South Africa’s ethical hacking community reveals security flaws

Posted on October 19, 2014 10:59 pm

A security research team in South Africa has revealed glaring loopholes in the country finical sector.In a report to be published soon,the ethical hacking community was able to decipher codes, revealing details of one of the country’s largest insurance companies.In one of their research paper, an ethical hacker argues that breaking into corporate and banking websites to extract sensitive information is nothing illicit to so many budding ethical hackers in South Africa.In his case, it is purely to look for flaws in the companies’ online security systems of banks, insurance,medical organisations among others. When I sought views of the report co-author,I was informed that South Africans have false paradigm about hackers, your blogger agreed with him as he knows its a common perception everywhere. In fact, when I was crawling in the coding industry, an elderly programmer in Melbourne back then told me that those committing crimes are called crackers whose work is to basically burglar whereas hackers purely hack for scientific purposes like South Africa ethical hacking community is doing.Actually, for those unaware, hackers have been breaking into people’s computer systems since the early 1990s.Then in late 1990s, the so called “ethical hackers” began breaking into a system on purpose and alerting the system’s operators that they are vulnerable to attacks and thefts.

The South African team hopes to take away certain stigmas people have that hackers are a bunch of individuals out to make some damage. Johannesburg based hacking community started as an informal gathering online where members exchanged information about the latest online security trends and technological developments. In 2012, the community decided to become more than just an online group and set up a physical office in commercial capital of Johannesburg. Having known some members personally for close to five years, the group is more about sharing knowledge and experience. They inflict measurable damage with the knowledge and consent of the system’s owner. Afterwards they formulate solutions based on the flaws and weaknesses which they have found. The community now has more than five thousands of members from across the country as well as those living overseas though active members are less than 2,000. If hackers are able to figure out how to crack the code then it will reveal further instructions before they can officially become part of the ethical hacking community members because it means they have the determination and skill set needed to join. This is how would be members are tested them.

Once they join, they can freely ask any question about internet security and the technological developments in the industry. “But don’t ask questions about how to steal people’s password or how to break in to a system. We will not answer them. If they ask us about how to secure their account and system they manage we will. That is our moral responsibility so that these skills don’t fall into the wrong hands,” a hacker with the community told your blogger.Your blogger also learned that in South Africa there are many crackers who are switching over to the other side. For these people, the community serves as support group, keeping them away from their old habits as well as teaching them on how to be ethical hackers.For people to change this paradigm about hackers, the hackers themselves must change first. I was delighted to learn that from next year the team is planning to stage a continental hacking competition to look for new talents as well as providing the venue for existing talents to meet and connect with each other.The competition will allow a safe, appropriate and legitimate venue for hackers as well as show the public the true world of hacking.And South Africa has much potential in the sector. According to a recent study, 42 percent of cyber attacks around the African continent in the second half of last year originated from South Africa. The percentage is larger than those originating from the Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt.

Contador Harrison