70 real-life hackers and cybersecurity practitioners share their personal insights

Entering the information security industry can be a formidable undertaking and renowned professionals often seem larger than life and unapproachable (even though most are on Twitter and their email address is public).

tribe of hackers

Luckily for us all, Marcus J. Carey and Jennifer Jin have the ear of some of the biggest names in the field and have generously decided to share that access.

Their book Tribe of Hackers: Cybersecurity Advice from the Best Hackers in the World is a compilation of answers seventy cybersecurity luminaries have given to questions most of us always wanted to ask:

  • If there is one myth that you could debunk in cybersecurity, what would it be?
  • What is one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck actions that an organization can take to improve their cybersecurity posture?
  • How is it that cybersecurity spending is increasing but breaches are still happening?
  • Do you need a college degree or certification to be a cybersecurity professional?
  • How did you get started in the cybersecurity field, and what advice would you give to a beginner pursuing a career in cybersecurity?
  • What is your specialty in cybersecurity? How can others gain expertise in your specialty?
  • What is your advise fore career success when it comes to getting hired, climbing the corporate ladder, or starting a company in cybersecurity?
  • What qualities do you believe all highly successful cybersecurity professionals share?
  • What is the best book or movie that can be used to illustrate cybersecurity challenges?
  • What is your favorite hacker movie?
  • What are your favorite books for motivation, personal development, or enjoyment?
  • What is some practical cybersecurity advise you give to people at home in the age of social media and the Internet of Things?
  • What is a life hack that you’d like to share?
  • What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made, and how did you recover from it?

Inspiration for the book

Carey was inspired to create this book after reading Tim Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors, in which the author asked famously successful people about their “favorite” failures, unusual habits, beliefs or behaviors that improved their life, bad recommendations in their profession, and so on.

The questions Carey asked in this book are all questions he – a white hat hacker (and the founder and CEO of Threatcare) – gets often asked at conferences, in the snippets of time between scheduled talks and events.

The “Tribe of Hackers”

The names of the interviewees are well-known in the industry: Ron Gula, Lesley Carhart, Davi Ottenheimer, Dan Tentler, Astha Singhal, Jayson E. Street and many, many others.

“Most of the hackers [we interviewed] I have a personal connection with, or are someone whom I’ve previously mentored,” Carey told Help Net Security.

They’ve also made an effort to show that the industry is more diverse than people might assume.

“When we learned that only around 20% of cybersecurity professionals are women, we aimed for a minimum of 30% women representation on our own list. Combined with people of color, that percentage goes up to 40%,” Jin explained.

“We wanted to signal to women and people of color that there are many different ways to get started in the industry, and that they have a strong community they can reach out to for help.”

What to expect?

The book includes tips from industry leaders on how to climb the corporate ladder or to start a business, but the authors also tried to humanize industry idols by asking some fun and personal questions.

While the topic of the book is security, the focus is on the human, i.e., the actual person behind that clichéd “behoodied criminal hunched over a keyboard” image of a hacker.

As can be expected, there are some topics almost every interviewed hacker agrees on, but also others that almost every hacker answered differently.

“I find that it’s much more exciting to read about the topics that the contributors disagree on,” Jin noted.

“My favorite questions are the ones that ask for their favorite books and their biggest mistake. You learn a lot about a person by their biggest mistake and how they handled it. If you read Tribe of Hackers along with every book that the hackers themselves recommend, you’re bound to become a treasure trove of knowledge.”

The end result

For his part, Jayson Street, VP of InfoSec at SphereNY (and one of the interviewees), is well satisfied with the end result.

“It’s not a preaching-to-the-choir kind of a book. Instead, it helps reflect the nuances of ideals and school of thought the hacker community brings forth,” he told Help Net Security.

The authors hope that finding things in common with the interviewees will make aspiring cybersecurity specialists relate to them and will encourage them to get started in the field.

Their second wish is for the book to help others in need: its proceeds are going to a variety of charities that mean a lot to Threatcare and its employees: Bunker Labs, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Rainforest Partnership, and Start-Up! Kid’s Club.

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