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Amontus Training

Building a better hacker.

It’s easy to imagine hackers honing their skills in dark basement workrooms, smashing through corporate intranets in the middle of the night and sneaking off with vital information. But not all hackers are malicious, and not all their skills are self-taught. Baltimore-based Amontus Training is ready to help those who want to use their powers for good rather than evil. Co-founder Greg Smith chats about training, teaching, and learning to play.

What makes Amontus different than other computer training schools?

It was originally a school called Advanced Computer Technology Training, and in July 2002, two other instructors and I bought the school. So, that’s how it’s different in a major way, it’s instructor-owned. Most schools are not run by the instructors, they’re run by the bean-counters who decide what’s going to be taught solely on how much money it will bring in. We focus on what should be taught, what the tech community needs.

You’ve recently gotten approval to offer the Certified Ethical Hacker program, the first school in Baltimore to get accreditation for it. Why do you feel the program is necessary?

For security, it’s crucial. I always compare it to securing your home. They say to make sure your house is safe, you should think like a thief–walk around, look at where you could break in, notice the weaknesses. Hackers do the same thing inside a system. But with ethical hackers, there’s an extra level there. It’s like being a locksmith, not just a homeowner. A locksmith can break into your house whenever he wants, but he doesn’t, because he’s ethical.

What kinds of students are you seeing in the program?

The certification is for people already in the industry, who probably know some hacking already and want to learn much more. It’s an exciting field, because you have to be able to know how to counter the moves of the hackers who aren’t ethical, you have to anticipate what they’re going to do. So, the students are those who care about security already, and want to use their skills to help companies fight against malicious attacks.

Besides the new program, how is Amontus faring in an economic climate that’s proven tough on training companies?

Business is lower than we’d like to see it and the classes aren’t as full as they could be, but we feel it’s just a temporary downturn. After all, I don’t know of any companies that are saying, “Let’s get rid of our computers.” Right now, they might have reached a plateau in terms of buying hardware and software, but I’m confident that training will spring back just fine.

What do you like most about running Amontus?

I love being around the new technology, and getting a chance to work with it. Everyone here believes that no one is ever finished learning, and having multiple classrooms gives us the ability to use one of them for our own training. We throw something new on one of the computers in an unused classroom and then test it out fully. We had Windows 2003 in here months before it was released and we had a chance to really play with it. For us, people who love to learn, that is what we consider fun.

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