Hifalutin, Hilarious, Humbling Jobs

H is for… Hackers!

While most movies featuring hackers showcase their slightly… shall we say… less than legal? angle, being a hacker is actually a profession as well as a hobby.

Now, I’m not talking about the bad guy hackers that are trying to steal your passwords and break into your bank account to drain it of all your hard-earned money. Those people are actually known as Black Hat Hackers and are, as the name implies, criminals.

That’s black HAT, not black CAT! “Halloween hacker cat! 😹 #hackers #meow #businesscat #cowork #digitalnomad #wanderlust #blackcatsofinstagram” (photo credit: ClevrCat)

White Hat Hackers, on the other hand, can either be computer enthusiasts who put their hacking skills to good use, or security specialists – professional hackers employed by companies to try to break into their systems on purpose.

Now, why would anyone want to pay someone to break their stuff? Because it helps to expose any computer network’s insecurities – and potentially fix them – before the Black Hats get to them. Pretty cool, right?

Hackers, as portrayed in the movies, are typically seen trying to break into places like government databases or otherwise snatch information on people they aim to discredit. In real life, hackers may actually work for the government! Indeed, the 1995 film, Hackers, wasn’t far off when it suggested that a group of high school students might be able to hack the Black Hat Hackers that were threatening to blackmail the U.S. government. The whole premise is that Dade (aka Zero Cool, aka Crash Override) is banned from using computers because of a virus he unleashed at age 11, and the government tries to recruit him to help them out (and, y’know, save the world) because of his elite skills.

That is, essentially, what professional hackers do, daily.

One of my high school teachers (indeed, the typing skills instructor) was a professional hacker, when she wasn’t teaching high school students how to type properly. She told us that companies like AT&T would pay her to guess their employees’ passwords and break into their accounts. Unfortunately, most people tend to use incredibly insecure passwords, like 1234567 or “password.” Don’t ever use these as your passwords! (And here’s a list of 2016’s Worst Passwords, which you should also never use.)

Nowadays, since everyone uses the internet, the threat of being hacked is a problem for all computer users. Having strong, secure passwords that are changed regularly is key to keeping your data secure – as is avoiding the use of public networks (a rule I was totally breaking while writing this block post at my local Starbucks). But the best way to keep your data safe? Don’t put it online or in the cloud. Easier said than done, since so much of our lives are lived online, but a good reminder when you’re thinking about what to share or not to share online.

Further Reading

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C is for Clandestine Service

C is for Clandestine Service

Hyasnaa & Lydia von Sturmpanzer V2 (photo credit: saigneurdeguerre)

Ever wanted to become a professional spy? Then look no further than the CIA’s Clandestine Service!

Now known as the Directorate of Operations, the Central Intelligence Agency formerly referred to this part Agency as the Clandestine Service, since it involves the collection of human intelligence and conducting Covert Action as directed by the President.

In short: this is where U.S. spies are trained to carry out their missions.

Important note: the CIA obtains information on foreign lands and people, whereas the FBI keeps tabs on U.S. citizens. There are also two other U.S. agencies that employ intelligence officers: the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).

Although being a spy may sound cool, particularly if you’ve read a lot of thrillers or enjoy the James Bond movies, most intelligence work is actually more about – surprise! – using your brain to defeat the enemy. As this list of 10 myths about working for the CIA points out, intelligence officers don’t need to be superhuman, karate experts, or wear tuxedos to upscale casinos.

Indeed, given that much modern-day crime happens online, some Clandestine Service members spend a lot of time with computers, just like hackers.

“Data Security” (photo credit: Visual Content)

Unfortunately, a lot of the gadgetry spies use in movies is just Hollywood flash. Then again, the CIA admits “our scientists and engineers do get to work on technology so advanced, it’s classified.”

If you like learning new things (including foreign languages), never being bored on the job, and getting to work in the field, then perhaps a career in the Clandestine Service is the cool job for you!

Further Reading

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Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.