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Self-taught hackers rule

Taylor Armerding | April 24, 2014
Ilio Kolochenko, CEO of High-Tech Bridge, a Swiss information security company, gave the keynote address on governments' role in cybersecurity this past Sunday at the Regional cybersecurity Summit in Oman.

Are there any superior programs for training hackers out there?

One of the best I know that is preparing skilled security experts is called Offensive Security. It's quite small they teach maybe15 people every three months. These guys don't compromise on price or other things. They say, "Our price is this and we are going to do what we want. If you do not agree, bye-bye." Most companies doing this are obliged to make sure the customer is satisfied they'll adjust price, adjust timing, but these guys won't.

What does it take to become a good hacker?

If you want to be really good at hacking, you have to work and learn, work and learn all of your life is spent on the keyboard. Even if a person was, in primary school, an open person who spent time with family and friends at things like barbecues, it's a new style of life when he's typing on the keyboard almost every day and night.

This something that changes his psychology and he becomes if we can say this without being insulting a bit of an outsider because he prefers the keyboard over talking to people.

Sometimes I realize myself after doing something for a long time on the PC, it's easier to send email than to give someone a call. Good hackers usually don't appreciate talking to people.

I know some who have sports hobbies like boxing, karate, jujitsu. I know others who enjoy stock market. Most of them enjoy talking to friends or going to restaurants or clubs, but usually the people they are talking to are also from IT. And they are mainly speaking about information security, hacking.

Almost anybody with enough desire and persistence can become a hacker. But it takes motivation, persistence, a desire to learn and 24/7 practice. It can be extremely complicated. At the really high level it's a little bit like Chinese I don't understand it at all myself. And most of the hackers I know have skills in scientific topics mathematics, geometry, finance. I don't know many who studied history or geography.

Are self-taught hackers generally better than those with formal training?

Of course. Many very good hackers don't have any diplomas or certifications at all they simply don't need them. Almost everything you can learn in a "hacker school," or seminar methodologies, tricks probably 90% of it is available for free on the Internet, if you have time and desire to read and learn complex texts and code.

People who do their tasks, homework and teamwork during the classes will be fine, but still be a little bit weaker than criminal hackers, who tend not to share the tools they are using with the public.


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