White Hat Hacker: What It Is and How to Become a White Hat Hacker
- A White hat hacker is an information security engineer and developer who can find and fix IT vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
- White hat hackers must uphold the EC-Council’s code of ethics and perform only legal activities while protecting the intellectual property rights of others.
- An information security degree or computer science degree is a solid foundation for white-hat hackers. However, good problem-solving skills and communication skills are also essential.
- This article is intended for IT professionals, IT managers, and security specialists who are interested in a career in cybersecurity.
A White hat hacker also known as an ethical hacker, uses penetration testing techniques to assess an organization’s IT security and find vulnerabilities. The results of these penetration tests are used by IT security personnel to identify vulnerabilities, strengthen security, and reduce the risk factors.
Penetration testing should never be done casually. Penetration testing is a complex task that requires a lot of planning. This includes getting permission from management to run tests, and then ensuring they are conducted as safely as possible. Many of these tests use the same techniques as attackers to break into a network. To outsource this aspect of IT, many businesses turn to managed services providers.
What is a white hat hacker?
White hat hackers are ethical information security developers or engineers who test security configurations for organizations.
In the 1960s, ethical hacking was born when corporations and government agencies began to examine emerging technologies and computer systems for security flaws. Black hat hackers are a side effect of ethical hacking, and they illegally search for information to gain personal gain.
The white hats are authorized by an organization to search for vulnerabilities and exploits within the IT infrastructure in order to keep black hats away.
What is the difference between a black and white hat hacker?
A white-hat hacker helps to strengthen security and follows the rules. However, a black-hat hacker is in essence a cybercriminal. Black hats are motivated by malicious intent to steal information and blackmail people or downsize corporations, break laws or steal money. Cyberattacks, such as malware, viruses, and phishing schemes, can all be used to gain access to your computer. The results can be disastrous. Attacks can be successful in a variety of ways, including slowing down your computer or ceasing company operations. This was the case when hackers shut down Colonial Pipeline 2021.
Education and background requirements
White hat hacking requires a lot of problem-solving and communication skills. White hat hackers must have intelligence and common sense, excellent technical and organizational skills, exceptional judgment, and the ability not to lose their cool under pressure.
A white-hat hacker must think like a black hacker with all their devious and nefarious ways. Many top-rated white hat hackers are ex-black hat hackers who were caught and decided to put their criminal past behind them and use their skills in a legal and positive way.
A white-hat hacker does not need to have a standard education. Each organization has its own requirements. However, a bachelor’s or graduate degree in information security or computer science provides a solid foundation.
Even if you aren’t a college-bound candidate, a military background in intelligence can help your resume stand out to hiring managers. Employers who prefer to hire people with security clearances already have the advantage of military service.
White hat hacking certifications and IT security certifications are great ways to get in the door without much experience.
One recommendation is to obtain the Certified Ethical Hacker ( CEH) certification through the EC-Council. The CEH credential is vendor-neutral and CEH-certified professionals have high demand. According to PayScale the median salary for an ethical hacker hovers around $80,000. The top range can easily reach well above $100,000. The EC-Council estimates that CEH professionals will be paid between $15,000 and $45,000 for a contract or short-term assignment.
The intermediate-level CEH credential is focused on system hacking and enumeration. It also includes SQL injection, SQL injection, and Trojans. Worms. Virals and other forms. Candidates must have a solid understanding of cryptography, security, honeypots, and penetration testing.
Candidates without previous work experience are recommended to attend a CEH training class for five days by the EC Council. Students should be proficient in Windows and Linux system administration, TCP/IP knowledge, and an understanding of virtualization platforms. Candidates can also take the exam by themselves. Candidates must have at least two years of experience in information security and must pay a $100 application fee.
Being a white hat hacker certified means that you must adhere to the law, not engage in illegal or unethical hacking activities and protect the intellectual property of others. Candidates must agree to follow the code of ethics of the EC Council and not associate with malicious hackers as part of the certification process.
The SANS GIAC curriculum, in addition to the CEH, is well worth a look. Candidates who begin with GIAC Cyber Defense certs (beginning with the GSEC) might be better positioned to progress through an active, respected, and deep security curriculum. Aspiring white hat hackers will find the GIAC Penetration Tester, GIAC Exploit Researcher, and Advanced Penetration Tester (GPEN), to be very useful certs.
Mile2 offers another set of certifications in ethical hacking. Mile2 Cybersecurity Certification Roadmap series offers the Certified Vulnerability Assessor (CVA) as a foundational certification. Next, the Certified Professional Ethical Hacker(CPEH), Certified Penetration Testing Engineers (CPTE), and the Advanced-Level Certified Penetration Testing Consultants (CPTC) are available. Veterans who are eligible can use their GI Bill benefits for cybersecurity certifications and training through mile2.
Also read: 7 Best Websites to Find Virtual Hackathons
Related certifications in forensics
Anyone working in information security will find it beneficial to dabble in computer forensics. For those who are interested in investigating security’s investigative side, you can continue to the EC-Council certification list and then take the Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator ( CHFI) credential.
The CHFI is focused on computer forensics and the use of the right tools and techniques in order to get data and evidence. The certification training for the CHFI includes instructions on how to recover deleted files and crack passwords. It also teaches you how to investigate network traffic and how to use various forensic tools to gather data.
Other forensics-related certificates include the GIAC certified forensics Analyst and the High Tech Crime Network certified Computer Forensic technician and Certified Computer Crime Investigator.
The physical side of penetration testing
Penetration testing is not all digital. They also do not rely solely on digital methods or means of pursuit. Security experts refer to security features at a site or facility and physical access controls that are required for entering or using equipment or facilities in person under the heading physical security. Penetration testing can also include attempts to compromise or circumvent security.
Trained entrance examiners may attempt to tailgate through an entrance, ask someone to hold the door while attempting to bypass a keypad entry control system or badge reader, or remove physical security barriers. You can use social engineering. Because getting up close and personal when dealing with equipment, security policies, procedures, and controls are just as important on the digital side.
Many information security certifications, including Security+, CISSP, and CISM, provide some coverage of physical safety in the common knowledge they ask candidates for as they prepare to test.
If you are interested in physical security specifically, The ASIS International credential for Physical Security Professional ( PSP) is the most prestigious of all physical security certifications. This book is worth reading if you want to learn more about the various methods and approaches of penetration testing, particularly in the area of physical security.
Ethical hacking work on the rise
Candidates who are interested in information security and have the right background and certifications should be able to find ethical hacking work immediately. You’ll be able to use your continuing education and other certifications to guide your career in the direction you want it to.