James Forshaw might just be the only person to be positively associated with hacking this year.
For the expert has been awarded a bounty of more than $100,000 for finding his way into software by one of the world’s biggest computer corporations.
The 35-year-old former Lytham St Annes High School pupil has been handed the record amount of cash from Microsoft and sent a personal congratulations from its top ranking bosses.
The praise comes because, put simply, he was the first person to discover a new way of getting around in-built protections in Windows.
This will give Microsoft a chance to add extra safeguards and further protect users of their software.
He said: “Microsoft Windows contains a number of features, ‘exploit mitigations’ which have been developed to make it more difficult for someone to exploit software security flaws to get control of a user’s computer.
“The challenge was to find a software technique which bypasses their mitigations and still allowed me to get control of a user’s computer.
“The reason they pay such a high figure is that a technique of this sort is potentially very valuable to people who want to compromise a user’s computer for financial gain or private information.”
The bulk of the $109,400 bounty will go to James’s employers at Context Information Security in London, although he’s been promised at least a cut of it to treat his girlfriend.
And it’s not the first time he’s been able to splash out after ‘winning’ a hacking contest – he also took home $20,000 from a competition in Canada earlier this year.
James, who grew up on Buckingham Road, Ansdell, added: “There’s two sides to my enjoyment of it, one is the intellectual puzzle and challenge, and there’s an altruistic side, a feeling of satisfaction of being able to make people’s computers more secure.”
Microsoft has said finding out about the new “mitigation bypass technique” would help it protect users against a whole new class of cyber attacks.
Katie Moussoris, a Microsoft security expert, said: “James not only made history by receiving a total of $109,400 from our bounty programs, he also helped us make our customers safer.
“On behalf of over a billion people worldwide – thank you.”