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How hackers can avoid a life of cybercrime

How hackers can avoid a life of cybercrime

According to a study conducted by Bromium Inc., the cybercrime economy is booming with an approximate $1.5 billion profit being acquired, laundered and spent by the people behind it. It’s no surprise, then, that increasing numbers of people with hacking skills who struggle to get legitimate careers in cyber security are drawn towards these illegal activities. But, with cyber security becoming more of a necessity than ever before, how do we ensure that talented hackers begin on the right path?

The path to an ethical cyber sec career

It’s vital that young people are made aware that there is a plethora of exciting, legitimate jobs in this field. Working in the cyber security industry can give you amazing opportunities to make a real difference in people’s lives. For example, you could find yourself protecting healthcare systems to ensure patients get the treatment they need, or you could prevent threats to national security by ensuring that government and citizen data is protected. Cyber security professionals are the behind-the-scenes heroes of modern-day life.

Unfortunately, if these ethical careers aren’t promoted, talented hackers may be tempted to engage in black hat activities, purely so they can put their skills to the test. James Lyne, Global Head of Security Research at Sophos, an English security software and hardware company, explains:

It is all too easy to end up going down the wrong path, not because they are bad people, but just because they are looking for opportunities to apply the skills they have.

I was lucky that I had lots of influential mentors. But one in particular in the early stages was responsible for ensuring that I ended up on the legitimate security industry side of hacking, rather than the other side, by telling me there was a lot I that I could do with my skills and warning me that becoming a criminal hacker would mean having to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life.

Government programmes, such as Cyber Discovery, are extremely important in actively inspiring young people to learn the skills needed to enter the cyber security profession. Aimed at 15-18 year olds, the programme is designed to teach them about the many different white hat careers within cyber security, such as digital forensics, ethical hacking and penetration testing. By showing them that they can harness their skills and turn them into a rewarding, above-board career, the government hopes to bridge the skills gap.

The role of employers

Despite the current skills shortage, in which four out of five organisations can’t find people to fill their cyber security positions (CyberEdge: 2018 Cyberthreat Defence Report), it is still proving difficult for many people to get into this discipline. According to James Lyne, this is due to employers’ “unrealistic recruitment criteria”. With so many roles available that each require different skills, there isn’t a perfect example of one ideal candidate and, in fact, employers may need to broaden their search.

When recruiting for cyber security professionals, employers need to be open-minded and not just look for traditional qualifications or a set number years of experience. More people are proving that creativity and problem-solving skills are key in this industry as you’re often required to think outside the box to resolve an issue.

If you’re looking for an ethical career in cyber security, take a look at our latest cyber security jobs here. And if you’re looking to progress, read our advice on how to take your career to the next level.

Read more on how the industry can open up the cyber security profession in an article on Computer Weekly.