EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Business

May 5, 2013

In battle against cyberattacks, these hackers wear the 'white hats'

He’s 26, likes industrial and electronic music, has a bleached-blond Mohawk haircut and sometimes, Mikhail Davidov said, he starts his day “at the crack of noon.”

The late hours are in front of a computer, working on reverse engineering, tearing apart computer programs to find their vulnerabilities.

Sometimes he works 18 hours straight. “There are few hackers out there who are ‘morning people,’ “ Davidov said.

These days, the front lines for security don’t only include soldiers carrying weapons.

They include computer whiz kids like Davidov, who works for the Leviathan Security Group, a 20-person firm that operates out of second-floor offices in a renovated 1918 building in Seattle.

Chad Thunberg, chief operating officer of Leviathan, said he can relate to Davidov, remembering his own younger days.

Thunberg, who is 35 and married with two children, said, “I’m considered a grandpa in my industry. There was a time when I was the Mikhail equivalent. You live and breathe security.”

Cyberattacks are costing corporations — and consumers — a lot. In a six-year span starting in 2005, data breaches in 33 countries, including the U.S., cost the firms involved more than $156 billion, according to the nonprofit Digital Forensics Association.

Every second, in various parts of the world, there are 18 cybercrime victims — some 1.6 million a day — according to a 2012 Norton by Symantec study.

In April, the Wenatchee World newspaper reported that a Leavenworth, Wash., hospital said hackers stole more than $1 million from the hospital’s electronic bank account.

The Chelan County, Wash., treasurer said it had been able to retrieve about $133,000 by notifying recipient bank accounts, most in the Midwest and East Coast.

And the Associated Press reported that LivingSocial, an online deals site, said Friday that its website was hacked and the personal data of more than 50 million customers may have been affected — names, email addresses, date of birth of some users and encrypted passwords.

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