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Tech

SEWORKS CEO: Black hat hacker-turned-security consultant

Min Pyo Hong is a five-time finalist at DEFCON, the world’s most renowned hacking competition

By Aug 30, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity

SILICON VALLEY -- In a digital world where data theft is growing rapidly, hackers who turn their lives around to help in the fight against cybercrimes are not uncommon. Min Pyo Hong is one of such hackers who swapped black hats for white.

Hong, founder and chief executive of SEWORKS Co., a mobile security solutions provider headquartered in San Francisco, is a five-time consecutive finalist at DEFCON CTF, the world’s most renowned hacking competition.

When South Korea was under a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in July 2009, the country’s spy agency pointed to North Korea as the force behind the cyberattack. Back then, he revealed that the source of the DDoS attack was based in the US.

In the 1990s, he once was a seller of pirated software CDs.

But later, he changed his mind and decided to become a white hat hacker.

In the hacking industry, black hats are used to refer to the bad guys who hack innocent victims, pilfer personal and sensitive data for financial gains, whereas white hats are the good guys, usually security researchers who spend their time hacking to find vulnerabilities and inform enterprises and web developers of the changes that they need to be made.

In 2008, Hong established a startup in Korea to develop a software vaccine for Android smartphones.

Min Pyo Hong, founder and CEO of SEWORKS
Min Pyo Hong, founder and CEO of SEWORKS

GREATER OPPORTUNITY IN SILICON VALLEY

And then he set up SEWORKS in November 2012 in Korea and moved the company to San Francisco in 2013 as he saw more growth opportunities in Silicon Valley.

“In Korea, getting the right value for a software vaccine is hard as many people think they can get it for free or have it dirt cheap,” said Hong.

Backed by Qualcomm Ventures, Softbank Ventures Korea, Samsung Ventures and Smilegate Investment, SEWORKS also has offices in Seoul.

SEWORKS says it protects more than 280 apps around the world in the financial services, enterprises, gaming, healthcare and other sectors.

Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity

The company is currently developing a new security system for American businesses. It has already signed contracts with four startups even before the official launch of the service.

One of its representative products is AppSolid, a cloud-based mobile app security solution that provides advanced security.

Write to Jeong-Soo Hwang at hjs@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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