SINGAPORE: On the earth of on-line multiplayer online game Defence of the Ancients (DOTA), Gondar is the notorious bounty hunter who infiltrates insurgent terrain to convey criminals to justice – all whereas being invisible. 

The tales of Gondar’s prowess stretch on with every feat extra spectacular than the final, and for the suitable worth, even probably the most devious murderer might discover concern within the shadows. 

Drawing parallels to at present’s world, might the simplest cybersecurity allies come within the type of hackers themselves? 


Going again a chapter, the quickly rising variety of hackers fall into two foremost camps engaged on opposing ends of the legislation: White hats and black hats.

The previous are extra generally often called moral hackers whereas the latter serve to wreak havoc for private acquire, and in some instances to gasoline a wider hacktivist agenda – utilizing tech know-how to protest towards perceived political, authorized, or societal injustices. 

Consider the vulnerability market as a worldwide ecosystem of consumers and sellers, motivated by the forces of provide and demand. 

Safety researchers and hackers now have a mess of choices, not like within the early days, when hackers traded and bought exploits amongst themselves for fame, disruption of conventional IT and software program growth pipelines, and every now and then for unscrupulous revenue.

In a nutshell: The abundance of dangerous actors with sick intent are usually not going wherever. The extra expertise people and enterprises alike use and develop into related with, the extra avenues there are for intruders to use system vulnerabilities. 

READ: The SingHealth breach and the uphill task of governing cyberspace, a commentary

(Photograph: AFP/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

The truth is, so long as you’re related to the online, a perpetrator can use a phishing web site to launch a ransomware assault and lock down your system by way of the WiFi entry factors round you. 

However think about if companies might use this intel for good?

Working example. In 2017, the Zero Day Initiative – the world’s largest bug bounty programme – printed 1,009 vulnerabilities in whole.

Menace intelligence gained by way of exhuming these vulnerabilities from completely different software program programmes, IT methods, or related gadgets enabled the safety of consumers, on common, 72 days earlier than an official patch was launched from the seller. 

Vulnerability analysis is a modern-day arms race between the black hats, cybercriminals in search of a fast buck and the white hats, researchers working with distributors to supply a patch that tightens the reins round susceptible methods. 

Globally, such bounty programmes uncovered a complete of 1,522 vulnerabilities final yr, out of which, 61 per cent have been marked “critical-severity” and “high-severity”. Think about the sort of harm that would have been inflicted ought to these vulnerabilities be uncovered by cybercriminals first.

READ: Seven habits of highly secure digital natives, a commentary


Maybe greater than something, the crucial lacking hyperlink for organisations isn’t just within the type of constructing layered community defences, having round the clock menace visibility, or adopting newfangled options. As a substitute, organisations ought to deal with exploring how hackers themselves can develop into the answer for a safer Web. 

By means of the lens of moral hacking, it’s riveting to witness how there exists a world group dedicated to figuring out safety flaws in IT methods or software program programmes for the aim of strengthening the cyber world as a substitute of exploiting it. 

A lot in order that the work of those people has earned a nod from authorities our bodies such because the US Division of Defence, enlisting their assist to place nationwide cybersecurity defences to the take a look at. 

FILE PHOTO: A man types into a keyboard during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas

A person varieties right into a keyboard in the course of the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, US on July 29, 2017. (Photograph: REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photograph)

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We’re seeing this play out all over the world as properly. Take Pwn2Own, an annual pc hacking contest for example. The successful white hat crew in 2018 exploited a collection of codes to realize management of a vendor’s net browser and revealed 4 new factors of entry that would probably facilitate the entire elimination of a tool’s working system. 

Not solely do initiatives like this reveal the vulnerability of gadgets and software program in widespread use, in addition they function a checkpoint on the progress made in safety from the yr earlier than. 


What companies and authorities our bodies alike want is to undertake a complete change in paradigm to show cybersecurity methods to the skin, enlist hackers to use vulnerabilities, after which reward them for responsibly disclosing vulnerabilities. 

Singapore is already making strides on this path with the inception of the Government Bug Bounty Programme slated to roll out later this yr in a bid to determine blind spots in our related infrastructures, and construct a extra modern and inclusive cyber ecosystem. 

To that finish, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean added that by way of this course of, the federal government might “convey collectively a group of cyber defenders, who share the widespread objective of constructing our on-line world safer and extra resilient”. 

READ: Government to launch bug bounty programme by this year: DPM Teo

Solely then can a way of shared possession be fostered to guard our crucial data infrastructure – an important aspect that can underpin Singapore’s Sensible Nation imaginative and prescient. 

teo chee hean at PSL

File photograph of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

READ: Singapore to have new academy to train cybersecurity professionals

Some companies might view this idea with eyebrows raised, fearing the worst repercussions for his or her digital belongings and a beating to buyer confidence ranges. Would they be inadvertently handing over the keys to a bunch of masked intruders? 

Under no circumstances. Safety specialists have reached an inflection level: To guard knowledge, they wanted help past their present in-house coders and safety groups can provide. 

An out of doors perspective is required to assist win this raging struggle on the within towards cybercrime – within the type of perpetrators themselves. A change in mindset to create an open cybersecurity ecosystem must be set in stone for this to return to fruition.

READ: Cybersecurity is the next economic battleground, a commentary

Identical to how DOTA heroes manoeuvre effortlessly between lawlessness and justice, white hat hackers and safety researchers tasked with infiltrating methods and profiting within the type of new defence intelligence for good can convey promise of better infrastructure safety. 

Because the market evolves with the introduction of extra programmes to incentivise analysis, a well-rounded defence agenda might want to work in tandem with world unbiased researchers to reveal safety bugs and safeguard mental property. 

Solely then can Singapore actually profit from a hacker’s books – or networks – to show the tide towards the actual intruders.

Nilesh Jain is Development Micro vice-president for Southeast Asia and India.

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