These days, the concept of an ethical hacker is so commonplace the profession has its own Certified Ethical Hacker designation, bestowed and governed by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants. The ethical hackers of the world put their genius to work for good, helping companies and governments improve their security by exposing security vulnerabilities.

Interestingly enough, the idea of white hat hacking has been around since World War II. When the Nazis invaded France and established the Vichy government, they put punch card expert René Carmille to work for them—or so they thought. The director of the Demographics Department in Vichy, Carmille was tasked with conducting a nationwide census using a Hollerith tabulator. Carmille and his team did conduct a census—but they modified the machines in such a way that no data from Column 11 was ever punched. Column 11 happened to be the column containing information about a citizen’s religion. It’s unknown how many lives Carmille’s purposeful omission saved.

Ethical hacking legacy

Carmille’s access to data also proved fruitful to him as a member of the French Resistance. He scoured census information looking for former members of the military who might be willing to join him in the fight against the Germans.

Sadly, the Nazis eventually caught on to Carmille’s hacking. He was sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he died Jan. 25, 1945.

The animated short Interregnum by filmmaker Nick Fox-Gieg was released in 2010 and is based on Carmille’s life and service to his fellow man.

Photo: Erik Pitti via Flickr.com. Used under CC 2.0 License

Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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