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This post is also available in: esEspañol (Spanish)

Argentine teenager hacks giant tech companies, gets rewarded

This post is also available in: esEspañol (Spanish)

Contxto – Believe it or not, but computer hacking is becoming a viable career option for passionate techies. Simply take a look at 19-year-old Santiago Lopez from Argentina. He just became the first person to earn over US$1 million from “ethical hacking.”

“I do not have enough words to describe how happy I am to become the first hacker to reach this landmark,” said the self-taught computer hacker. “I am incredibly proud to see that my work is recognized and valued. To me, this achievement represents that companies and the people that trust them are becoming more secure than they were before, and that is incredible.”

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This is what motivates me to continue to push myself and inspires me to get my hacking to the next level.

What is ethical hacking?

Sometimes called “Penetration Testing,” the premise behind ethical hacking involves tech masterminds improving security provisions for companies. Hackers with the right intentions identify threats in a firm’s computer system or network. In the end, it’s all about preventative action as well as protecting data.

Interestingly enough, many ethical hackers use the same methods as hackers with malicious motives. However, the primary difference is that ethical hackers have legal permission to access partners’ IT and make alterations. This way, there’s less of a probability for data breaching, financial loss, not to mention other damages.

Being a self-educated hacker with only four years of previous experience, Lopez joined a crowd-sourced forum called HackerOne in 2015 to start putting his skills to good use. Since then, he has uncovered around 1,600 software issues for corporations like Twitter, Verizon and WordPress, sometimes earning up to US$9,000 for an assignment. Lopez has even worked for the U.S. government.

“With each bug that you discover and fix, you make the internet safer,” said Lopez in a BBC Mundo article. “It’s impressive.”

What is HackerOne?

The largest community of ethical cyberhackers – that’s the best way to describe HackerOne. As a “bug bounty” platform, this public forum pays around 200,000 researchers to identify vulnerabilities for participating companies. That’s to say, a vulnerability is a digital security system flaw that can be exploited by outsiders.

Since its 2012 founding, the network has resolved over 80,000 vulnerabilities across more than 1,000 programs. Moreover, the company has also awarded over US$45 million in bug bounties among its team of ethical hackers. Besides providing these services, the firm also offers tutorials in addtion to other learning opportunities for prospective hackers.

Conclusion

When Lopez isn’t sitting behind a computer, you can find him lounging by the pool at his new home. With his new earnings, he purchased a private villa and even a new vehicle. Someday Lopez would like to own his own company with global recognition.

Like many entrepreneurs, though, Lopez exemplifies how innovators don’t do this for the money. On the contrary, it’s about following your dreams and getting started by any means necessary. The fact that Lopez entered this industry after learning the basics from YouTube videos speaks volumes.

Seeing that Lopez is earning 40 times more than Argentina’s average salary, it seems like all of the hard work is paying off.

-JA

Jacob Atkins
Jacob Atkins is a journalist specializing in Latin America. He studied journalism and international relations at American University in Washington, D.C. and has previously reported from Chile, Ecuador, Haiti and Mexico. When he isn't writing he's most likely hiking or drawing.

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