Samsung shines new light on hacking to tackle emerging cyber threats

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Aug. 23, 2023 12:00PM GMT+9

Samsung Electronics, the South Korean tech powerhouse, is redefining the term “hacking.” Instead of its negative connotations, the company is embracing a positive spin, using it as a strategy to shield users from burgeoning cyber threats.

“If you think about the words ‘hacking’ and ‘hackers,’ many of us will conjure up negative images, such as extorting information from a firm, breaking into a system, or breaching private data,” noted Hwang Yong-ho, the corporate vice president at Samsung Electronics and leader of the security and privacy team at Samsung Research. In his keynote speech at the 7th Samsung Security Tech Forum (SSTF) on Tuesday, he added, “However, when viewed through the lens of offense and defense, the evolution of hacking can actually bolster more secure systems.”

Hwang Yong-ho, the corporate vice president at Samsung Electronics who also leads the security and privacy team at Samsung Research, is delivering a keynote speech at the 7th Samsung Security Tech Forum on Tuesday. Source: Samsung Electronics

According to the corporate vice president, security can be divided into two aspects: defense and offense. Defenders build fortifications, much like a castle, to guard against attackers. These attackers continually devise new tactics and weapons to breach these defenses. In response, defenders continually strengthen their barriers to ward off these threats.

The corporate vice president provided two real-world examples to illustrate how offensive actions, similar to the use of hacking for a positive purpose, can be employed to enhance security. The first example he offered was that of the flu vaccine. This vaccine essentially teaches our immune system to combat viruses before we actually fall ill. As a result, vaccinated individuals have the ability to protect their health during an outbreak, while those who forgo vaccination are more likely to succumb to the virus.

The second illustration Hwang provided was a metal gate placed at the entrance of the parking lot of a building in the Gangnam district. Given Gangnam’s history of frequent heavy rainfalls, building owners erected this gate proactively to shield their property from potential floods. “This is a perfect example of using an offensive strategy as a way to defend oneself from critical damage,” said Hwang.

He introduced the term “hack for security,” which also served as the conference’s theme. In his definition,  “hack for security” means proactively identifying unexpected security flaws and diving into research on security technologies with a hacker’s mindset. By addressing vulnerabilities beforehand, from the perspective of ethical hackers, the vice president emphasized the potential for delivering more secure and reliable services.

Furthermore, Hwang detailed how the tech giant has embraced “hack for security” strategies to safeguard users from emerging threats. “We are consistently enhancing our research on offensive technologies and security,” stated the corporate vice president. “By both hosting and participating in hacking competitions, we strengthen our capabilities and intensify our security measures, often collaborating with outside experts.”

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.