He’s 26, likes industrial and electronic music, has a bleached-blond Mohawk haircut and sometimes, Mikhail Davidov said, he starts his day “at the crack of noon.”
The late hours are in front of a computer, working on reverse engineering, tearing apart computer programs to find their vulnerabilities.
Sometimes he works 18 hours straight. “There are few hackers out there who are ‘morning people,’” Davidov said.
These days, the front lines for security don’t only include soldiers carrying weapons.
They include computer whiz kids like Davidov, who works for the Leviathan Security Group, a 20-person firm that operates out of second-floor offices in a renovated 1918 building in Seattle.
Cyberattacks are costing corporations — and consumers — a lot. In a six-year span starting in 2005, data breaches in 33 countries, including the U.S., cost the firms involved more than $156 billion, according to the nonprofit Digital Forensics Association.
Every second, in various parts of the world, there are 18 cybercrime victims — some 1.6 million a day — according to a 2012 Norton by Symantec study.
Last week, the Wenatchee World newspaper reported that a Leavenworth, Wash., hospital said hackers stole more than $1 million from the hospital’s electronic bank account.
And the Associated Press reported that LivingSocial, an online deals site, said last week that its website was hacked and the personal data of more than 50 million customers may have been affected.
Then there are the Chinese hackers, who blasted into the news in February when Mandiant, an Internet security firm, released a report saying that a group linked to the People’s Liberation Army had systemically stolen confidential data from at least 141 American firms.
That makes Internet security a booming industry, at an estimated nearly $1 billion a year in 2012, according to the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
Davidov and others are on the front lines of fighting off the “black hat” hackers, which include those sending out phishing emails that look like they came from a legitimate source but are fakes trying to get your passwords and credit-card information.
Or maybe they are black hats trying to compromise a company’s website just so they can boast about it in hacker circles.
For the white hats, their unique skill at finding where a program is vulnerable and how to close the digital doors that the black hats use to penetrate a website is worth $120,000 to $130,000 a year, said Chad Thunberg, chief operating officer of Leviathan.
“Companies are being attacked by bad people, and if they want to defend themselves, they have to attract these scarce people,” he said. “There are maybe 1,000 individuals of this nature in the world. They have this unique hacker mind-set.”