LE­GAL IN­SID­ERS

Hack­ing a real job

The Advertiser - Careers - - Front Page - TRIS­TAN WILLES

HACK­ERS are be­ing em­ployed to try to find loop­holes in com­puter sys­tems which could ruin the busi­ness of Ade­laide com­pa­nies. The dif­fer­ence be­tween these eth­i­cal hack­ers and their crim­i­nal coun­ter­parts is that com­pa­nies are pay­ing the com­puter spe­cial­ists to do it to their own sys­tems.

‘‘Eth­i­cal hacker’’ is a rel­a­tively new role in the elec­tronic se­cu­rity in­dus­try in South Aus­tralia.

It in­volves find­ing gaps in in­for­ma­tion technology sys­tems to pro­tect im­por­tant and/or con­fi­den­tial data from crim­i­nal hack­ing pro­gram­mers who seek to ex­ploit the com­pany.

Tal­ent 2 IT re­cruiter Rick Sharma says a lot of po­si­tions have been cre­ated in keep­ing com­puter sys­tems safe as large com­pa­nies be­come more concerned about on­line pro­tec­tion.

‘‘There’s def­i­nitely been an in­crease in IT se­cu­rity roles, whether it’s se­cu­rity an­a­lysts or just com­pa­nies them­selves in­creas­ing their own se­cu­rity,’’ he says.

‘‘Peo­ple are start­ing to look a bit more at where the gaps are.

‘‘It has be­come a real fo­cus for or­gan­i­sa­tions.’’

Mr Sharma says the job suits peo­ple who have good com­puter skills as well as a back­ground in IT se­cu­rity.

He says there is strong de­mand for work­ers in the in­for­ma­tion technology sec­tor and work­ers who start out in IT se­cu­rity can eas­ily make the tran­si­tion into other ca­reers in the field.

‘‘The ma­jor­ity of the roles in IT right now are in the net pro­gram­ming space,’’ he says.

‘‘There are also roles com­ing up in busi­ness anal­y­sis and project man­age­ment.’’

Au­dit, tax and ad­vi­sory ser­vices firm KPMG is among Ade­laide busi­nesses us­ing eth­i­cal hack­ers to test its net­work as well as the sys­tems of sev­eral clients.

IT ad­vi­sory part­ner Julie Wob­ber says the com­pany is look­ing for a fur­ther two eth­i­cal hack­ers to join its team.

‘‘Com­pa­nies across the world have been brought to their knees by crim­i­nal hack­ers who have ex­ploited a weak­ness in their IT sys­tem,’’ she says. ‘‘This has the po­ten­tial to de­stroy a com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion overnight and cause sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial im­pact. KPMG is in­creas­ingly be­ing called on by our clients to carry out pre-emp­tive IT trou­ble shoot­ing that can save enor­mous prob­lems fur­ther down the track.’’

She says ev­ery pri­vate and pub­lic or­gan­i­sa­tion is de­pen­dent on its com­put­ing sys­tem and e-com­merce ac­tiv­i­ties so the risk of out­law hack­ing is too great to ig­nore.

The risks that hack­ers pose to com­pa­nies in­clude iden­tity theft, credit card fraud, leav­ing ‘‘graf­fiti’’ on web­sites, chang­ing stored in­for­ma­tion or even caus­ing an en­tire net­work to crash. KPMG has many South Aus­tralian com­pa­nies and govern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions on its con­fi­den­tial client list. Ms Wob­ber says that if the hack­ers find a weak­ness in the sys­tem, the team works closely with the client to find a so­lu­tion im­me­di­ately.

‘‘This is of­ten done be­fore a sys­tem goes live, how­ever, we are also con­stantly test­ing all sys­tems that are con­nected to the in­ter­net,’’ she says.

Work­ers in the role of­ten have a di­verse back­ground but pos­sess sim­i­lar skills, such as com­puter lit­er­acy, a highly in­quis­i­tive na­ture and a high level of in­tegrity.

‘‘There is a wealth of tal­ent in IT in Ade­laide and we look to re­cruit the best to be­come an eth­i­cal hacker,’’ Ms Wob­ber says.

Pic­ture: DEAN MARTIN

The KPMG se­cu­rity team, headed by Julie Wob­ber, front, fol­lowed by Fiona Law, Jamie Arm­field, David Billing and Ben San­delin-McCann.

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