What is White Hat?

Know About White Hat!

White hat could be any individual who has the skills to identify security issues, vulnerabilities and improve security network for a company or a network. These technically sound specialists only look for vulnerabilities when they are legally permitted to do so. White hat professionals expose the vulnerabilities and exploits by respecting the rule of law applied to hack. The white hat professional is derived from the western movies where white hat cowboys were considered as good persons and black hat guys were known for bad behaviors.

White hat hackers are also being popularly called as ethical hackers. By conducting their research on software, hardware and web pages they test and asses the security aspects related to it. They are known to protect the system before some black hat hacker takes the opportunity to exploit it for a larger benefit. If hired by the company or agency they have given all the permissions to conduct the security checks and look for vulnerabilities. The methods here are the same as being used by any black hat hacker but they do it to help the company and with proper authorization.

Many companies run bug bounty programs to attract the individual white hat hackers to find and alert the vulnerabilities in exchange of reward. This has turned out to be one of the most effective ways for companies to prevent themselves from the exploits and make their network secure. The reward for white hat hackers mostly depends on the companies and the type of vulnerabilities they found in the system.

White hat hackers break into the network with the clear intent of helping the company to improve the system and protect it from the black hat hacker. They make sure that the vulnerability should not be illegally accessed by black hat hackers and compromise the system.

The things white hat hackers do include thwarting any type of cyber attack in real time, proactively exposing the security weakness to help company smooth functioning of services. Most of the companies employ white hat hackers to keep themselves secure and help assess the security.

Types of Hacker Hats

Generally, the hackers are divided into three basic categories, white hat, grey hat and black hat. While the white hat and black hat are more popular whereas the same persons could act as a grey hat hacker.

The good guys or the ethical hackers are known as white hat hackers whereas the bad guys who exploit the vulnerability for their personal gains are black hat hackers. There are hackers who fall in between of these two categories who do have the authorisation to go into the system and follows the law but they don’t reveal the real problem. They are known as grey hat hackers.

Grey hat hackers are usually good programmers who usually work according to the law and rules. They mostly report the problem the vulnerabilities but never exploit it for malicious purposes. Sometimes they after detecting the problem they still didn’t report it to the owner because of personal rivalry or with any other reason. But even in this case, they don’t try to sell the vulnerability to the criminals or competitors.

Black hat hackers are the one who has only one intention which is personal gains, take down networks, steal data, or compromising and damaging the system. With the technological advancements, they are using multiple tricks to get hold of their prey. They are the sole reason behind the massive cyber attacks, data breaches which took place in recent times. They mostly blackmail the system or network owner of damaging or leaking information if their demand is not met within a specific time period. Black hat hackers exploit the vulnerabilities they discover in a system and can sell them to the highest bidder. Most of the black hat hackers work individually but in recent times many hackers come together from different countries to carry out specific attacks on companies and agencies.

White Hat Penetration Testing

Penetration testing (pen testing) services are usually done by the companies to engage the white hat hackers into getting in the private network, applications and endpoints of the organization. The white hat hackers use different methods to point out security lapses and gaps to help the company better it’s cybersecurity defences. This is used as a precaution to get away from the real attack situation. Penetration testing consists of infiltrating into the system and breaking into a business environment.

White Hat Hacking Tools and Tactics

White hat hackers use all the same methods and tools which are used by real attackers to get to know about vulnerabilities. The various tools can be public “rootkits”, sophisticated campaigns which may involve social engineering, protocol spoofing, endpoint vulnerabilities, attack decoys etc. Penetration testing plays a major role for and it is the most important aspect for white hat hackers.

With the help of the company, a white hat hacker can also form a strategy and attempt phishing attack on the staff of the same organization. This practice can be very effective to get to know how vulnerable the employees are. White hat hackers can also try to physically break into the system with the permission of IT head and company management to find the security lapses in the network. A white hat hacker can also initiate a DDoS attack on a separate version of the company’s server or when the usage of the system is at a minimum.

The difference here between a white hat hacker and black hat hacker is of the time allowed to them for finding the vulnerability. The white hat hacker has relatively less time to detect and perform hack exploits on the system whereas a real hacker can spend months and sometimes a year on the same system to find the vulnerability.

