We’ve briefly covered what is really means to be a ‘hacker’ in a previous article, and of course its quite a bit different from the way the media popularizes hacking. Hacking is actually a general term that means to alter, or change the function of a program or device to make it do different from what it what designed to do or a completely new task. Hacking computer programs might mean opening a virtual door into a database or circumventing someone from doing that in the first place. Hackers have unique skills that bring forth the highest level of problem solving skills and programming fortitude with the goal of creating a means to achieve a particular task. STEM skills are essential to be a good hacker. Like any other skill that most people lack, hacking can be used for good, such as preventing an entity from acquiring a weapon of mass destruction or, let’s say, not so good such as altering grades.
For those who don’t know, there are formal hacker gatherings and conferences across the United States and elsewhere, and Def Con is one of the largest. The US Government keeps close tabs on hacker groups, particularly those who are known to have breached the security of corporate and government entities, such as Lulzsec and Anonymous. In the past, these gatherings were looked at with interest but disdain from US Security agencies, who saw their members as a threat. Now, as cyber attacks have become overwhelming in number, a policy change has occurred at the highest level. The mysterious NSA, or National Security Agency, attended the most recent Def Con in Las Vegas. Not as undercover agents looking to track the activities of hacker groups, but with an exhibitors booth just like any other attendee. The Head of the NSA was there, and the message he brought with him was clear. The US Governments needs hackers. Lots of them. Their skills are needed at agencies like the NSA to help prevent the scourge of cybercrimes against US interests around the world. According to a Reuters article, General Keith Alexander told a group of kids, “Keep working on those skills. We need you in the future.”
Teach STEM students to hack. Its not just cybersecurity, its job security.