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Australian Law Enforcement and Hackers Work Together to Find Missing Persons
From milk cartons to posters, getting the public to assist with locating missing persons has taken on several forms. Last month, the challenge to search for people that have been gone for years moved to the digital world.
Over 350 ethical hackers got to experience this in the first-ever missing persons’ hackathon held in Australia on October 11. The result was a whopping 100 new leads generated every 10 minutes during the event, all submitted to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the National Missing Persons Coordination Center (NMPC).
Missing Person Hackathon
While news about hacking here on the Daily Bayonet often has to do with negative events, this national hackathon shows the sunny side of the practice that can be extremely useful. Hackathons are not exactly new, with events like Defcon held annually to test corporate and government machines against real hackers. However, this hackathon was the first of its kind, as its focus was solely on helping locate missing persons.
The event was hosted in Canberra and live-streamed to nine other locations all over Australia. With over 2,600 missing person cases in Australia, the organizers hoped to shed some light on at least the top 12 most frustrating cold cases through the hackathon.
The only information the ethical hackers relied on was “open-source intelligence,” or data already available to the public. This means they could glean information from posts on social media, or photos that come up in search engines, which could lead them to new clues about the missing persons.
The astounding results were thousands of new leads, all collated at the end of the event by the AFP and the NMPC. The actual leads will not be made available to the public, as they will be used to help find the 12 missing persons.
Hacking for a Cause
The global reach of the missing person event is a small-scale example of how ethical hacking is becoming an increasingly popular practice. Ethical hackers are now sought after in a variety of industries thanks to the unique role they play in companies and institutions. In fact, tech writer Siva Prasad reveals that certified hackers can get up to $106,375 per annum.
This demand is met both by professionally trained hackers and self-taught ones. After all, materials to learn the craft have become readily available online, as experts share their knowledge to help fill the growing niche with skilled individuals. The numerous ethical hacking courses on Udemy cover just about everything – from the basics for absolute beginners to more advanced lessons for experts – are a testament to just how popular online courses have become. People who want to participate in hackathons can simply spend a few hours studying every day to hone their skills.
What’s in it for these white hat hackers? Aside from the ability to fight for good causes like in the missing person hackathon, they have several opportunities to make a name for themselves in the private sector. Tech Crunch reports that industry giants like Facebook and Tesla even reward ethical hackers who can identify vulnerabilities in hackathons, with price tags that can reach $375,000 for pointing out a major flaw.
Without a doubt, the missing person hackathon is only the beginning of a wider application of the practice. Ethical hackers have become the world’s solution in the fight against cybercrime, and now they are quickly turning into partners that can help solve real-world crimes, too.