Hacker Boot Camp Helps Good Guys Out-Smart Internet Troublemakers

The number of IT security professionals is expected to grow to nearly 800,000 by 2008 and more of them need to think like hackers to be effective.

June 23, 2005

3 Min Read
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IT security professional Rudy Chavez wasn't looking for a major career change, but he felt compelled to do something more to help fight Internet bad guys--hackers, virus writers, and other Web hoodlums intent on wreaking havoc.

So Chavez, a trained Unix systems administrator and IT security assurance expert, decided to take classes that would help him outsmart hackers and other cybercriminals at their own game. In January, Chavez signed up for "ethical-hacker boot camp" offered by Intense School, a provider of classroom and online IT and security training.

During the five days of classroom instruction, computer-lab time, and tests, Chavez learned how legitimate tools, technologies, and techniques are increasingly being used for illegitimate and hostile purposes. "These courses took my training to another level--traditionally, the IT security field takes a defensive approach, but this training gave me a new offensive posture," he says.

"The sophistication, ease of use, and pervasiveness of tools out there allows for great havoc," he says. Increasing threats and risks require IT security pros to stay steps ahead and "look through the lens of someone with malicious intent and plans for aggressive attacks," says Chavez, who has been working for two years on a federal systems contract as a consultant employed by IT services firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

The boot-camp training allowed Chavez to earn certification as an "ethical hacker," raising his level of security expertise for the government contract work. Still, Chavez says he plans to continue taking additional classes to keep up with individuals who look for "vulnerabilities to exploit" on the Web. Chavez says his boot-camp classes, paid for by Booz Allen, cost about $2,500.Apparently, Chavez has lots of company when it comes to IT professionals beefing up their security expertise. Research firm IDC estimates that the number of information security professionals in the United States will grow from over 500,000 to almost 800,000 by 2008.

Vigilar Inc., a privately held, venture-funded information security consulting and services firm, is aiming to provide this training for many of those new experts. The company this week said that it is acquiring Intense School in order to expand its security services portfolio. Intense School, which offers more than 60 IT and security classroom and E-learning courses, says it's certified more than 19,000 tech and security professionals since 1997.

Vigilar's acquisition of Intense School is expected to be completed by July 5. By the end of this year, Vigilar's revenue is projected to reach about $50 million, says the company's president and CEO Palaniswamy "Raj" Rajan.

"We try to teach the mind-set of hackers," says Intense School founder and CEO David Kaufman. This boot-camp training will augment the services Vigilar offers its security customers, Rajan says.

So, if "good guys" like Chavez are taking classes to become "white hat" hackers, how does Intense School know that shady characters aren't taking the training, too?The majority of students who attend the company's ethical hacker boot camp are employed by government agencies, large corporations, and consulting firms who foot the bill for the courses, says Kaufman. He insists, "Bad guys aren't coming to our classes."

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