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We need to smash the stereotype that hackers are all teens in hoodies

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The typical image of a hacker is wrong, writes WithSecure’s Tom Van de Wiele. This is an issue because many businesses could benefit from skilled, ethical hackers.

Pop culture has long been fabricating the image of a hacker in the minds of the masses.

According to popular movies such as The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and The Matrix, hackers are usually teenagers wearing black hoodies, listening to techno music, and sitting in a dark room surrounded by screens flashing code. They are usually shown to be hacking high-level organisations like the FBI or CIA, which they seem to do in a matter of minutes.

Considering how movies portray hackers, it comes as no surprise that the word ‘hacker’ has been coined as a negative term.

However, what is more concerning is that businesses have bought into this stereotype without considering the full spectrum of what being a hacker means. Most businesses do not want to associate with the term as they perceive hackers to be an illicit group which will only tarnish an organisation.

Hacking, in reality, is a skill which takes practice and education to master. Like most skills, hacking can be used for good or evil. Just like being a locksmith, it depends on your knowledge of the law and your moral compass on knowing when and how to use your skills and not endangering others.

Unfortunately, someone who knows a lot about computers and networks and is able to channel their knowledge and experience for whatever purpose in a moral and ethical way is still portrayed as a caricature, because how else can one visualise the difference between an average and expert computer user.

After being a hacker for about 20 years, these stereotypes are slowly disappearing, but they are still present for media productions. The perception perpetuated by pop media is not only misleading to security professionals, but also to businesses that could benefit from the expertise of a hacker.

Who is a hacker?

Hacking requires knowledge and experience as well as preparation – whether it be criminal or ethical. Hacking as a skill is much more than buying a technical gimmick or a ‘hacking tool’ or being a technical expert or even being able to code. It takes a person to have a ‘hacker mindset’, which means being inquisitive, passionate and having a borderline obsessive interest in how things work.

The crux of what we do is to know the ins and outs of a system. Knowing where and how things are bolted together in a system lets us see where the obvious cracks are. While some individuals choose to use this knowledge to protect the system, some choose to profit from it by attacking.

Criminal hackers, or ‘threat actors’, are usually misportrayed as loners who are sitting in a basement carrying out criminal activities. What most people often don’t realise is that these hackers are usually employees much like us, with managers and budgets. They work as a team to initiate campaigns, research potential targets and plan different kinds of attacks.

In the cybersecurity industry, we have seen attack methods improve drastically while becoming more affordable. This is largely due to the fact that attackers do not usually practice specific skills in isolation, they instead work as a community. This means that they share and steal resources from each other, perfecting their skills and exploring different ways to utilise vulnerabilities.

What does the job of an ethical hacker entail?

One of the core responsibilities of an ethical hacker is to conduct threat modelling on a frequent basis.

This means analysing the systems and applications of a business to identify any structural vulnerabilities that can create a potential threat. They will also be able to map out a potential attack surface and identify how well the digital infrastructure is prepared to handle inevitable attacks, without disrupting the real-life IT environment.

This role involves a lot of analytical aspects, as it is their core responsibility to understand how efficient and controlled a firm’s defence is compared to their competitors.

Furthermore, ethical hackers engage in the interplay between threat modelling and editing to understand what an attacker might do based on the perceived attack surface – ie what can be attacked that could yield something interesting or valuable. This all contributes to preparing the organisation’s defences accordingly.

How can an ethical hacker add value to an organisation?

Criminal gangs have countless attacks in the industry every day, which has secured a permanent space for them in the limelight. Therefore, an employed ethical hacker will try to identify and understand the vulnerabilities in a system, using their skills to protect your organisation rather than destroy it.

Ethical hackers tend to walk the line between both the ethical and non-ethical worlds. They know the law and therefore understand what is acceptable and unacceptable. Ethical hackers understand how and what criminal gangs think, which is one of the most useful skills for any business to have.

