When Steve Bono was young, he was great at cheating in video games. Now Bono, 32, has turned that skill into a business as the CEO of Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), a professional hacking company. “It’s always been about curiosity, never malice, for me,” he says. “I don’t like the idea of people committing crimes using computers.” ISE’s goal is to hack into systems, detect vulnerabilities, and report them back to the companies. The business was founded in 2005 when Bono was in a Ph.D. program at The Johns Hopkins University and he, along with two other students and a professor, was working on a research project to make copies of high-tech car keys that were supposedly impossible to duplicate. Now, employees work out of an unlikely tech space: a stone mansion near Cylburn Arboretum. “We don’t like cubicles,” Bono says. “We insist on collaboration. Someone will find a vulnerability and soon everyone is gathered around their desk.” ISE was the first company to find a vulnerability in the iPhone in 2007 and, since then, has hacked Android devices, online video games, and security software. “They key is to think like an attacker,” he says. “We keep going until we find a way, because criminals will do the same thing.”
ISE breaks into computer systems in order to protect them.
Issue date: November, 2012