Christopher Tarbell and Hector Monsegur took starkly different paths to where they are today.
Once foes, the men now work together to prevent hacks and create a more secure world. They shared their stories during the Monday General Session at NECA 2018 Philadelphia.
“This is a unique opportunity to learn both of our perspectives,” said Tarbell, a former FBI agent who got his start in law enforcement while attending James Madison University and left the school with a master’s degree in computer science.
His counterpart, Monsegur, grew up in New York and spent a lot of time in front of a computer. He became a “black hatter” and was known in the community as Sabu.
“I was the bad guy,” he quipped when talking about “hacktivism.” Hacktivism is the subversive use of computers and computer networks to promote a political agenda or a social change.
“It goes to show you all it takes is a guy from the middle of nowhere to cause some havoc,” Monsegur said.
Eventually, Monsegur became the guy everyone, including Tarbell, was after. Tarbell was able to track him down, leading to a prison sentence. After that, Monsegur decided to use his knowledge for good and teamed up with Tarbell.
“I had to correct what I had done wrong,” Monsegur said. “Chris became a mentor of mine.”
They’ve gotten results, stamping out 350 government hacks and a thousand more for U.S. industries. Monsegur said, however, problems persist, and it’s important to talk about things such as password management and email security.
“A big change has been the rise of hackers and their availability,” Tarbell added. “Anyone can be a hacker now.”