Employing a skilled ethical hacker on the security team will put your firm in a better position to not only predict potential threats, but also align your defences accordingly. The primary aim of any ethical hacker would be to keep your business a step ahead before an online incident takes place.

The idea behind it is that if a criminal gang assesses your infrastructure and deems it too robust, meaning they would need more resources to carry out a breach, they are likely skip you. It is impossible to make an impenetrable system, however ethical hackers identify where the cracks in the system are and cease potential opportunities for attacks, thus reducing the possibility of a transgression. This is the true value of having a hacker on your side.

To sum it up, ethical hackers have an intense job that requires us to work with a team carrying out creative solutions to combat creative threat attacks.

There is still a lot of work that needs to go into getting rid of these previously imposed perceptions of what a hacker is. An ethical hacker has the power to make a difference in the security structure of an organisation and to protect the business and even the society at large.

Now is the right time to break the stereotypes and rise above them.

By Tom Van de Wiele

Tom Van de Wiele is principal threats and technology researcher at cybersecurity company WithSecure. He has an extensive background in offensive security, and is responsible for performing and validating threat research while exploring potential protection capabilities as part of current and new technology, privacy and other cybersecurity-related areas.

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Hurricane Ian pushes NASA’s Artemis launch into October • The Register

Voice Of EU



NASA’s Moon-ward Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will not be blasting off from Earth until late October at the earliest, after the vehicle was rolled back to its hangar to shelter from an incoming hurricane.

Tropical storm Ian is projected to hit Florida, where the SLS lives, over the next few days. Officials began transporting the rocket back to its Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on Monday at 2321 ET (0321 UTC, Tuesday) as a precautionary measure. Unfortunately, the move means NASA cannot launch the rocket from the Kennedy Space Center for the next few weeks. 

It’s hoped the SLS rocket will be used in NASA’s Artemis mission to, some time this decade, put the first American woman and another man on the Moon. For now, prior to that return to our natural satellite, the US space agency wants to test the SLS: it’s expected to carry an empty Orion crew capsule up into the Moon’s orbit. The podule will then return to Earth. In future, there’ll be astronauts in the pod.

The hurricane marks another set back to conduct this first-ever flight demonstration of the multi-billion-dollar SLS heavy launch vehicle – NASA’s most powerful rocket to date – that was at one point slated to fly on August 29.

Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, said there was a slim chance the SLS may launch in late October, and November may be more likely. “We’re not writing it off, but it will be difficult,” he said during a media teleconference briefing on Tuesday.

When weather conditions improve, experts will assess any damage to infrastructure at the center before personnel are safely allowed back on site. Engineers then have to perform checks on the heavy launch vehicle; hardware components may need to be replaced, such as the flight’s batteries before it can be rolled back out on the launchpad. 

Hurricane Ian isn’t the only bad omen NASA has been forced to deal with. Janet Petro, the space center’s director, said a fire had erupted in the VAB. “I’ll also note that approximately at 1145 today, a fire was reported in the Vehicle Assembly Building, employees were evacuated and there were no reported injuries. The VAB is now fire safe, personnel are back inside working and the Artemis vehicle was never at risk,” she said during the briefing. An investigation to uncover the cause of the blaze is underway.

All previous attempts to launch the SLS have been scrubbed due to hydrogen fuel leakage. A team of NASA engineers performed a cryogenic demonstration test to confirm whether repairs made to address leaks were successful or not on September 21.

“The launch director has confirmed all objectives have been met for the cryogenic demonstration test, and teams are now proceeding with critical safety activities and preparations for draining the rocket’s tanks,” NASA previously said in a statement. “After encountering a hydrogen leak early in the loading process, engineers were able to troubleshoot the issue and proceed with the planned activities.” ®

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Here’s what workers and students can expect to get

Voice Of EU



The cost-of-living crisis loomed large in Budget 2023, with a host of temporary supports announced for businesses, households and students.

The Irish Government has today (27 September) announced a number of measures designed to protect workers and those in higher education as part of the 2023 Budget.

