'Ethical hackers' test for weakness

Tuesday, 5 August 2003, 1:47 PM EST

In a 17th-floor corner office in north Toronto, a group of computer nerds is feverishly attacking Corporate Canada -- and getting paid for its efforts.

"If you have a system on-line, you will be a target. You are either a target of choice or a target of opportunity," said Simon Tang, manager of Deloitte & Touche LLP's Internet security team. The executive oversees a buzzing computer lab of 10 so-called "ethical hackers," a team of experts that probes the computer systems of corporate clients, searching for vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Ethical hacking, or "penetration testing," is a niche business spun out of the corporate world's increasing dependence on the Internet. As a firm's on-line presence grows, the risk of attack from hackers multiplies.

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