“Hackers are the most innovative, creative users of the web.”
That’s how Keren Elazari, International Cyber-Security Expert, opened her education session “Harness the Power of Friendly Hackers” at the NAED National Meeting in Chicago.
Elazari attends countless hacker expos and trade shows, and has found they are not looking to do bad, but instead doing good for many businesses and government agencies around the world. “We have to accept this: we live on a planet of machines. There are 8 billion people. But there are 11 billion devices and computers.” Elazari explains that how we harness the power of machines will determine if you can keep your company safe.
Right now, Elazari explained, the Food and Drug Administration has hired a group of hackers to constantly test its systems to make sure they are secure. Branches of the U.S. Military actually set up contests for friendly hackers to find flaws in its computer systems, awarding prices when problems are detected and solved.
Elazari also said companies have hired what she calls “Bug Bounty Programs”, where they invite friendly hackers to monitor their digital security. She says that is important because the Federal Trade Commission wants to make sure your customers are safe. “If you promise you are delivering a secure consumer product, you actually have to have a secure site,” Elazari explained when talking about what the FTC is doing to monitor companies and their digital security.
That’s important because illegal hacking can be very expensive. The “WannaCry” ransomware attack created more than $4 billion in lost revenue while technicians tried to figure out how to stop the attack. A malware attack on the Maersk shipping company lasted one day, but Maersk estimates the damage at about $300 million while they were shut down.
If you are looking for friendly hackers to help you, Elazari reminds you that they are everywhere. “Most hackers have no education, no high school diploma, hackers just use curiosity and innovation to be successful,” she says. Elazari also pointed out the Girl Scouts are starting a friendly hacker program, and at the recent DefCom Hacker Convention, the first ever “15 under 15” hackers were honored. That’s friendly hackers, or people described as “white hats” under the age of 15.
Elazari has some tips to keep your company safe while you search for friendly hackers to help you. “Ransomware is now the most popular way for hackers to get into your system. The best solution, backup. If you revert to backup, you can stay online,” Elazari advises.
Elazari also wants you to know that out of date operating systems are an extremely easy hack, and if you want to make your company more safe, you should follow some simple rules:
- Always install updates when they become available
- Stop password recycling (where you or your employees re-use previous passwords)
- Use longer passwords “Length of passwords is better than complex passwords with letters, numbers and symbols. It’s harder to hack a longer password,” Elazari explained.
- Using the same passwords for multiple websites is bad. Once a hacker has a password from one of your employees on a website, they can hack into your system.
And as a final piece of advice, Elazari reminded attendees that every time you add a connected device to your company’s digital system, it is one more way for a hacker to spread a virus or malware. You need to make sure it is absolutely secure for you and your customers.
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