Among the measures being promised are a package of supports for families, households and businesses to help them cover energy bills amid the ongoing inflation crisis. There will also be a cost-of-living package introduced for students, as well as investment plans for education over the coming months.

Remote working and rural development are being invested in too, as part of the Government’s Our Rural Future and National Development plans. There will be a total of €390m allocated to rural and community development, building on projects for remote and hybrid regional workers such as Connected Hubs.

To complement its investment in rural development, the Government is putting aside €218m to progress the roll-out of the high-speed broadband network next year under the National Broadband Plan.

The State is promising that fibre broadband will be made available to an additional 80,000-85,000 premises in 2023. This is designed to help businesses and workers who rely on technology as part of their working lives.

Those working from home can expect a little help covering their energy bills, as the Budget is to provide a €600 electricity credit to ease the cost of energy bills this winter.

All Irish households regardless of whether their occupants work from home or not, will receive this credit. It will be delivered in instalments, with €200 due before Christmas and the remainder due in two separate batches early next year.

In order to protect jobs and dampen the effects of the energy crisis on businesses, the Government is providing up to €10,000 per business per month until spring 2023. This is part of its plan to help employers meet rising energy costs. The temporary scheme will support eligible companies, covering 40pc of the increase in their energy bills.


However, critics have said the measures will not be enough to protect jobs. Damien McCarthy, CEO of Kerry’s HR Buddy said that the measures will only save “a small number of businesses” and a “small number of jobs”.

“The number one aim in a cost-of-living crisis should be to protect how people earn their living. For this reason, businesses needed more from this budget in order to survive and protect their workers’ jobs through this crisis. A support that only covers 40pc of an overwhelming problem is not going to save jobs. Employers will still be left with 60pc of the problem and that is only the energy costs problem. Businesses have many other rising costs outside of energy,” he said, adding that the temporary measures would “prolong the pain a while longer, but that’s about it”.

“The fact that the lower VAT rate is not being maintained beyond February is also going to be a huge blow and again put people’s jobs at risk,” McCarthy said.

Higher education supports

For those in higher education, the Budget will attempt to alleviate the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis with a range of temporary grants and supports packages. There will be a once-off €1,000 reduction in the undergraduate student contribution fee for higher education students eligible for the free fees initiative.

There will also be a once-off reduction of up to 33pc in the contribution fee for apprentices, as well as a once-off extra payment for all student maintenance grant recipients. Postgraduate students who qualify for SUSI grants will receive a once-off payment of €1,000, meaning their grant will increase from €3,500 to €4,500.

There will be a further €8m investment in the Student Assistance Fund for the 2022-2023 academic year and more once-off funding for the third-level sector to assist with rising energy costs.

The Government is investing in apprenticeships and skills training programmes in Budget 2023, also. It will provide funding for 4,800 additional apprenticeship places and 4,000 registrations. The State will provide more than 11,000 upskilling and reskilling opportunities for those sectors most impacted by Brexit and more than 2,000 Skillnet places in sectors such as sustainable finance, green-tech and climate.

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Fifa 23 review – EA’s final Fifa game bows out gracefully | Games

Voice Of EU



They think it’s all over … The football sim series that has graced the gaming charts every year since its launch in 1993 is about to face the final whistle, thanks to a licensing tussle with Fifa. Next year, Electronic Arts will be revealing its annoyingly named replacement, EA Sports FC, but for now, we get to run out on to this heavily branded pitch one last time.

It’s immediately clear the development team was determined to go out on a high, throwing in a range of vital updates. At last we get to play women’s league football, if only within the English and French premier divisions. Still, it’s fun to play as the stars of the recent Euro 22 tournament, making a mazy run into the box as Beth Mead or marshalling the Olympique Lyonnais defence with Wendie Renard, and it may be genuinely inspiring and educational for girls who have got into the sport through that glorious summer tournament. And there is full online cross-play between consoles of the same generation (PC owners are able to play against PS5 and Xbox Series X pals) in seasons and friendlies, as well as Ultimate Team, broadening your competitive base considerably.

