Malware researcher helps teen hackers turn skills into careers

Ashkan Hosseini launched his first malware attack when he was 11 years old.

He put malware on a CD-ROM containing family photos and deleted everything off his family members’ computers.

As punishment, Hosseini wasn’t allowed to use a computer for a whole summer. Now, the 23-year-old is an intern for malware researcher Amanda Rousseau, who works for security firm Endgame. She’s been in the cybersecurity industry for almost eight years and investigates malware attack techniques.

Rousseau gets messages from young people who were once in Hosseini’s position: Smart kids manipulating code to do serious damage.

They ask her for advice — through direct messages on Twitter via @malwareunicorn and other chat platforms — about how to create malware and hack accounts or computers.

She tells them the same thing every time: “Don’t.”

“I can teach you how to reverse [engineer], but I am not going to teach you how to hack,” she said. “Not because I can’t, but [because] morally, I won’t.”

The concept of reverse engineering is to take apart the code and composition of something, like malware, to figure out it works.

Amanda Rousseau Amanda Rousseau, a malware researcher at security firm Endgame, helps teen hackers use their skills to build careers.

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