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Will the IoT Turn Hackers into Heroes?

IoT hackers – just like regular hackers.

I’m one of the only people at Link Labs without a technical background, but when it comes to the word “hacker” and it’s many meanings, my philosophical training comes in handy parsing all the options.

Coming into the tech world from a career in energy and environmental policy, the first thing that popped into my head when I heard the word “hacker” is “bad actor”, what I now know to be people who call themselves “black hats”. It took me several weeks to realize that my engineer colleagues used the word “hack” all the time, but in a mostly positive sense, like “we’ve got to hack this together” or “it works, but it’s just a hack”. It dawned on me at some point recently that my coworkers are hackers too, but so-called “white hats”.

The media coverage of the potential security flaws in the Internet of Things (IoT) focuses almost exclusively on the bad actor types of hackers: the hackers that are going to steal and reveal all our information, etc. While I’m sure there are plenty of those types of hackers out there, IoT companies, like Link Labs, depend on hackers – inside the company and also our external partners – for success. Without tinkerers, do-it-yourselfers, makers, without hackers IoT will be a long time coming.

I started writing this article thinking I would cleverly reclaim the “h-word” by giving hacking a noble objective: finding ways that savvy computer experts and engineers could help us make our products better. I guess I’m not surprised that this fight isn’t new and rather has been underway for a long time. What’s encouraging to me is the spirit of collaboration and sharing that underpins so much of what goes into hacking – both white hat and black hat, but mostly the white hat kind. For our startup, we depend on this every day. When we work with our partners on beta versions, we need people to test and break our programs and products, in order to make them better. I have a whole new appreciation for hackers and what they do. They make our company a success.

Sure, like any company in IT or IoT, we are going to have to contend with our fair share of bad actor hackers, but with the help of the makers, doers, and hackers out there, and of course based on the team we have, we are going to bring great things to market.


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Written by Brian Ray

Brian is the Founder and CTO of Link Labs. As the chief technical innovator and leader of the company, Brian has led the creation and deployment of a new type of ultra long-range, low-power wireless networking which is transforming the Internet of Things and M2M space.

Before starting Link Labs, Brian led a team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab that solved communications and geolocation problems for the national intelligence community. He was also the VP of Engineering at the network security company, Lookingglass, and served for eight years as a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and received his Master’s Degree from Oxford University.

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