Sunday, June 7, 2015

I coded a virus, but no one got infected

Bernardo Quintero, founder of VirusTotal
Bernardo Quintero is one of the most discreet hackers out there. He created, along with Antonio Ropero, the mythical security bulletin "One-A-Day" due to a bet - someone told them they could not do it, drinking some beers. After that, he created to host the newsletter and, by popular demand, eventually it became one of the first companies dedicated to cybersecurity in Spain. He created later VirusTotal, a free service that brings together dozens of antivirus engines to analyze suspicious files and URLs. In 2012 Google acquired VirusTotal and a condition of the deal was that the team could continue living in Malaga, where Google set up an office with garden, pool and views of the bay.

It seems that everything goes right for Bernardo, but he claims he have grown as an entrepreneur with all possible errors, since the single choice of the name Hispasec: when they went to register to become a company, it was a property of a chain laundries, so that is why they opted for "Hispasec Systems". Today Security Engineer Manager at Google, Bernardo says that "this position sounds important, but it is not so." It's as modest as that, from the times he was a computer science stuedent, worked with the magazine PCActual and rubbed shoulders with the greatest guys on security and virus. "At that time, the only way to learn was to be in on it."

Views from Google's office at Málaga
How did you get into this?
I grew up on the Spectrum generation, War Games, ping-pong infection, BBS, Infovía, IRC-Hispano... well, nothing original.

What motivates you to keep on?
I like it and I find a meaning to what I do, the idea is to continue as I can and have fun.

What is the secret of success of VirusTotal?

Emiliano's productivity, Victor's geniuos, Julio's constancy, Francisco's versatility, dynamism, Karl's drive, and Alex's long hair. OK, Alex's hair is an internal joke and not, I will not explain it.

Do you live well at Google?
We can not complain, for now :)

What is the current status in the world of the virus?
Wind in their sails, for both sides.

VirusTotal team: from left to right, Julio Canto, Alejandro Bermúdez, Francisco Santos (top grey T-Shirt), Quintero, Victor M. Álvarez and Emiliano Martínez

Anything that interests you especially - virus subject?
What we do not know yet.

What troubles you about cybersecurity?
That people buy the fallacy that it is necessary to give privacy in exchange for security.

Have you ever coded a virus?
Yes, you know that I wrote on the subject and I made antivirus comparatives for magazines. But I never know that anyone got infected, some people would deduce that I was a good guy, while others would think that was a poor programmer - there is also the possibility that it was both things.

Quintero announced in 1999 on "El País" his idea of VirusTotal, not launched until 2004... and nobody copied it!

What would you do if your daughters tell you they want to be hackers?
At the moment it will surprise me because Carmen (10) and Celia (6) have never heard that word at home.

Does any sentence (which you have not used as a password) guide your steps?

Oops, it's a bad day for that, today it is not a 'Paulo Coelho 2.0' day for me.

Author: Mercè Molist


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