Ethical hackers, penetration testers, white hats—these terms refer to a legal profession where you can get paid to hack into systems. These ‘legal hackers’ are employed by businesses to poke and prod, even breakthrough, a company’s database.
What is the purpose of ‘white hats’?
In order to protect their data, businesses want to make sure their digital security can withstand a cyber attack. Individuals who might hack into their system could steal extremely sensitive data. That’s where white hats come into play. They essentially play the role of a hacker and try to get into a system.
While that might seem illegal, it’s purely for companies to have the opportunity to patch weaknesses in a security system. White hats, contrary to what you may think, actually have rules and restrictions to keep their hacking legal. For example, they need to ask permission from the employer before they run any tests. White hats must also be careful not to damage or corrupt any data in the system.
Communication is a key component for white hats, but it’s the knowledge of their profession that makes them integral parts of maintaining data security. Black hat hackers are similar to white hat hackers. The biggest difference is that these black hats are malicious hackers—people who want to steal data and use it for their own gain. When a white hat hacker is brought in, they step into the mindset of a black hat, following the path a black hat would take.
Surprisingly, some white hat hackers were actually black hats before they traded in their criminal activity for a better path. But, say you want to be a white hat hacker. Where do you start?
How to Get Your Foot in the Door
To step into the world of white hat hacking, you don’t need an educational background. Sometimes there are different requirements depending on where and how you learn or who you work for. However, having a bachelor’s or Master’s degree in one of the areas below could benefit you:
- Information Security
- Computer Science
These are relevant fields for white hats, though a military history with experience in the intelligence division could also provide you with an intriguing resume. Areas surrounding security clearance would find that useful.
Certifications are a great way to get noticed as well. Security-related IT and Ethical Hacking classes that may not require extensive experience are an excellent source of knowledge for this profession. While it may seem easy to get a certification to be a white-hat hacker, a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is highly recommended.
The need for ethical hackers has skyrocketed within the past decade and the average pay per year in the USA could be anywhere from $72,000 to $100,000. With the dependence on digital technology rising even more in the past year, it’s crucial for white hats to adapt to the tools at their—and their clients’—disposal. Maintaining up-to-date knowledge, complete with a CEH certification and some experience, could be all you need to make a real living as a white hat hacker.