Who Chris O'Ferrell
Company Predictive Systems Inc.
Has held title for 2 years
Previous title Consultant to the FBI
Robbing banks, secretly transferring funds — that's what Chris O'Ferrell and his team of 21 do all day at New York - based Predictive Systems Inc. O'Ferrell helps financial institutions identify the vulnerabilities of their Web applications and networks. Just don't ask him to name names — that wouldn't be ethical.
How do you hire a hacker?
We look for baseline technical skills. What we want are people who are familiar with computer systems before we teach them how to break into them. And of course, we also do extensive background checks.
What's the one hack job that you're most proud of?
A project we did for an international-banking application. Within one week, I got past several layers of encryption, numerous firewalls, a smart card, and an intrusion-detection system. I ended up transferring out $10 million — and made it look like a completely legitimate transaction. We could easily have taken more — but I wanted a nice, round number.
What makes an ethical hacker hack?
It's not enough to know computers. Ethical hackers have to have an open mind and be creative. The only way to secure a network is to break into it yourself. And you have to be able to outsmart the logic of the computer.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.