By Abhijit Bhaduri
2016 is proving to be the year of emerging talents. Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation paid hackers more than a million dollars to crack the software padlock that prevented the government from accessing data from a suspect’s iPhone.
Apple had earlier refused to oblige to the government on the grounds of protecting consumer privacy. It has always bucked convention and never paid programmers who reported flaws in their software or firmware. They would at best, put the names of these ‘technology experts’ on their website to acknowledge their contribution. However, a change is round the corner.
Hackers: The Quality Assurance Team
At the Black Hat Conference, a meeting ground for technological experts, Apple announced tangible rewards for hackers. Hackers who could find vulnerabilities in customer data would be paid anywhere up to $50,000 for each newly identified flaw. Hackers who could point out defects in firmware would get a payout of $200,000.
Will these financial incentives now encourage hackers to make a quick buck?
Perhaps Apple is merely acknowledging the necessity of supplementing their tech talent pool with a contingent workforce: The Hackers.
Facebook and Google have regularly leveraged them to point out vulnerabilities in their software. Automobile manufacturers are inviting hackers to test drive their software as cars become platforms to deliver technology. No wonder Apple and Google are competing with car manufacturers to take control of the data generated by the car and the driver. As far-fetched as it may sound, we must admit that hackers may need to be seen as the extended arm of the quality assurance department.
From Presidents to Babies
Considering that a cyber attack can leave any government red-faced, all presidential candidates will have to learn to work with hackers. Interestingly, there is a ‘Hackers for Hillary’ group that promises to work with her should she occupy the Oval Office.
What is more worrisome is that electronic toys are not safe from hackers. Baby monitors and toys have been hacked recently. More than 4.9 million children accounts of toy manufacturer VTech were hacked last year; giving hackers access to photos and chat logs.
A Diverse Community
The number and variety of hackers are growing. Organisations have to learn to recognise the presence of this almost invisible group and work with them just as they would with any temporary or contingent workforce. Every individual in the permanent workforce needs a different motivator. Some work for money, some for fame, some get inspired by the mission of the organisation. Hackers are no different.
There are “white hat” hackers, who will find and fix weak spots in the software with the idea of improving it. They are motivated by just the challenge of solving a complex puzzle and will spend days trying to decipher encrypted information. Some hackers are pranksters who love embarrassing an organisation or government by revealing their indifference towards cyber attacks. The politically motivated hackers, attack or protect regimes depending on whose political views they resonate with. The cause motivates them. For example, the ‘anonymous’ hacker group defaces websites of organisations and governments just to teach them a lesson.
The All-Pervading Hackers
Some governments have employed buildings full of hackers and use them to steal intellectual property and defence secrets. Surprisingly, these ‘experts’ also deactivate the missile systems of enemy states.
Among hackers, there is a popular phrase: ‘There are two kinds of companies: those that are aware that they have been hacked and those that are blissfully unaware that their sensitive data is regularly accessed and misused by the dark web.’
Data is the new oil. Sensors will get embedded everywhere from wearables to gadgets and automobiles. Our digital trails and choices are constantly being recorded by websites, credit cards, and apps. Despite this data piling up in countless servers, hackers have remained invisible.
But with changing times, the Digital Tsunami may force organisations to learn to attract, retain, and nurture the new contingent workforce: Hackers.
Abhijit Bhaduri works as the Chief Learning Officer for the Wipro group and has led HR teams for various multinationals.
Featured Image Credits: Pixabay