Firms hack away at cyberattacks

  • Article by: ERIK LACITIS , Seattle Times
  • Updated: May 14, 2013 - 11:26 PM
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Adam Cecchetti, a founder of Déjà vu Security, is one of the “white hat” hackers working on behalf of companies to fight off cyberattacks on a daily basis. 9

Photo: Photos by Mark Harrison • Seattle Times,

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He’s 26, likes industrial and electronic music, has a bleached-blond Mohawk haircut and sometimes, Mikhail Davidov said, he starts his day “at the crack of noon.”

The late hours are in front of a computer, working on reverse engineering, tearing apart computer programs to find their vulnerabilities.

Sometimes he works 18 hours straight. “There are few hackers out there who are ‘morning people,’ ” Davidov said.

These days, the front lines for security don’t only include soldiers carrying weapons.

They include computer whiz kids like Davidov, who works for the Leviathan Security Group, a 20-person firm that operates out of second-floor offices in a renovated 1918 building in Seattle.

Chad Thunberg, chief operating officer of Leviathan, said he can relate to Davidov, remembering his own younger days.

Thunberg, who is 35 and married with two children, said, “I’m considered a grandpa in my industry. There was a time when I was the Mikhail equivalent. You live and breathe security.”

Cyberattacks are costing corporations — and consumers — a lot. In a six-year span starting in 2005, data breaches in 33 countries, including the U.S., cost the firms involved more than $156 billion, according to the nonprofit Digital Forensics Association.

Every second, in various parts of the world, there are 18 cybercrime victims — some 1.6 million a day — according to a 2012 Norton by Symantec study.

On Friday, the Wenatchee World newspaper reported that a Leavenworth, Wash., hospital said hackers stole more than $1 million from the hospital’s electronic bank account. The Chelan County, Wash., treasurer said it had been able to retrieve about $133,000 by notifying recipient bank accounts, most in the Midwest and East Coast.

And the Associated Press reported that LivingSocial, an online deals site, said Friday that its website was hacked and the personal data of more than 50 million customers may have been affected — names, e-mail addresses, date of birth of some users and encrypted passwords.

Then there are the Chinese hackers, who blasted into the news in February when Mandiant, an Internet security firm, released a report saying that a group linked to the People’s Liberation Army had systemically stolen confidential data from at least 141 U.S. firms.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama warned, “Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions and our air traffic control systems.”

That makes Internet security a booming industry, at an estimated nearly $1 billion a year in 2012, according to the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Battle between ‘white hats’ and ‘black hats’

Another “white hat” hacker is Adam Cecchetti, 31, who used to work at Leviathan and then in 2010 became one of the founders of Déjà vu Security, which operates out of a second-floor renovated loft in Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Sometimes, he has colored his hair blue.

Davidov and Cecchetti are on the front lines of fighting off the “black hat” hackers. Yes, that is how they describe their enemy.

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  • Mikhail Davidov, another white hat hacker hired by companies, is recognized for both his distinctive Mohawk and his skills at fighting off hackers.

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