of many blockbuster-worthy doomsday scenarios including gaining control of America’s nuclear arsenal, draining a bank of all its money and even controlling the flight paths of planes. Of course these are dramatisation but you may wonder why on earth we would be promoting an article that is encouraging the need for more hackers in the world?

Read on…

The Digital Tomorrow

​Firstly, we need to look at the technological situation the world is facing. There’s no denying that technology and data-driven systems are at the forefront of our development more than ever. Online banking, social media, smart appliances and even the rear view parking video cameras in our cars are just a few examples of how we are already entrenched in this society-wide digital wave. It doesn’t stop there, entire organisations, businesses and cities are undergoing a digital transformation and as one of the world’s leading engineering solutions providers, Siemens is at the forefront of sustainable infrastructure growth. Our MindSphere system for example is the first IoT cloud system that allows for digital integration and data collection from power plants, airports, distribution centres hospitals and even cities! The benefits of a digitised smart world are plentiful, the most pressing being that we can lessen our impact on the planet as we grow by making more efficient data-driven decisions.

The Potential Vulnerabilities Of A Digital World

​If we are to rely on digital systems, machine automation and data as a way of life, it is absolutely vital that the solutions we employ are completely secure and have zero systemic vulnerabilities. After all, we are talking about systems that will operate and collect data from airports, hospitals, train lines and energy grids so the stakes are extremely high in terms of economic, commercial and national security.  In recent years there has been no shortage of malicious attacks or “hacks” on UK institutions, businesses and government organisations. In 2017 our NHS was subject to the WannaCry ransomware attack which cost the organisation £20 million in seven days and the cancellation of 19,000 appointments. In 2016 the German government also sustained one of many attacks on its parliamentary computer system.

More worryingly the deniable nature of cyber hacking has seen certain governments start to weaponise hacking as a way of covertly destabilising and sabotaging other states and international businesses for economic and security gain.  As we move towards the idea of a digital world where transport, healthcare, banking, energy are controlled by automation, stopping malicious hacker attacks is imperative. The amount of data collection available on an individual is also set to skyrocket in the near future – think energy habits from smart meter readings, GPS vehicle tracking movements, geo-location embedded photos on social media etc. Protecting this information is an utmost priority.

Enter The Ethical Hacker

​The best way to fight against malicious hackers is to simply to deny them any weak points to exploit in our digital infrastructure. Technology is fast-moving and requires constant tweaking and revision. Before systems are launched for use, they need to be real-world tested to determine whether they are fit for purpose and this is where the ethical hacker comes in. These technology specialists are essentially employed to try their best to locate and exploit vulnerabilities in software and security systems.  By exposing and highlighting potential issues, manufacturers and organisations can then fix them and roll out tried and tested secure product. The work of an ethical hacker doesn’t stop there as they are frequently called on to test a target’s vulnerabilities in real-time in order to keep its defences up to date in the face of ever-evolving technical threats.

Why We Need Ethical Hackers!

​Now that we know the extent of threats that lurk in the digital world, and that important that in the coming years, it’s easy to see how crucial ethical hackers are in building a secure digital tomorrow. Responsible and sustainable growth is the only option if we want to have a healthy future. Creating the sustainable city of tomorrow for instance will: Make green transport infrastructure better to reduce emissions Plan urban areas better to reduce the need of commuting (carbon emissions) Employ a smarter way of supplying consumer energy demands Reduce electricity wastage  To do this we need an information network which collects, communicates and stores data on patterns, behaviours and trends. With every city eventually requiring its own information network, it is essential that we have enough skilled ethical hackers ready to “plug the gaps” before any malicious threat can exploit it.

How Close Are We To Filling The Ethical Hacker Skills Gap?

In one of our previous posts, we have touched upon the importance of education and the role it plays in producing scientists and engineers of tomorrow.  and this is equally as important for Ethical hackers as companies and organisations are starting to build their own international cyber teams whilst private cybersecurity agencies are also vying for the same talent.  Whilst an understanding of computer programming and code are both good things to have for a career in ethical hacking there has been some concerns as to whether formal education is adequate in furnishing entrants with the skills needed as an ethical hacker.

Some have argued that the changing pace of the cyber world means that much of the technology learned by pupils would be obsolete by the time they graduate to try and counter threats in the real world.  Research has shown that well over half of ethical hackers today have had no formal training with just under that number having studied courses such as computer science at college. Nevertheless, creating the next generation of ethical hackers lies heavily in instilling a sense of morality in younger generations and making them realise that their very wellbeing and way of life depends on how well we can protect against malicious hacks.