Renowned hacker extraordinaire Johnny Long was once famous for attacking server vulnerabilities by using certain Google search terms, but for some time he’s been know as a leader of the good guys in the security world. He’s a guy who’s tried to bring one of the original meaning of hacking (it’s a term that will forever be debated) back into the forefront: not cracking bank security, nor hanging out on rollerblades with Angelina Jolie, but using analytical, observational and tech skills to make things more efficient, user friendly and secure.
CNET’s Elinor Mills had a great chat with Long at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas about his newest charity venture. In 2008, Long started a nonprofit called Hackers for Charity that’s been a model of success in utilizing the resources of the hacking community to offer serious IT help to those in need.
In a legendary talk at DefCon 15 in 2007 (watch it here, as it’s simply awesome), Long announced the organization, which is novel in that he discussed trading industry connections and recommendation in exchange for work from the many undiscovered talents attending the conference. It was one heck of a novel idea: take hackers who are basically skilled privateers, give them projects to help charities, and in exchange for quality work, offer them a chance to break into the industry. That’s the type of idea Long talks about when he mentions hacking charities.
Talking to Mills, Long discussed his newly launched program called InfoSec without Borders which is modeled after its namesake Doctors Without Borders. Both InfoSec without Borders and the Hackers for Charity nonprofit are tasked with providing free IT services and training to impoverished nations and NGOs, and also provided food for thousands of families through a “food for work” program. The goal is to provide IT training to the poorest of regions so people aren’t forced to revert to scams, like those made famous from Nigeria, to earn money in the tech world.