Hacker finds new life as a university professor

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Hacker finds new life as a university professor


Kim Hui-gang

In 1996, a significant event in the history of Internet security in Korea occurred.

The incident involved a hacking battle between two of the country’s leading science and engineering schools: Postech and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

KUS, a hackers’ club at Kaist, and PLUS, its counterpart at Postech, each tried to hack the other school’s computer system. The incident ended with the arrest of two students.

Fourteen years later, Kim Hui-gang, one of the KUS members, has entered the teaching world.

The 34-year-old became an assistant professor at Korea University and started teaching on March 3, becoming the first hacker-turned-professor in Korea.

Kim - who used to work for NCsoft Corp., Korea’s leading game software company, as an information security head - said hackers sometimes get a bad rap.

“Hackers are actually people who do good things,” Kim said.

Although Kim got involved in the hacking war when he was a passionate young man, he is considered as one of the early pioneers in the development of the information security industry in Korea. Industry observers say those who took part in the hacking incident in 1996 are the “first generation of hackers.”

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo at Korea University, Kim spoke about the hacking incident and his current career.

Q. How did you end up working for a game company?

A. Korea exports a lot of online games. However, local game companies often suffer when they enter countries where laws regarding intellectual property rights are not well established. Gamers in such countries often hack Korea’s game systems. Game companies need to have online security technologies to fend them off. They need to protect their intellectual property rights through litigation.

How did you become involved with the hackers’ club at Kaist?

I took an interest in hacking when I was in high school. There were no books about hacking and nobody taught us about hacking. So I studied it for myself. It was then that I realized how vulnerable the local Internet security system was.

What is your hacking experience?

In late 1990s, local companies tried to build Internet security systems. As banks introduced Internet banking, they asked me to do hacking simulations. In 1997, a mobile telecom company said it would pay me to hack the company’s Web site to test the security. I hacked nearly 85 percent of the security system.

What will you focus on in the classroom?

I will teach students how to quickly measure the intensity of a hacking attempt. The students will learn how to distinguish a real attack from a fake one and anticipate how the attack is going to change.

By Moon Byung-joo [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]
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