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What Have We Learnt From Hackers?

Having worked in the financial sector for the bulk of my career, we always had to have an "ear to the ground" to understand the security vulnerabilities of the technology we were working with and to try to stay one step ahead of the nasty hacker types. I am pleased to say that in the 23 years I worked as technical director for a software development agency which focused on the financial sector, we never had any security breaches which resulting in financial or data loss.

You'd think I would grow to hate the type of person who had the mindset to try to break all the good work we had done, someone hell bent on embarrassing us by trying to break into our systems, usually just for personal gratification but that simply isn't the case. I have a deep respect for these people, if it wasn't for these underground lurkers of software and hardware penetration we'd get far to complacent and our world simply wouldn't be a secure place to live and work at all. We need to learn from these people, because they teach us that we are only as strong as the weakest element in our systems, whether that be malformed or untested code, knee jerk 'fixes', system integrations not knowing what happens when data reaches the other side or simply the untrained member of staff that is caught unawares.

In the ever-evolving digital world, the threat of hacking has become a significant concern for individuals, businesses, and governments alike. Despite the widespread recognition of this issue, many companies and developers still remain unaware of the dangers and continue to neglect the importance of cybersecurity. What we have learned from hackers? And what are the lessons society, business and software developers can take away from their actions.

Firstly, we have learned the obvious understanding that security should be at the forefront of our mind while designing and building systems and processes. The number of cyber attacks has increased dramatically over the years, and the consequences can be devastating. Data breaches can result in the loss of sensitive information, identity theft, and even money. Thus, it is crucial that we all, in every walk of life take steps to protect ourselves and our systems against these potential threats, and most people now have an understanding of scams and phishing even if falling for them when caught unawares.

Another lesson we have learned is the vulnerability of our systems. Hackers have shown us that even the most advanced technology can be susceptible to attack. This highlights the need for constant improvement in our security measures and the development of new technologies that can help protect against cyber threats. Security is not a "build once and you're done process", new vulnerabilities and attack methodologies are being found all the time so the need for continued funding and development to stop systems from being attacked is paramount.

Hackers aren't always bad people. they can also bring attention to ethical considerations. Yes, hacking is generally a criminal activity, but it's crucial that we have a clear understanding of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. there are groups of people out there that hack into systems for what they believe are the right reasons, and contact the companies or developers they attack in the hope that they will secure their systems quickly for the good of their customers. The business world is divided against these type of people, but I believe that any company who is contacted by such a person after hacking into their systems should be ready to listen to them, fix their issues and thank them. After all they had the potential to cause damage and didn't.

Finally, we have learned that hackers can cause actual widespread damage, not only to individuals and businesses but also to entire countries. State-sponsored hacking has become a major concern, and the threat of cyberwarfare is a real and present danger. This is possibly the scariest of all and the damage should not be underestimated and the public have learnt that we need to trust that our government is looking out for us. 

The actions of hackers have taught us many lessons about the importance of cybersecurity, the vulnerability of our systems, the ethical considerations surrounding the use of technology, and the potential for widespread damage. By learning from them we constantly take steps to protect ourselves and our digital world, and help ensure that the future of technology is a little more secure for everyone. Hackers deserve our respect, they teach us a lot!

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Date: 01 Feb 2023
Author: Craig Pickles (YorkshireTechy)