Istanbul skyline
21 August 2019

Saying Hello The Old Fashioned Way: The First Synack Hacker Hangout in Turkey

Synack

At Synack, we’ve built a model that gives our crowdsourced Red Team members the freedom to work from anywhere in the world as long as they have a WiFi connection. This allows our top hackers who want more flexibility in their lives design a life mixed with work, travel, and play. Some conduct their work from planes, trains, and automobiles. (Synack’s platform provides the same monitoring, protection, and analytics regardless of the SRT member’s location.)

However, the freedom that comes with being a digital nomad can pose the challenge of isolation. Although the Synack Red Team is a team of hackers, the most distant hackers rarely see their Synack teammates in person.

Synack fosters SRT connections through online forums, meetups at industry events and our “Hacker Houses” where we invite winners of specific platform challenges to exotic locations like Cabo, Bali, and Costa Rica to hang out, hack with, and learn from their peers. We also encourage local grassroots meetups in places with a local density of SRT members. It’s an understatement that we were excited to hear that one of our top Red Team members, Ozgur Alp, wanted to plan a “Hacker Hangout” in his home country of Turkey. With quite a few SRT located nearby, we invited them for a day of learning and mingling.

SRT members at Hacker Hangout in Turkey

Event Recon: Choosing the Leader

We couldn’t think of anyone better suited than Ozgur to represent Synack by running a Hacker Hangout in Turkey. With over 7 years of experience in security and almost 3 fruitful years on the Synack Red Team, we knew that Ozgur would be an effective and insightful host. When we asked Ozgur how he first got started in security, he told us:

“I’m not one of those ‘wonder kid hackers’ who hacked big technology companies when I was 12. I only started getting interested in cybersecurity during the last year of my Bachelors degree, at about 23 years old. However, starting from childhood, I was always interested in puzzles, challenges, and brain teasers; I still consider these my favorite hobbies and I think it helps towards success in finding vulnerabilities.”

We thought Ozgur’s security journey made him a great candidate to educate and coach new researchers who were just getting started in security research and ethical hacking. His understanding of the challenges that beginners face coupled with his experience and top rank on the Synack platform made him the perfect teacher for all of our attendees.

Event Execution: Lessons and Drinks

Ozgur and our Synack Vuln Ops lead, Aigerim Kikabayeva, kicked off a 2-hour training session at the beginning of the Hacker Hangout to educate current Synack Red Team members and guests interested in joining. Ozgur and Aigerim created a dynamic and interactive session to help everyone level-up their security skills. They went in-depth about everything from Ozgur’s favorite vulnerability discoveries, the benefits of freelance penetration testing, and how to best navigate and utilize the Synack platform. The presentation concluded with a group brainstorming session on how to approach potential attack points with previously discovered vulnerabilities. After the session, the group headed to a rooftop bar for drinks, mingling, and views of Istanbul.

SRT selfie during Hacker Hangout Turkey

Event Outcome: 5 Stars and Invaluable Connections!

We had a great turnout and our SRT had a blast. Check out some highlights below:

“This event taught me what skills were needed in order to work on the Synack platform full-time. Because of this, I’ve started working full-time with Synack for two months!”

“The most important thing I learned was how the Vuln Ops team approaches evaluating our reports. With this new perspective, I believe I have the right skills to produce better reports.”

Every Synack researcher gathering is a master class on vulnerability discovery, just by the nature of the attendees. Over the course of the night, SRT members got to meet one another and learn new skills to apply to their security work on and off the Synack platform. Our invited guests saw what it’s like to be on the Synack Red Team. Most importantly, this Hacker Hangout provided the opportunity for Synack Red Team members to come together and build relationships that last beyond just an evening.

Group photo at Synack Hacker Hangout int Turkey

Are you a Synack Red Team member interested in leading an Hacker Hangout in your region? Fill out this form and we will reach out if we think there’s a potential opportunity!

Not already on the Synack Red Team, but interested in joining? Check us out and apply today!