Career advisers often ask me what trait would most help an IT security pro excel. My answer is always the same: Think like a hacker.
I don't mean in the sense of a black hat hacker who engages in illegal practices, but true computer security pros are always hacking systems, all the time, at least mentally. They have the mind-set to automatically think of ways to break into almost any system they come across. By looking at systems through the eyes of a hacker, you can better identify weaknesses and create defenses. The best antihackers are hackers themselves.
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I know I can't help coming up with ways to crack any and all systems in my path. Last week, I was shopping at the local superstore. Just as I was heading out, someone came in with a return, and the antitheft detectors went off. The person returning the item was redirected to the nearby customer service area while I was waved on with an apology. Instantly I thought, How do they know I'm not stealing something? The answer: They didn't know.
My hacker mind went into overdrive. If I was a professional criminal, I could get an accomplice to wait until I was ready to exit the store with my concealed item. The accomplice could hold a security-tagged item out in the open. Just as I try to exit the store, he or she would walk next to the antitheft device. The accomplice wouldn't even have to attempt to exit the store; he or she could just stand by the detector with the item and wave it to the store's security people until they walk away.