Security expert publicly backs 'grey hats' such as LulzSec, saying that public disclosure will help businesses

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Adrian Seccombe, former CISO for Eli Lilly, Jericho Forum board member and SC Magazine's 2010 information security person of the year, said that he backed the actions of ‘grey hats' such as LulzSec as they publicly test companies' security capabilities.

Calling security penetration testing a ‘grey area', he said that it raises interest in security as members of the public read about it at breakfast and the stories raise security consciousness.

Talking to SC Magazine, Seccombe said: “A fundamental message is let's use this and for IT security professionals, it gives us a benefit as a lot of boardrooms don't want it to be them next.

“I don't despise these people that create these incidents as long as they are not doing it for economic benefit. I don't support black hats at all, but grey hats are doing a good job in creating their future consultancies, in addition to helping create a more secure world.

“I suppose the subtle point is the implication not quoted of the following statement, transparency is a good thing for security, it keeps us on our toes.”

He went on to say that he believed that pretending that an environment is benign is dangerous, as security professionals should be building and developing their world to survive in the deperimeterised environment.

“The game should be unplayable for the grey hats. We are still not designing as if all our systems will always be in a corrosive environment,” he said.

“Frankly we mostly still don't get it. I hope that a dose or two of the grey hat vaccination will persuade security professionals to finally understand they live in a deperimeterised world. So we have to design differently.”

He concluded by saying that companies have two options: to hire a white hat to do a penetration test, get a private copy of the results and choose not to manage the established vulnerabilities/ risks; or they are compromised by a grey hat who publishes their findings on the web. What do you think the offending organisation will do now?

“Which option do you choose, if you know you are or will be a customer of that company? My position: security transparency is a good thing,” he said.

“If our systems were more secure grey hats would not find the sport in it. Every game relies on it being playable, security professionals need to make ‘their' game unplayable.”

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