Debate: Should information security firms appoint former hackers to development roles?


FOR - Simon Khalaf, CEO, Vernier Networks

"Keep your friends close, your enemies closer." This quote from The Godfather is now the modus operandi for many IT security companies as they recruit former hackers to fill their development positions.

To beat a hacker you have to think like one. Thus, hiring ex-hackers is necessary in the fight against the "black hats." By incorporating their insights into IT security, companies stand the best chance of staying ahead of malicious hackers.

No longer are hackers aiming for an ego boost. Now, their attacks attempt to access highly sensitive information stored on corporate IT systems. As bank robber Willie Sutton once said, that's where the money is.

Defending against these attacks requires a complete understanding of hackers' practises and a thorough analysis of exploitable holes in IT networks. This is where a former hacker's expertise proves invaluable.

While hackers only have to get it right once to succeed, they only have to make a single mistake to get caught. There is no one better at catching that single mistake than an ex-hacker.

AGAINST - Sathvik Krishnamurthy, CEO, Voltage Security

Why take the risk of hiring a hacker if you really don't need to? With the best university computer science programs in the world turning out thousands of new computer and software professionals annually, why take the risk of hiring a hacker?

Hiring a PhD from a top computer science program is always a better choice than a hacker. You're going to get the same deep understanding of "how things work," you're going to get a person with high ethical standards, and you can base your theories and discoveries on a deep understanding of science, not just mechanics learned through hacking.

And by hiring a hacker, you risk damaging your corporate credibility. What if a Fortune 50 company is considering buying your software and finds out the lead developer is a hacker? It's unlikely that fact would make it past the due diligence that these large corporations must do before making a multi-million dollar software purchase.

It's just not worth it. There are too many good, legitimate programmers available.

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