What is a White Hat Hacker?

If you think the term hacker refers purely to cybercriminals acting with malicious intent, you are not alone. But not all hackers are bad. While they may have the same skill set as the bad guys, some hackers don’t use it to defraud, destroy and deceive. Quite the opposite, ethical or white hat hackers, help organisations improve their defences. In this article, we’ll delve into how a white hat hacker operates, the difference between them and a black hat hacker, and how they can help improve your business’s security posture.

So, what is a White Hat Hacker?

When it comes to cybersecurity, it helps to have someone on your side who knows how your adversaries operate. However, finding a cybercriminal and asking them to help you out is unlikely to end well. Fortunately, this is where white hat hackers come into play.

Unlike their black-hatted counterparts, white hat hackers have noble intentions, aim to protect others and, importantly, what they do is legal. Known as ethical hackers, they use their technical skills to identify security gaps and weaknesses and make improvement recommendations, ethically, morally, and legally. And they are surprisingly common. They encompass many IT professionals, such as security specialists, penetration testers, bug bounty hunters and security researchers.

How Do White Hat Hackers Operate?

A white hat hacker operates with permission from the business in question and then deploy attacks, search for security vulnerabilities, and offer solutions to help improve the company’s cybersecurity posture. They may be employed or work as independent consultants or freelancers. Either way, white hat hackers can:

  • Develop security software – they develop security products as well as tools and techniques to help detect and mitigate cyberattacks.
  • Educate people – they help people understand cybersecurity threats, identify potential attacks, and mitigate the potential damage.
  • Create contingency plans – they develop tools and plans to help companies know what to do in the event of an attack.
  • Test systems – they use real-world attack techniques to penetrate systems and networks and expose vulnerabilities that could be exploited.
  • Ensure compliance – they can help companies ensure they are compliant with the many regulations surrounding how data is collected and stored.
     

What is the Difference Between a White Hat Hacker and a Black Hat Hacker?

When it comes to hackers, it’s vital that you know the difference between the good and bad guys. White hat and black hat hackers use the same skills and techniques to gain access to your systems, network, and data. However, they have completely opposing motivations. One of them will use what they find for malicious intent, whereas the other has much more honourable intentions:

  • A white hat hacker, otherwise known as ethical hackers, use their skills for good; they don’t break any laws, execute hypothetical attack scenarios, and follow a predetermined rule of engagement. White hat hackers aim to help businesses protect against attacks, proactively finding security weaknesses to fix them before the adversaries can exploit them.
  • A black hat hacker, or threat actors, use their skills to steal, trick and exploit. Their activities are most certainly illegal and are either for financial gain, espionage purposes or the pleasure of causing damage and disruption. Black hat hackers aim to take down networks, steal data or compromise systems and can cause significant damage.
     

So, in summary, white hat hackers aim to stop the black hat hackers from being successful. They are basically two different types of people with similar skills, but with two different intent, and only the white hat hackers will help you protect your business.

How Ethical Hackers Can Help Your Business

While black hat hackers or threat actors will continue to challenge your business’s security measures, you don’t have to wait and see whether they’ll be successful. Ethical hackers can help your security systems stand up to real-life attacks.

Our security assurance services comprise of ethical hackers and penetration testing experts that detect and remediate weaknesses that could potentially be exploited by adversaries. To find your weaknesses and strengthen your defences, request a consultation with our team today.

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