Graduate Digest
Hacker: Friend Or Foe?

White hats or ethical computer hackers are increasingly used by organisations to strengthen cybersecurity. We explore how effective this trend is in beefing up computer systems here.


In February 2017, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence was hit by what it described as a “targeted and carefully planned” cyberattack. Personal details of 850 national servicemen and staff were stolen. Almost a year later, the ministry, in its effort to bolster cybersecurity, took a step that many considered befuddling.


It invited hackers willing to play by strict rules to find vulnerabilities in some of its public-facing internet systems, even laying out rewards of up to S$20,000 for those who uncovervulnerabilities. Under this initiative, which ran for three weeks, hackers received “bounties”, or rewards, for bringing to light valid and unique bugs in the systems. While such a move was the first for any government agency here, institutions abroad, including the United States Department of Defense and major companies like Intel and Twitter, have launched similar “bug bounty” programmes. These initiatives tap the expertise of computer-security specialists known as “white hats”, whose role is to break into protected systems beforehackers with malicious intent strike, with the aim of benchmarking their defences against skilled hackers from around the world.


Click here to read more about the fascinating world of ethical hackers.


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