Ethical Hackers: The Only Hackers You'd Like to Encounter

Due to numerous media stereotypes and blockbuster movies, the word hacker gained negative connotations. In reality, some hackers choose this profession as their primary source of legitimate income and help businesses and individuals better protect themselves.

For example, one of the most renowned convicted American hackers, Kevin Mitnick, is now selling his skills as a security consultant. After all, who would better know system vulnerabilities than someone capable of breaking them? Here's our concise insight into the professional world of ethical hackers.

Three Hacker Types

Although there are more, people commonly separate three types of hackers.
  • Blackhat hacker. This is a malicious actor that uses hacking skills for personal gain. Often it is monetary, but it can include cyber espionage, terrorism, sexual crime, harassment, etc. Recently, ransomware proved to be one of the most deadly and profitable blackhat hacker crimes.
  • Whitehat hacker (Ethical hacker.) The terms Whitehat and Ethical hacker can be used interchangeably. These people hack into security systems with permission to help organizations identify and patch vulnerabilities. For example, Virtual Private Network service providers often launch VPN bounty programs inviting Ethical hackers to identify their weak spots. Hackers can target VPN encryption, exploit apps, or try to breach a server and monitor user activities – the company will reward every successful attempt. This way, VPN companies can get ahead of the game and fix the issues before anything bad happens. Using a VPN for PC can also help protect against cybercrime and prevent your personal information from falling into the wrong hands, making it an important tool for online security.
  • Grayhat hackers. This group stands near the middle, using blackhat techniques without criminal purpose. They may hack systems without prior permission and ask for payment for revealing the vulnerability. They will not, however, exploit the vulnerability themselves for personal gain.

What Do Ethical Hackers Do?

Firstly, most ethical hackers are officially employed and have a contract with a particular organization. They can use the same methods as cybercriminals without malicious purposes. It provides them with a bigger toolkit than other cybersecurity departments. To achieve goals, they can deploy social engineering, penetration testing, and vulnerability assessment to evaluate and improve business cybersecurity structure.

An ethical hacker is a demanding profession that requires extensive prior knowledge. They should be well-versed in a chosen coding language, computer networking, cybersecurity, and contemporary hacking techniques. 

Having cybersecurity-related certificates is highly advisable, such as: Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Certified Security Testing Associate (CSTA), CompTIA PenTest+, Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), and others.

Ethical hackers can bring value to the company in several different ways. They can function as a reconnaissance actor, gathering data on the enterprise and launching a simulated cyber attack (for example, a Phishing campaign.)

Simultaneously, they can focus on unauthorized access to business accounts or corporate intranet. For example, they can launch a brute-force attack against business-related accounts. If your company does not use a business password manager to protect them with unique secure passwords, it will be marked as a vulnerability. 

Lastly, Whitehat hackers perform in-depth system scans, looking for unpatched entry points, exploitable software or devices, unprotected Wi-Fi points, and any other tech that might be used to infect your systems.

This profession is very challenging, yet the work is rewarding. With the rising cybercrime trends, Ethical hackers will remain in huge demand worldwide. They will be invaluable to large businesses that want an advantage over criminals by using their methods against them.

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