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All computers are broken

When it comes to cyber crime, knowing your enemy is the first step to beating them. 

Between the dependency on critical infrastructure, the rise of connected devices, and all the talk of increased cyber attacks, everyone has an interest in cyber security. It’s a rare day where there isn’t some big “hack” that’s cost companies millions in losses, someone’s identity has been stolen, or some indecent exposure has taken place online. This isn’t about weak passwords, out-of-date software, another intrusion detection system, anti-virus, or firewall. Automate and introduce managed services all you want, but at the end of the day, we absolutely need more cyber skill.

Why is this? All computers are broken. Inherently, computers are susceptible to an increasing number of threats, advances in attacking has made cybercrime easier to perform and harder to defend against. Every system can be hacked. There is not a company, network or software that cannot be compromised in some way. It’s time for us to embrace the problem-solving abilities of hacking and embrace it as part of the solution. Knowing how your adversary works and attacks allows for better targeting of resources, models like the cyber kill chain have helped pave the way for companies to better understand their risks.

Isn’t it time we heard from the hackers? Our team has consistently breached security of devices, from the latest “ransomware-proof” computers to “security appliances” meant to prevent advanced attacks. Exploit developers and purveyors of the art of hacking; our team embodies the hacker spirit to show you what your adversary already knows.

One of the biggest reasons companies are failing at security is because they don’t have the right skills on the team. Even if they hired an outside consultant, there is still no guarantee that the “patches” pointed out are now secure and that the company is indeed protected from further attack. The cyber consultancy model is flawed. Companies can’t afford to keep up with the “ask” for security budget if there is no one on the team who can think as an attacker would.

The result is a shift in industry. Hackers are now essential. Companies invest in hackers on their team rather than “wait” to be made a target. These cyber skills are invaluable to the business because it better prepares companies to handle more of their own internal breaches with a better incident response management. Having an on-site resource who can make sense of cyber security and the tools used can be a huge asset.

Hacker House has developed a Hands on Hacking course to give companies those real-world simulations of what happens with their systems are attacked. It is designed to teach skills used by ethical hackers to conduct a variety of assessment activities. Hands on Hacking allows companies to quickly train and scale their security teams. Rather than pay for expensive theory-based content and out-of-date information, companies are looking for real hackers to train their teams to respond to attacks.

The Hands on Hacking course is made up of modules where students are presented a topic and are taught how to launch an attack upon completion of each lesson. The course can be taken in a classroom environment or online through the on-demand portal. Once the course is completed, students retain access to all lab work; a virtual hacking lab is set up for a live 365 environment to hone their skills and better prepare defences for attacks.

Hacker House teaches the core concepts used in many cyber security-related job roles from intelligence analysts to penetration testing. Whatever your job in technology, isn’t it time you learned how to protect yourself?


Click here for more information.

Photo: Getty
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Technology can change the world – provided we have a measure of democracy, too

You could say we need a technological revolution for the many, not the few. 

Over the last five decades, the American Consumer Technology Association’s annual jamboree has grown to become the world’s largest tech show: attracting over 190,000 visitors and 4000 companies, with 7,460 reporters filing 59,969 reports over the course of four days in Las Vegas. In the process, it has achieved an almost mythical status – from unveiling the first-ever home VCR (Philips 1970) to Bill Gates’ resignation from Microsoft in 2006, and has included cameo appearances by the likes of Jay-Z and Barack Obama.

As a fully qualified geek (Electrical Engineering degree, 20 years in tech – before it was cool) and the shadow minister for Industrial Strategy Science and Innovation, I couldn’t resist seizing the opportunity to venture to Las Vegas while on a family holiday to the US’ west coast; hoping, against all hope, to see the progressive future of a technology-enabled, more equal world.

If only.

But I did emerge with a renewed conviction that technology can solve our problems – if we use it to do so.

In some ways, the most remarkable thing about the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was the way it demonstrated how technology has taken over our entire world. CES was a car show in the middle of a health show, which happened to be around the corner from a home show, which was adjacent to a sports show that was next to an entertainment show. Just about every sector was represented.

Nissan had a huge stand for their new autonomous vehicle showcasing the ‘Brain-Vehicle Interface’, as did Philips for their new sleep enhancing devices, and Huawei for their connected home. In 2018, technology can be used as an enabling platform to aid just about everything. And in a world where near enough everything is politicised, technology is very political.

But this was not evident from CES: not from the stands, neither the keynotes, nor the participants. There were few speakers from civic society nor governments, and those politicians who attended – such as Donald Trump’s Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao – talked only of their ‘excitement’ at the sunlit uplands technology could guide us to. The show existed in its own, largely self-sufficient world. While Ford created an entire street to show off its autonomous cars, there was no reference to who would pay for the road, pavements, lamp-posts and guttering if only robots worked.

And as a politician rather than an engineer, it is the societal impact that matters most to me. One realisation brought about by my visit is that I have greatly under-estimated the consequences of driverless vehicles: communications, parking, urban layout, and public transport are all likely to be deeply impacted. The automobile industry is working to position cars as your personal moving office-cum-front room-cum-hotel-cum-lecture theatre; where you can work, maintain personal and social relationships, unwind and learn – all while going from A to B. How will crowded, under-funded public transport compete?

At the show, Nissan launched its Brain-to-Vehicle technology, which reads the driver’s brainwaves to determine when the car’s intelligence should intervene. Although I'm personally unsure about the inclusion of brain surveillance in the driving experience, it may well be the next logical step as we increasingly give up our data in return for ‘free’ services. Certainly the anthropologists at Nissan argued that this was the very definition of assisted artificial intelligence.

Fortunately, autonomous vehicles are not the only way to get around. Improvements in battery technology mean that – between electric scooters capable of folding away into airplane carry on, and electric bikes with the power of motorcycles – personal mobility has become a market in its own right.

Personal health and sport were also big themes at the event. Philips has brought back the night cap, which not only looks far more fetching than the Victorian original, but is now also capable of lulling you gently into a slumber before monitoring the quality of your sleep. Orcam’s discrete camera-glasses for the visually impaired can read text and recognise people, whilst L’Oréal’s UV Sense is a sensor small enough to be worn comfortably on your fingernail that detects ultraviolet exposure.

One aspect of the show that has remained largely unchanged is its demographics. Whilst the glossy adverts on the walls depict women and BME people using technology, those actually designing it were, with a few exceptions, male and largely white. As always, there were no queues for the women’s loos and while there were not any ‘F1 girls’, the gender balance was improved largely by attractive women, who were not engineers, being employed to ‘explain’ technological advances.

Weeks later, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos was also dominated by technology, which the Prime Minister used as a fig leaf to cover the absence of vision for Brexit. Lacking in both the CES and Davos, was any sense that the interests of the many had any significant stake in what was going on. We need a Labour government to help change that.

Chi Onwurah is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, and the shadow minister for industrial strategy.