Hacking in Harmony

Should we choose to work together to best protect our most important systems from hacking?

How does our current path reflect on the state of our humanity?

Another day of work. I don’t hate my job but, like most people, I would rather not be doing it. I’ve never had a job I love doing, so I am determined to get one in the next 12 months. A few years ago, I was searching online for the most future proof jobs. Careers with skills and qualifications that would still be relevant in 20 years time. The one that jumped out was Ethical Hacker – an intriguing title. Ethical Hackers are paid to find weaknesses in networks and software.

That’s right! People get paid to hack. Legally.

This is when I first learnt about an international competition called Pwn2Own. I won’t go into too much detail but, essentially, it’s an event of worldwide hacking groups competing against each other to identify vulnerabilities in products and services we use every day. There’s a cash prize and its taken very seriously by companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple. They all play by the same rules and the overall result creates more secure products and services for us to use. The secondary benefit is the sharing of information. When one group discovers a way to infiltrate an operating system or a programme, everyone else becomes aware of the problem and learns the techniques used to hack into it. This better prepares communities all around the world to defend against malicious cyber attacks and makes consumer facing services much more robust. It is an approach that has proved valuable in recent years, with networks being attacked and then relying on international solutions to get them back up and running.

Working together is a sensible approach that we all depend upon.

Worryingly then, a few months ago, all of the Chinese competitiors pulled out of Pwn2Own, deciding they no longer wanted to be a part of the annual event. These weren’t just teams who simply took part; their members have routinely won for several years. The decision was based on a national preference to keep their abilities in-house and aid China’s more local ambitions. The conference continued without them, but their absence was a big deal. If the purpose of the competition is to share information and upskill the entire community, the consequence of the top talent being missing is an eventual monopolisation of skill. And power. Weaponising hacking is not new but is definitely now more commonplace. In a world increasingly reliant on networks and systems, the potential impacts of not being prepared are very scary. Hacking and cyber crimes are not just the actions of rogue individuals and groups but often state-sponsored acts.

Survival in war will centre around our ability to keep the lights on.

Not only will your PC or Mac be potentially less secure as a result of not having it’s vulnerabilities tested by the world’s best, but a growing global power will be honing it’s hacking capabilities outside of everyone else’s view. Worldwide processes for water, power, communications, energy, defence and government rely on systems that are in continuous need of protection. Surely the easiest way to do this is together? To be clear, this isn’t a China problem – it’s a problem for all of us. If we continue to live in a world that prioritises power, how can we expect the strongest and smartest to share what makes them great? While we prefer to celebrate domination over creativity and quality of life, which of these would any nation covet most? A world of segragated super states in a sprint for power is simply the wrong path for us to go down if the other choice is a collaberative movement towards real human excellence.

If we’re losing this battle at the moment, we’ll need to recruit the next generation.

The first step is to build relationships with our children that strengthen their Self Esteem. If they believe in the power of their individuality they will be better placed to achieve brilliance instead of chasing power. Raising our children to have Empathy will ensure that the world becomes one that recognizes our differences much better than we currently do. Developing their Communication will improve the quality of dialogue all around the world. Can you imagine how much better our lives would be if there was more acceptance of our diversity and an open exchange of positive ideas? I have no idea what path either of my children will go down. I want them both to be able to use their skills for the benefit of our society. Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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