Most are familiar with the recent attacks by hackers who have accessed point-of-sale systems like those at Home Depot and Target, stealing their customers’ valuable credit card information. According to Aaron Portnoy, world-renowned cyber-security expert, these hackers are getting smarter and more innovative – and it’s only going to continue.

Portnoy recently addressed the Worcester Economic Club on the topic of “The Economics of Vulnerabilities.” A native of North Brookfield, Mass., he was recently featured in a Time magazine cover story headlined, “World War Zero: How Hackers Fight to Steal Your Secrets.” Portnoy offered club members and guests valuable information regarding cyber-security and the ethics and concerns of selling zero-day flaws.

Portnoy got off to an unconventional start on his career path. As a teenager, he was caught hacking the network of his own school, the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science in Worcester. From those beginnings, he rapidly progressed to become one of the world’s foremost experts in reverse engineering, vulnerability discovery, and exploitation.

Portnoy currently works at Exodus Intelligence, the Texas-based firm he co-founded that specializes in discovering ways to break into software and sells that information to clients. (Portnoy said some single flaws can be sold for as much as $100,000.) Exodus’ list of clients includes manufacturers of anti-virus systems, governments and law enforcement organizations.

The meeting, sponsored by Applied Interactive, was one of the most successful in the club’s history. Among other services, Applied Interactive provided strategic web marketing for the Worcester Economic Club, including the development of the official website and event promotion through press releases, social media, blogs and e-Newsletters.