Interview by Sarah Kilcoyne
Photo credit: Sarah Kilcoyne
Justin is a ‘penetration tester’ (read on for an explanation) from California, who has been coworking with us for almost a year. He’s the only hacker we’ve had in ESDIP! And needless to say, he makes us all a little nervous…
Sarah: Hello Justin! Let’s start at the start – tell us what you do for work?
Justin: I’m in offensive security, so basically I attack various technologies to find their weaknesses. The proper term is penetration tester, which in Berlin sounds like somebody that frequents Kit Kat quite often. But generally I work on exploiting web applications, reverse engineering binaries and attacking crypto systems.
S: Sounds complicated! Can you break that down in layman’s terms?
S: In my mind, a ‘hacker’ was always some faceless guy in a hoodie, huddled over a laptop in a windowless basement, surrounded by stacks of servers and blinking lights – but I guess that’s not really the case! Considering you have a desk in a coworking space. What is a day in the life of a modern-day hacker?
J: Basically huddled over my laptop in ESDIP in a hoodie, showing up at noon, working late, and smoking a lot of cigarettes. Maybe one day I can rent a basement and really be a cliché.
S: How did you end up in Berlin?
J: I first came to Berlin to write the last Night Nail record with my bandmate a few years ago. Then I kept coming back until I eventually just moved here.
A stereotypical hacker. Photo credit: dailypost.ng
S: Can you teach us how to crack into a wealthy stranger’s bank account?
J: Anything is possible with time, resources and a bit of creativity, but on account of my career and the fact that I enjoy breathing fresh air, that will be a hard no.
S: I know that you’re originally from California – do you miss the beach? The fresh sea air?
J: I spent my entire life a few miles from the beach and only saw it on occasion. Its cool, but I’d rather go to Berghain.
S: Now, I have to confess, I don’t speak tech. So to be honest, most of the time when we chat about your work in passing, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I nod and smile. Do you get that often? Can you tell??
J: Yes. Do you ever suspect I’m merely babbling nonsense because I think its amusing and it doesn’t matter anyway?
S: That’s a fair point… I’ll choose to ignore it. Moving on! How did you get into this biz?
J: I found a book on programming in a dumpster about 13 years ago. Then I found out you could think and behave like a criminal without going to jail and decided that was for me.
S: Do you have any hilarious or scandalous stories relating to websites or businesses that you’ve hacked into?
J: Off the top of my head, the two things I’m maybe most proud of are the time I had to climb trees sticking out of a cliff so I could walk through an unlocked door of this building, or the time I made a fake food delivery app to get someone past a security guard.
S: You mentioned the other day that you’re officially starting your own business in Germany, congrats! Tell us a bit more about that.
J: All my clients are still based in the US and Canada, but Berlin has a lot of tech startups, so my partner and I are forming Arxum Path Security to offer a full suite of security services to that market. People were warning me that forming a GmbH was super complicated, but I’m getting the feeling that they don’t read binary data backwards regularly, so it doesn’t seem that bad.
There’s Justin, hacking away here at ESDIP. Photo credit: Sarah Kilcoyne
S: How does it feel to win the esteemed Coworker of the Month award?
J: To be honest, I just hope whatever silly picture we take of me with a hood up on a laptop will show up in Google image results for hackers for my personal amusement, and maybe my tinder profile.
(… what he really means is that he’s extremely honoured and humbled by the award).
S: Let’s get personal. Yesterday, you told me that you don’t like horse-back riding. Why is that?
J: This is quite personal, Sarah. I told you that in confidence (…laughs sarcastically. But still won’t re-tell the story).
S: When you meet new people, are they afraid to give you their phone number, in case you use it to hack the planet and steal their identity?
J: Not really. I have zero interest in other peoples identities. I also generally try to leave work behind me when I’m out because, well, robot brain is not much fun on the dance floor.
S: And finally! Any advice for aspiring penetration testers?
J: Be prepared to cry. A lot. This $#!t is hard.
If you want to pretend to be a hacker too, check out HackerTyper!
Are you also interested in coworking? Then check out our pricing plans here, or just drop by the space any day within the opening hours, Mon-Fri 10-19h, and we’ll show you around.