What Is A White Hat Hacker And Why Do We All Need Them?

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The mere sound of the word ‘hacker’ can send most people into a panic state and in the world we’re living in today who could blame them. However, there are hackers that are beneficial to us all. Those hackers are known as White Hat or Ethical hackers. White Hat hackers are computer security experts who specialize in penetration and other types of testing to make sure an organization’s information systems are secure.

Different Types Of Hackers

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of what White Hat hackers do, it’s important to know the types of hackers that are out there. There are three main types – Black Hat, White Hat, and Gray Hat – and if it sounds like something out of an old western movie it’s because that’s where the references come from. In the old westerns, bad guys wore black hats and good guys wore white. It’s the same when it comes to hacking.

White Hat/Ethical Hackers

As stated in the opening paragraph, White Hat hackers are the good guys. They are information systems security experts who perform various tests on an organization’s systems to find out where the inefficiencies and weaknesses are. This is done so that an organization can take a proactive stance and correct those weaknesses in their information systems before the bad hackers get a chance to take advantage of it.

White Hat hackers use many methods of testing the systems including what is called Penetration Testing. Penetration Testing is basically when the White Hat hacker hacks into the organization’s systems using methods used by the bad guys in order to see what methods work in getting through. By doing this, they can find the flaws in the system and provide a recommendation on how to fix the weakness in order to prevent an actual attack.

It is also fair to mention here that sometimes a White Hat hacker starts out as a Black Hat hacker but due to their extensive knowledge they start working as consultants or employees of organizations in order to protect the company’s systems.

Black Hat Hackers

Black Hat hackers are the bad guys. These are the people who are doing all the nefarious activity that is in the news today. Black Hat hackers illegally violate individuals’ and organizations’ computer security for no other reason than to be malicious or for their personal gain. There is no honor in what they are doing. Everything they are doing is illegal and for the wrong reasons. They are the exact opposite of a White Hat hacker.

Black Hat hackers are also known as crackers or dark-side hackers and they have extensive knowledge of computers and how they work. They are very skilled to say the least and their purpose is to breach or bypass internet security so that they can retrieve the valuable information that they seek. Sometimes a Black Hat hacker’s only goal is to create a virus or worm and set it loose. However, most times there is a personal upside or benefit they are after as well.

Gray Hat Hackers

As you probably have already figured out, Gray Hat hackers tend to fall somewhere in between White Hat and Black Hat hackers. Although their intentions are not usually evil or geared towards the nefarious, they aren’t usually complete angels either.

Basically Gray Hat hackers are computer security experts who sometimes violate laws or ethical standards without the malicious intent of a Black Hat hacker. Many times Gray Hat hackers will illegally access a system just to see where the vulnerabilities are and figure out a fix. However, they generally don’t share this information with others for it to be exploited like Black Hat hackers do. Gray Hat hackers sometimes do this type of hacking just for the knowledge it gives them. They also may do it for purposes of getting themselves or their friends hired by the organization to fix the security issue.

There are generally less Gray Hat hackers these days due to the willingness of businesses to prosecute anyone who illegally accesses their systems, no matter whether their intentions were good or not.

Other Types Of Hackers

Now there are other types of hackers such as Blue Hat, Elite, or Script Kiddies but for the purpose of this article the main ones are Black, White, and Gray.

What White Hat Hackers Do

If your business is serious about it’s information system’s security and decide to hire a security firm to make sure everything is at its optimal state then you are going to meet a White Hat or Ethical Hacker. It is their job to do what is called penetration testing to find your system’s vulnerabilities and flaws before the bad guys do. He or she will then suggest ways to fix and lock down the system so the chances of being hacked are very minimal.

So what is penetration testing? It is a simulated hacking attack on a computer system that is authorized by the person or business who’s system is being attacked. The test will look for all the ways that a system can be hacked at its current status and then actually hack into it to prove it can be done and to see how easy it was to do it. This then gives the tester information on what the issues are and allows them to find a way to fix them.

After finding the vulnerabilities, the White Hat or Ethical hacker then compiles a report on what issues were found and what needs to be done to correct them. It is usually after this report is presented to the company that they decide to hire the firm to then shore up the systems and make them secure.

As you can see White Hat or Ethical hackers serve a very important role in the security of a company’s information systems and are an invaluable resource for all of us. They are experts in what they do and are here to help set up protections against the malicious activities that are running rampant in today’s technological world. If you have never had your company’s systems tested then it would be wise to do so right away before the Black Hats come and make life miserable.

Security breaches can be scary and frustrating, but there are experts that can help you secure your business infrastructure. If your business has fallen victim to a security breach or you would just like more information on how to secure your business from possible cyber attacks, click here to contact our team of experts at Data One Networks.

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