Consumer Alert: Hackers for hire

Consumer Alert: Hackers for hire

(WOIO) - Hackers have broken into some of America's largest corporations, but now businesses are starting to use hackers to their advantage. Companies are actually hiring them to test their systems for security flaws.

"When I press 'create site' I can see everything the browser is doing," 27-year-old Mike Santillana explains as he shows how he would try to hack Google.

He's not doing anything illegal. In fact, Google is one of a number of firms that asks hackers, like Santillana, to try to find security flaws. They're often referred to as "ethical hackers" or "white hat hackers." 

Santillana further explains his interest in hacking saying, "We're curious. We want to test our skills. We want to help these companies."

He works for a firm called Bugcrowd, which connects companies, including Pinterest and Western Union, with hackers like himself.

"I suppose it's kinda half in terms of fun, in terms of the puzzle, and I suppose the other half would be monetary of course," Santillana adds.

That's because the businesses pay cash rewards, called "bug bounties." They range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and go to the first person to find a particular bug. Mobile payments company, Square, has a bug bounty program.

"So we do everything we can to secure our products and services, but occasionally, things fall through the cracks," Dino Dai Zovi from Square

Square would rather have good hackers help find these problems before malicious attackers do.

Dai Zovi acknowledges it's a bit scary to invite strangers to hack you. He says it has helped and, so far, they haven't been burned. 

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