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Why Programmers Should Think Like Hackers

by Mic Johnson

It’s funny how much attention hackers get. They are the bad boys of the digital world. As such, they get so much attention in the news and Hollywood movies.

Ironically, hackers and programmers are really two sides of the same coin. They employ many of the same skills and approaches to what they do. Of course, while one is responsible for creating the digital world we live in, the other aims to tear it down.

It’s time for programmers to get a little more of the spotlight. To do so, it’s time they take a few tricks out of the hacker playbook. Here a few reasons programmers need to start doing this ASAP.

1. Hackers Are Going Nowhere

Cybercrime has now grown to over 4,000 attacks every day. It’s getting worse and worse. Programmers need to begin taking a hacker-first approach. This is the same thing hackers actually do in reverse.

Cybercriminals always work to circumvent safety protocols; programmers should always work with that in mind. The result will be building and maintaining products that are much better able to cope with the dangerous digital landscape.

Just remember, with all the new IoT products coming online in the next decade, there are so many more threats that you’ll need to defend against. Get ready for it now!

2. Hackers Are Tenacious

It’s impressive all the things hackers can do. They truly embody the characteristics we should all have. That begins with their tenacity.

Hackers don’t let obstacles stand in their way but teach themselves how to break them. This self-learning is what makes them such a force to be reckoned with.

Programmers should do the same and be ready to learn and act as the independent leaders they are.

3. Get Serious About Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity and programming should be inextricably linked. Every action you take should be in the lens of how it promotes your cybersecurity vision.

The first is learning to anticipate what might cause potential issues. Remember, there is no vulnerability too small for hackers not to exploit and cause mayhem.

But then it’s also getting the right toolset. Your computer and workstation should be the digital equivalent of a surgical operating room.

First, get serious about account security. You probably know this already but do even better to bring a high-quality Mac password manager like NordPass into the mix.

Likewise, it’s time to roll around in the sand. Everything you do should be sandboxed, including taking five minutes to browse social media because that’s what total security is.

And that’s the crux of it. By having a comprehensive security mindset, you’ll be able to predict  better, react, and prevent cybercriminals from ever getting under your skin.

4. Hackers Learn By Experience

Do you remember the last thing you read? Name one statistic from the news from six months ago.

It’s tricky to do so. We all learn much better from experience than from the classroom. Cyberattacks are the best at this. Each time they attempt an incident, they learn from their past mistakes and grow.

Developers should take the same approach, and apply formal knowledge and experiment and find new solutions to match the ever-evolving threat landscape.


5. Be Ready to Break Things

Move fast and break things” used to be our motivation to get out of bed each day. You have to be ready to outperform and beat conventions that have hung around for years.

Above all, you have to spot potential vulnerabilities. Whether it’s code you’re developing now or a legacy system, open your eyes and be ready to challenge everything around you.

This may mean having to put up with some complaints here and there. It’s worth it. Just make sure you explain to your team why you chose to do certain things and keep them in the loop. You’ll be surprised. Many of them are just as eager as you are to break out their shells!

Bonus: Love What You Do

Think about all the hacking groups out there that don’t even do it for money or power—but just because they can!

When all you think about is getting through the day, you miss out on this zest. Forget about the deadlines and think about the different ways to approach problems and see opportunities in everything you do.

Sometimes, this also requires a step back. Take a few days off if you can, and remember all the amazing things that brought you into the world of programming. You might even remember those ideas you had about becoming the greatest hacker in the world when you were a kid.

Start Thinking Like a Hacker

Hackers are the bad guys. We should not glorify them or their exploits. But knowing your enemy has always been one of the most important components of successful warriors.

And there are things we can definitely learn from hackers. More than anything, it’s the creativity and flexibility they bring into perpetuating their cybercrimes.

Do the same, and you’ll not only prevent incidents but spark joy back into everything you do.

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