When Anonymous took international attention related to hacktivism, government and fortune 500 companies took notice. A new generation of cyber warriors was able to hold national governments and multi-billion dollar companies at bay and exploit their vulnerabilities in the name of modern day Robin Hoods. Now there is a lot of opinions and speculation regarding the idea of Anonymous and similar groups claiming to be activist, whether or not they are in fact domestic terrorist or simply looking out for the average citizen. From the U.S. Presidential elections to exposing corrupt corporate moguls, Anonymous has made a name for themselves. Working closely with counter-terrorism and intelligence experts, I have gained valuable insight into such groups from the National Security perspective and from the perspective of the groups themselves. Seeing this modern battleground from both sides, I am partial to believe that the motives behind each battlefront are actually fairly similar and if combined to a common objective, could benefit both sides.
If you have ever seen the movie called ''The Kingsman'', you could see where I am going with this. A group of highly intelligent computer hackers, organized for a common goal, in the interest and protection of innocent lives and the justice of corrupt individuals and companies. This concept of modern day cyber knights is one that I have had significant interest in for some time now and wish to further expand upon. So how can this benefit Homeland Security and Emergency Managers? Instead of trying to fight against the local high school tech-savvy kid that poses a major threat to the county computer network because he is talented and bored, why not invite him into the organization and give him credible job experience helping the community. Local and state government budgets are being cut, thus relying upon creativity to solve issues like this one. In fact, a non-profit organization called “I Hack Charities” did just that, they link charity organizations with limited budgets to “Blackhat” hackers that want to enter the legal and legitimate workforce of cybersecurity together. The charity gets increased cyber protection and patches some vulnerabilities and the hacker gets legal work experience and networking opportunities to enter the job market. This is a perfect example of a true win-win for everyone while continuing to turn potential enemies into allies.
In fact, I’m writing this article to expand your vision of what is possible to adapt into your organization and also as an experiment to reach out and recruit anyone that you may know who would be interested in this. My goal is to recruit hackers of all types and skill levels and experiment with the ability to implement their skills to aid local governments and non-profits for the common objective of improving national security and emergency management efforts.
The world of cyber threats and national defense are merging on the same battlefield, and unfortunately, governments are unable to recruit and retain such high talented individuals compared to private sector companies or criminal activities. In a recent article, it stated the average Blackhat hacker is able to make around $80,000 USD a month (tax-free of course) all while working from the comfort of their homes. No government can compete with that, but it doesn’t mean that the government has to compete against that either. My concept is similar to a work release program, where individuals who are caught doing cybercrimes can work for the government on certain cybersecurity issues for reduction or elimination of jail time. The intelligence community has already adopted this program for high-profile individuals, but local governments and private industries are more likely to be threatened by a DDoS attack from a nineteen year old hacker just having fun, not Edward Snowden.
There are multiple motives for hacking, financial gain, however, is not the top motive. The top motives for hacking include; the challenge of hacking (most common amongst teenagers and young adults), Status among other hackers, Financial gain, and Hacktivism (political or ideologically driven). While the motives of these groups ultimately determine how they are perceived by the general public and governments, we cannot ignore some of the results. Since 2009, Anonymous has removed and taken down more perpetrators and distributors of child pornography websites than the entire FBI has done since it began its war on child exploitation. Teenagers have hacked into the U.S. Cyber Command and Microsoft databases to extract Blackhawk helicopter training software (to make a video game out of it). Ransomware attacks have completely shut down entire governments and healthcare networks across the globe. Students hack into their school networks and change their grades, celebrities have explicit photos leaked online, and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of drugs are being trafficked over the dark web. Simply put, the modern world belongs to those who can code and hack and like the saying goes; if you can’t beat them, hire them!
Emergency and disaster management professionals are becoming involved in cyber threats and vulnerabilities each and every day as we serve as the crisis management experts during attacks that compromise our databases, but we don’t always know the threat we are responding to. When we begin our careers and we study the phases of emergency management, we study the threats that we will face such as; tornados, hurricanes, fires, and terrorist attacks so we are able to effectively respond to them. So why don’t we study cyber threats, coding, and how to mitigate against these attacks? I bet it’s because we don’t know much about it, thus we prepare for what we know how to respond to and ignore cyber issues.
Take hold of the future and go forth and concur!