Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Cyber Initiative Program Officer Eli Sugarman makes the case that hackersthe white hat wearing kindare critical to U.S. cybersecurity:

During his State of the Union address last month, President Obama singled out hackers as one of America’s principal cyber enemies and called for stiffer criminal penalties against them. Fans of this tough rhetoric should beware: a war on hackers could actually chill legitimate security efforts.

From the National Security Agency to Google, US government agencies and businesses are turning to hackers to develop, test, and secure their critical systems and products. Hackers succeed by thinking outside of the box. They break the rules and oftentimes cheat. While many types of hacks – remotely disabling a car’s engine or cracking heavily encrypted data using only a microphone – sound criminal, they aren’t. Rather, they are routinely conducted by leading academic or independent security researchers.

In fact, hacking plays a critical role in securing everything from ATM machines to smartphones. Defenders develop better security measures only after a new attack is invented. Both government and industry recruit skilled white hat (good) hackers to test their systems and defend against black hat (malicious) hackers.