Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hackers for Charity

I don't want to give the impression that the entire conference was an excuse for negative blogging.  I actually learned quite a bit, and a lot of good people were there exchanging ideas.  One bright spot was a presentation by Johnny Long.

Mr. Long is a security professional from when gods walked the Earth.  He's written many articles on IT security and been the author or co-author on a lot of seminal books that I've read and used.

A few years ago, he decided that even though he was at the top of his industry, he needed more.  He and his wife decided to relocate to Africa and try to make a difference in the lives of the poorest of the poor there.  And he's made a go of it.

The fruit of his labor is Hackers for Charity.  This NGO provides IT support, equipment, and training to schools, relief agencies, and everyday people in Uganda and other African countries.  It's a worthy cause, and even with all of the frustrations of trying to do business in the third world, you could hear how much Long cares about his personal mission in his voice.

His speech amounted to a history of himself and the organization, a status update on the organization, and a big thank you to the security community.  You see, almost all of the funding, equipment, and talent in the organization is donated from the 'hacker' community.  For example, he asked for donations to a training center he had set up in Uganda, and through small donations from members of the community, he got enough to run the center for 14 months without charging the students a penny.  He gave many examples of people or organizations donating their time or equipment so that those who live in poverty might have a chance to have a better life.

HFC also works with another organization to help provide food to famine victims in Kenya, both in giving direct food aid, and in helping them learn the skills to grow their own food so that they can provide for themselves.

One aspect that never would have occurred to me was his work to provide IT support to relief agencies so that their systems were better protected from malware and hacking.  The amount of money lost in these organizations due to computer problems boggles the mind.

In addition to his work in Africa, Mr. Long mentioned plans to start doing work in the United States.  Hopefully he is at least as successful in that as he has been in Africa.

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