AUSTIN — As society continues to rely more and more on technology for banking, home security and city infrastructure, it can also create more opportunities for criminals to hack into people's lives.
"I run a team of hackers,” said Charles Henderson, the head of X Force Red, a special cybersecurity team within IBM.
They test systems, like the computer in your car and the technology that runs your smart home, to look for vulnerabilities that hackers could take advantage of.
“Companies hire us to break into systems and tell them how we did it. The key is that we’re hired to break into those systems before criminals have a chance to,” said Henderson.
"A lot of the technologies that we rely on every day and expect to be secure have a lot of very basic flaws,” said Daniel Crowley, who is in charge of research.
He said they've also studied possible weak spots in smart city systems.
“To me, the process of hacking has been about understanding something on such a deep level that you know how it works better than the person who designed it in some cases,” said Crowley.
"It’s extremely important because the impact can be really, really huge,” said Austin lab manager Simone Riccetti. "Talk about electricity for example. If you turn off the smart meters, you can imagine what kind of disaster can be for the rest of the infrastructures transportation, water everything.”
The team recently launched their network of classified secure facilities around the world, including Atlanta, England, and Australia, with the headquarters in Austin.
"A lot of the technologies we're testing are highly confidential,” said Henderson. “And the vulnerabilities we find, they haven't been fixed yet, which means if that information gets out and in the wrong hands, you could have wide-scale attack.”
Henderson, who was born and raised in Austin, feels Central Texas is an obvious choice for the headquarters.
"One of the reasons we decided that Austin was the great headquarters was that we could recruit really well here,” said Henderson.
Henderson hopes to enlist even more good guy hackers to work towards their motto: "Hack anything, so they can secure everything."
"We can't have a fully safe environment, without a cyber-secure environment,” said Riccetti.