Networking company Cisco has revealed it hires hackers as part of its business operations.

"Yes, we hire hackers,” said Chris Dedicoat, Cisco Executive Vice President, Worldwide Sales and Field Operations.

“We have to hire them to understand their mentality."

Hackers, also referred to as ‘penetration testers’, or ‘pentesters’ for short, are often hired by companies as security consultants to find vulnerabilities in their systems.

Speaking in Melbourne at Cisco Live, Dedicoat said the networking giant, which sells a range of ransomware defence products, blocks 20 billion threats a day.

Cisco Live is the company’s training and education event for ICT professionals.

Dedicoat said the average company has between 50 and 80 pieces of individual software to combat attacks, and that 75% of executives complain “security is slowing us down by 20%”.

While this number of software products will likely streamline over time, comprehensive protection is necessary to thwart the rise in ransomware.

“Ransomware is growing at an exponential rate,” said Dedicoat. “It’s a US$1 billion a year industry.”

To highlight the ease of launching a ransomware attack via email, Cisco previewed a video it had produced, ‘Ransomware - Anatomy of an Attack’. It features a female hacker researching a company CEO and his family online, including social media, before launching an attack on his company.