China’s computer poachers turn gamekeepers

dcharries_gamekeeperA sea change is happening in China where kids who would normally be hackers are turning into security experts.

Chinese companies are finding themselves being turned over regularly and with the increase in the number of cyber-attacks, many hackers are finding it increasingly lucrative to go above board and join the country’s cyber security industry.

Reuters cited the CV of Zhang Tianqi, a 23-year old Beijinger who spent his high school years infiltrating foreign websites by probing for vulnerabilities on overseas gaming networks.

He is now the chief technology officer of a Shanghai-based cyber security firm which owns Vulbox.com, a site offering rewards for vulnerability discoveries, and internet security media site FreeBuf.com.

Zhang said that there’s a trend of China taking information security very seriously and to tackle a huge problem of cybercrime dozens of cyber security companies are now cropping up across China according to industry observers, populated by young techies with bona fide security skills and work experience at firms like Alibaba, Tencent Holdings and Baidu.

China wants people with local security skills rather than relying on foreign firms like Symantec, Kaspersky and EMC who might have links with foreign governments.

Former hackers say the majority of their peers are joining a burgeoning industry to help China firms fend off the numerous attacks they face themselves, normally from the US and from cut-throat Chinese rivals.

Some of the shift away from hobby hacking might have been spurred by a government crackdown on China’s hacking community five years ago – around the same time Beijing passed a series of laws banning hacking and spamming tools and requiring telecom operators to help suppress attacks.

Many chose to shift from “black hat” activities to “white hat” ones, using their skills to find network vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed.