By KIM BELLARD
Maybe you, like me, are an Olympics fan (in my case: Summer Games, track & field). Most Americans look forward eagerly to the Super Bowl, while the rest of the world (and, increasingly, many in the U.S.) are waiting for the World Cup. But too few of us are aware that next summer will be the inaugural International Cyber Security Challenge, an esports event that pits teams from multiple countries against each other in cybersecurity skills. The U.S. is sending a 25 person team.
So what, you might say? Well, if you work in healthcare (or any industry, for that matter), or use any kind of digital device, you should care. Ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations continue to proliferate. The Colonial Pipeline cyberattack this past spring illustrated the weakness of other parts of our critical infrastructure, and we’ve all almost certainly had some of our personal data exposed in data breaches.
We’re in a war, but it’s not clear that we have the right army, with the right weapons, ready to fight it. Thus the U.S. Cyber Games.
There are two definitions of the word “Hacker”. One is an original and authentic term that the geekdom uses with respect. This is a cherished label in the technical community, which might read something like:
“A person adept at solving technical problems in clever and delightful ways”
While the one portrayed by popular culture is what real hackers call “crackers”
“Someone who breaks into other people computers and causes havok on the Internet”
People who aspire to be hackers, like me, resent it when other people use the term in a demeaning and co-opted manner. Or at least, that is what I used to think. For years, I have had a growing unease about the “split” between these two definitions. The original Hackers at the MIT AI lab did spend time breaking into computer resources… it is not an accident that the word has come to mean two things.. It is from observing e-patients, who I consider to be the hackers of the healthcare world, that I have come to understand a higher level definition that encompasses both of these terms.
Hacking is the act of using clever and delightful technical workarounds to reject the morality embedded default settings embedded in a given system.
This puts “Hacking” more on the footing with “Protesting”. This is why crackers give real Hackers a bad name. While crackers might technically be engaged in Hacking, they are doing so in a base and ethically bankrupt manner. Martin Luther King Jr. certainly deserves the moniker of “protester” and this is not made any less noble because Westboro Baptist Church members are labeled protesters too.