TED Global: Misha Glenny Says ‘Hire The Hackers’

The TED talks have long been famous for introducing a wide (albeit wired) audience to The Next Big Thing, whether it was Jeff Hann at NYU demonstrating the Minority Report-style touch-sensitive user interfaces in 2006 – years before the iPhone hit the market – or MIT’s David Merrill’s demonstration of stackable mini computers called Siftables. (OK – we’re not sure yet what the heck you can use those for.)

The TED talks have long been famous for introducing a wide (albeit wired) audience to The Next Big Thing, whether it was Jeff Hann at NYU demonstrating the Minority Report-style touch-sensitive user interfaces in 2006 – years before the iPhone hit the market – or MIT’s David Merrill’s demonstration of stackable mini computers called Siftables. (OK – we’re not sure yet what the heck you can use those for.)

Historically, however, computer security has had a low profile at the TED talks. That may be because the concept of security is, by its nature, conservative and applied, rather than brash and theoretical (two of the qualities that can be applied to most TED talks.) But as the profile of cyber security increases, that’s starting to change. We reported on a (great) presentation by malware researcher Mikko Hypponnen of F-Secure on the history of viruses – from Brain to Stuxnet.

More recently, a TED talk by UK journalist and international crime expert Misha Glenny has been making the rounds. In it, Glenny takes listeners on a whirlwind tour of the cyber underground, including now-infamous online criminal hideouts like carderplanet, and notorious cyber criminals like Dimitry Golubov (aka SCRIPT), German Matrix001, Sri Lankan hacker JilSi and Max Vision, aka ICEMAN, (subject of Kevin Poulsen’s book KingPin).

In his talk, Glenny takes a strong “nurture versus nature” position, arguing that many of the most talented hackers are immature, or suffer from social and developmental problems. They are, disproportionately, a product of broken homes and communities that blind them to the consequences of their actions, or push them to ply their talents in the black market as a matter of survival. Rather than jailing them, the U.S. and European nations should be hiring them: recruiting their talent as – he argues – countries like Russia and China already do. 

Check it out!

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