Created by Theo de Raadt in 1995, OpenBSD is a free, open source variant of BSD and easily the most secure, popularly used operating system available today. It is known for having only two remotely exploitable holes ever in the default installed software. Though people rightly argue that most users will install other nondefault software with many holes, no other base OS comes even close. I run OpenBSD on my honeypot network, on my forensic/pen testing laptop, and as my home firewall (using the OpenBSD packet filter). If you want an indisputably tough firewall that allows only what you tell it to -- and no more -- try the packet filter.
At Microsoft, my current employer, there are dozens of expert defenders who blow me away with their computer security ideas. These include Michael Howard, Kim Cameron, David LeBlanc, Crispin Cowin, Steve Lipner, Aaron Margosis, and Robert Hensing. Say what you will about a particular Windows software vulnerability, which is a factor of dozens of systems, I'll put any of these guys against anyone you can offer.
Dr. Niels Provos, inventor of open source honeypot software, Honeyd, is an incredible asset at Google. Bruce Schneier continues to put out cutting-edge thinking and has forgotten more about computer security than I'll ever learn. I don't think I'd be half the professional I am without reading his writing. I consider Lance Spitzner the father of the modern-day honeypot. Dr. Dorothy Denning led the way with anomaly detection. I probably wouldn't even be in the field if not for the books written by Ross Greenberg ("Flushot") and Clifford Stoll ("The Cuckoo's Egg").
Paul Ferguson is a router and malware extraordinary. He brought me into the world of disassembling and testing computer viruses in the days of Fidonet -- that is, before the Internet. He's still going strong two decades later for Trend Micro. Lenny Zeltser, Dr. Eric Cole, Jason Fossen, Ed Skoudis, Dr. Eugene Schultz, and Stephen Northcutt, over at SANS, are in a higher echelon of instructors that cannot be duplicated. Eric taught me things about securing IIS more than 10 years ago that I still don't see anywhere else. Stephen has been a mentor, and he continues to see what really needs to be done to improve computer security years before anyone else does. He is truly visionary like Bruce Schneier.
Any list of computer security experts I come up with is bound to leave out dozens of people whom I (and the world) respect and admire. Every little step forward is built on the backs of giants.
Why participate in malicious hacking when you can spend your time bettering this world and making it a far safer place to compute for everyone. If you don't improve others' lives with your life while on earth, what's the reason for your existence?
The people I've mentioned are brilliant. They are my heroes. They build the garages that others can't break down so easily.
Think you're smart? Then hack the hackers! Build a better defense.
This story, "Make your mark by stopping hackers," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Keep up on the latest developments in network security and read more of Roger Grimes' Security Adviser blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.