[AWARNESS] White hats: knights of the cyberspace

The Internet was born as a tool for liberation: the means by which everyone can communicate around the world,” explains Davide Del Vecchio, an Italian computer security engineer. It was a huge and lawless area, moreover it was a mean by which knowledge could be disseminated, everywhere, in an uncontrolled way. Then, it became a control means and it is now an instrument of war“. On this International Day of Peace, created by the United Nations, our security experts are concerned about the increase of cyberattacks. States, companies and people are a prime target for hackers. Cyberspace became a vulnerable ecosystem.  For example, the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, the engineering group Altran or the aeronautical giant Airbus have been targeted by hackers. Furthermore, according to the American company SonicWall, IoT attacks increased by 217.5% between 2017 and 2018.

Given the breadth of the challenge posed by hacking a company’s information system and the potential financial rewards (reselling of sensitive data), attackers compete in ingenuity to compromise information systems. Recently, at the end of June, attackers compromised approximately 2000 taxpayer accounts to modify their income tax returns. Known as black hat, these hackers are nevertheless fought in the field by white hat, or even ethical hackers.  These “digital avengers” infiltrate the same systems as the attackers, but to identify and report their vulnerabilities. Companies hire white hat to test the resilience of their information systems. They perform analyses on networks looking for malware, trying to hack into information systems using the same methods as black hat.

Several white hat have become famous and now give specialized conferences on the subject. This is the case of Charlie Miller, winner of the Pxn2Own competition – an annual competition in which cyber security researchers try to crack a computer as quickly as possible. Charlies Miller is able to hack a MacBook Air in two minutes and remains the first man to have hacked an iPhone. He brings his skills to Uber, a job he landed after penetrating the system of a Jeep Cherokee in action on the highway. 1.4 million Vehicles returned to the factory. For his part, Marc “Chameleon” Maiffret now works for the FBI, after spending his teenage years hacking into telephone networks. These personalities, through their skills and their involvement in the protection of information systems, make an important contribution to raising awareness among companies and the general public about the risks posed by cyber attacks.