Becoming a white hat

It is a well-known fact that most of the white hat hackers were once black hat hackers and they left the illegal path after being caught or with the fear of getting caught. Some white hat hacker thought of it as a lucrative career opportunity as it can land them a job in federal agencies, high profile corporate with a handsome pay package.

Knowledge of programming and skills in the computer is a must for becoming a white hat hacker. Most of the white hat hackers have their degree in computer sciences and information technology whereas coding is the most important aspect of becoming an ethical hacker. Most importantly passion and genuine interest in security are added asset for white hat hacking. Ethical hacking is more of a desire to do good for the society or to help make the internet a safe place.

Many institutes and colleges around the world have started ethical hacking courses and training. Students can enroll online or can opt for offline physical classes to have a career in white hat hacking. Apart from this, a person should connect itself well enough with the cyber security world and read about the latest technical elements of hacking and remain up to date with all the latest developments.

How do ethical hackers make money?

Due to the rise in cyber attacks and data breach incidents, the demand for ethical hackers is at all-time high. Most of the companies have created a new position for white hat hackers to oversee the security of the systems and associated networks. Some companies regularly call the white hat hackers for network penetration testing and offer a good amount for finding vulnerabilities in the network. Moreover, sometimes federal agencies seek help from ethical hackers where they need to access the network or interference legally.

Most of the white hat hackers work as a freelance and earn money from bug bounty schemes offered by websites and companies. Big tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google have their open bug bounty platform where they reward handsomely for finding a vulnerability in the system.

Ethical hackers, on the other hand, are quite often employed by cybersecurity companies, or within the security departments of larger organizations. The fact that they know how attackers operate often gives them valuable insight into how to prevent attacks. This reward is sometimes so high that one can earn in millions in some cases. According to a report by Bugcrowd, the average payout for the top 50 white hat hacker was about $145,000 USD with over 600 submissions which were declared valid. Ethical hackers can make up to $500,000 per year by finding vulnerabilities in a system and submitting it to the owner.

The motivation for ethical hackers

A genuine passion to explore the security world and curiosity to know how things are functioning is one of the major motivations for white hat hackers and monetary reward is definitely rank highest. Ethical hackers aspire to make the internet world a more private and secure place. There is a thin line which separates white hat hackers and black hat hackers. Ethical hackers always respect the law and privacy.

According to a report, the top four motivational factors for the ethical hackers are a challenge to hunt the vulnerability, professional development, to educate and enhance knowledge and making the internet a safer place.

Big companies and corporates are offering huge rewards for finding a bug and these extremely lucrative offerings work as greater motivation for the hackers to follow the ethical path. White hat hackers make a career with penetration testing and companies pay handsomely for sessions.

Skills required for becoming an ethical hacker

The top skills for becoming a white hat hacker consists of knowledge of web application, network pen testing, API assessment, Social engineering, Source code analysis, Mobile: Android, Cryptography, Binary analysis and reverse engineering, Mobile/iOS application, OS/Firmware testing, Malware analysis, IoT/Embedded device, Hardware hacking, Mobile: BBRY/WINMO, Vehicle testing.

Future of White Hat

Most of the white hat hackers are presently spend around up to 10 hours per week or hardly two hours a day for bug hunting that too with a regular job. With a bright career as a cyber-security expert in corporate and in government agencies, the future for ethical hacking is bright. The rise in cyber attacks is creating more and more jobs for the security analyst profile. Due to cyber attacks companies not only get affected financially but they also face a dent on their reputation. This will prompt companies to formulate an internal team to check and patch all the vulnerabilities before being exploited by any hacker with malicious intentions. The public bug bounty programs are another way to attract white hat hackers to find flaws in the network. The bug bounty programs are becoming widely popular and companies are set to spend more on these programs and reward the individuals.

Can an ethical hacker face legal issues?

Even white hat hackers are not invincible to legal issues. Many white hat hackers crossed the boundaries of their legal authorities in search of security flaws. For an example, if a white hat hacker is called by the company for pen testing and given legal access to the security system. There may be chances that he may reach out to security systems of business partners or may breach into customer’s information without their consent. In this case, the customers and business partners can legally summon company as well as the hacker.

In case of independently finding a bug in the system, a hacker has to inform the affected company about it. If this is the case of a data breach, it means the white hat hacker has seen the personal data of the customers before informing about it to the concerned authority.

There is a very thin line which separates the white hat and black hat hackers. Doing things legally is now much more rewarding than being a black hat hacker.


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