Hacker Origin Stories: Alexei Doudkine

Posted on 2023-02-23 by Alexei Doudkine in Feature

Welcome to the first episode of Hacker Origin Stories. We have started this series to create a space where professionals can share their own personal experiences about their journey into hacking and cybersecurity. The aim is to showcase the many different paths into the industry and inspire the next generation of hackers to carry the torch.

This origin story has been written by Volkis co-founder, Alexei Doudkine.

Let’s get into it.

Alexei’s story

I’ve been hacking things for as long as I can remember.

I thought it started with WiFi when I was 18, but actually, the seed was planted much much younger than that.

My earliest memory of what you might call “hacking” is when I was about 6 years old. My dad and I used to play a lot of DOS games, but the actual game was half the fun. The other half came from trying to cheat the game! He showed me how to use a memory editor (Game Wizard, I think it was called) to find the memory address of the Health Point counter and how to freeze the value, effectively giving us infinite lives.

Thinking back, this taught me a valuable lesson:

“There is another game hidden behind many things”.

Okay, now back to the WiFi! To make money while I was at uni, I took a nightshift at Blockbuster.

Remember when we had to actually get up to rent movies!??

Crazy, right?

The shift was typically from 5pm till midnight and the store was basically empty by 9pm. So what to do with the remaining 3 hours? Well, luckily, my shift-mates were nerds like me. So we decided to learn how to hack into Wireless networks. We started by hacking WEP (I miss it) and moved to doing WPA2. Of course that wasn’t enough, though, and the more we read, the more rabbit holes we fell into. Hack the Box and Try Hack Me didn’t exist yet. The best we had was VulnHub which was full of vulnerable VMs like CTFs (though we called them Boot2Root back then). This was all still just a hobby though and a way to have fun with my mates.

I was about to graduate from UNSW and had started a part-time job writing C# code for a company. I always knew that I wanted to write code for a living and to build things, so my path was clear. After graduating, I was offered a full-time gig at the same place.

I accepted.

2 years later, something scary happened. I realised I didn’t love what I did; I barely liked it. I asked myself:

“How can I do this for the rest of my life?”

Now, what I knew, was that I couldn’t. It was time to reassess my options.

Around this time I had learned that “penetration testing” was a thing. I can do my hobby legally and get paid for it? Sign me up! I was working with a recruiter at the time. He was, honestly, terrible in hindsight! I remember him saying:

“Penetration testing is full of cowboys! You’d never fit in!”

I’m so glad I chose to interpret that as a personal challenge!

After a few applications, I got a job as a penetration tester and loved it!

Every day I was learning and having fun. The client-facing aspect was something that I enjoyed as well, which really surprised me.

The rest, as they say, is history!

So many people helped me along the way and there are too many to name. But some of them are: Matthew Strahan, @g0tmi1k, @a_profligate.

Share your hacker origin story

Thank you for reading the first in the series of Hacker Origin Stories! We invite you to share your own hacker origin stories, using the #HackerOriginStories hashtag and tagging us either on Twitter and LinkedIn!

Here’s to the next generation of #hackers!

About the author

Alexei Doudkine is Co-Founder and Offensive Director at Volkis. Hacker, tinkerer, car modder and dog person, Alexei has been in the infosec game for over 10 years focusing on the “attack” side of security. You can catch him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you need help with your security, get in touch with Volkis.
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