Fifa 23 stadium realism.
Fifa 23 stadium realism. Photograph: Electronic Arts

How does it play? It’s really rather lovely. There is a fluidity to the action that contrasts with the somewhat ponderous Fifa 22. It’s not quite the turbo-charged ping pong feel of classic Pro Evo, but the zippy passes and pacy off-the-ball movement allow for sweeping attacks that feel genuinely exciting. There seems to be a much more granular employment of analogue button presses too, allowing well weighted crosses and accurate long-range strikes. While the set pieces are still not perfect, you can now add spin and bend to the ball with the right analogue stick, and use a slightly more instructive onscreen pointer to get the direction right.

Updated impact physics add greater unpredictability to collisions and loose ball situations. I’ve seen a through ball connect with the back of the target player’s boot, sending the ball rebounding back to me; I’ve powered in a low cross that has spun wildly off a defender’s shin and into their own goal. These capricious little moments add a nice sense of realism and tension to the game. Meanwhile, players now have one of three types of pace – explosive, lengthy and balanced – bringing variety to how they chase the ball and outrun rivals. The likes of Thiago and Traoré can call on a quick burst of speed, peeling away from nearby opponents in a sudden blur, while Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw will stride the whole length of the pitch, gathering momentum as they go. Brought together, the new additions provide moments of genuine visual spectacle: play for long enough and you might see Lewandowski audaciously chip the keeper in a crowded box or Bernardo Silva volleying a stray ball into the top right-hand corner from an angle so acute it would make Euclid shake his head in disbelief.

Throughout every match there are pleasing visual moments: players pulling dainty step-overs to change direction, the ball spinning up water from a wet surface; the net billowing wildly as a shot makes contact. Even the commentary is bearable, despite the odd Accidental Partridge moment from Derek Rae (after a fumbled throwout that results in a goal: “And the goalkeeper is wishing, quite simply, that he hadn’t done that.”)

There is as ever, a lot of football on offer here. Quick Play lets you launch straight into a single match or a tournament either alone or against friends or online competitors. Skill Games test you in various elements of passing and shooting. Volta is street football with a lot of fancy moves. In Career, you take either a player or manager through their entire footballing life, handling all aspects of their ascent, as a timetable of matches, training sessions and transfer dramas rolls by. This hasn’t changed hugely since the last game, though the presentation is neater and you get the chance to take part in Playable Highlights of matches rather than having to go through the entire 90 minutes. It’s kind of like an interactive version of Match of the Day, and feels tense, fun and demanding.

Then, of course, there is the monstrous Ultimate Team, where you buy virtual packs of player cards to build a super-squad of heroes while trading swaps and challenging other Fifa owners to online matches. For me, the big addition is Moments, a new set of single-player challenges that let you earn currency towards card packs and loan players. These might be mini skill challenges, or you could be tasked with replaying key moments in a major player’s career. New stuff arrives daily so there’s always a way to earn packs for nothing. Fifa 23 may be more generous with its freebies than previous titles, but at its heart Ultimate Team remains a fiendish loot box specifically designed to prompt fans into regular card pack purchases. The dopamine-piquing quest for elusive star players is as real as ever.

Controversial player-packs aside, Fifa 23 is the culmination of EA Sports’ philosophy. This series has always talked about realism, but it was for many years a Roy of the Rovers-style of realism – a penalty in the dying seconds, a scissor kick goalline clearance, a 35-yard screamer bending through the air like a misfiring exorcet missile. Now it feels like the physics, AI and animation have come together in a way that makes even these ridiculous moments feel naturalistic and pleasurable. The first Fifa on the Mega Drive billed itself as an authentic experience of real sport, real drama, real spectacle. It wasn’t then, but perhaps, in this final iteration … it is now.

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