We’ve all seen Hollywood movies with hackers accessing the toughest encrypted systems with a few lines. Then there comes in the dialogue, “I’m in.” Well, it is not that easy in real life. The principle is the same but its nowhere as easy as typing a few lines of code and getting in. Hackers have a reputation of being something illegal. We all have our opinion shaped by movies and in some unfortunate cases, even personal experiences. Celebs’ accounts are often hacked and come to the spotlight in the news. All these activities are illegal and not used by a decent person. But there is an exception: a white hat hacker.

What is a White Hat Hacker?

White hat hackers (or etchical hackers) are people who are standing on the right side of the ethical line which distinguishes good hacking from bad hacking.

As mentioned above, not all hackers are bad. Like movies showcase a programmer who’s capable of bypassing a strong encryption system, it is often for a good cause. This practice applies to the real world as well. In contrast to the “bad” hackers, they aim to improve security instead of getting unauthorized access. White hackers aim to improve security by finding and reporting flaws in systems, platforms, application, and so on to the developer.

A ‘White Hat’ hacker would use their skills to do good instead of steal or have malicious intent. A person of such nature would know the difference between ethical and unethical and choose to go with the ethical side. White hat hackers would investigate and ‘hack’ the system, but instead of going ahead and do anything bad, they would show their findings to organizations in charge.

The term ‘white hat’ originates from old western movies, where a white cowboy hat signified good guy. And in contrast, the villain had the black hat. Over time, that part of pop culture seeped into the IT industry in this way.

Motives Behind Ethical Hacking

Hackers share a common enthusiasm for finding out the ins and outs of secure systems. It really excites a hacker about what one can do to gain access or manipulate something that’s off boundaries. It would be like a ‘forbidden fruit’ psychology that drives a hacker to find a challenge out of something restricted to them.

What we hear most of is the unethical side, where the person does what they feel like whether its legal or not. A white hat hacker would share the same desire but to help organizations and governments.

Motivation can come to them for making a career out of something they like and get paid for it. Consider this- a person getting paid to hack their systems any way possible, and reporting how they managed to do it. This way companies and governments can close such security lapses before a black hat hacker discovers it. Additionally, companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft are among some major companies that host programmers to find anything they can. It would be like announcing a bounty prize to find anything hackable on their system/product. That is why companies release small sized security updates across devices from time to time.

A Chinese researcher won Google’s ‘bounty’ of $112,500 for finding a lapse in remote access for Android OS. Bounty hunts like this are frequently held by large companies looking to secure their launches in apps and devices.

White Hat vs Black Hat Hackers Comparison

The cycle of security fixes and hacking goes on and on because nothing is impenetrable with logic. The entire scenario can be treated like a chess match between white and black hackers as players.

A ‘black hat’ hacker is always on the other side of the law and uses techniques to hide his identity until they’re caught. A white hat hacker, on the other hand, walks hand in hand with the governments and companies against black hat hackers.

Where white hat hackers would be earning their money by ethical company/government pay, black hat hackers wouldn’t. Black hat hackers would earn money through illegal practices like scamming people, theft, fraud and other practices. Unethical hackers would always have to hide their traces on the internet and be on the run from law forces.

But, there are also cases, where being on the good side of the law can run you into trouble. The case of Edward Snowden (he wasn’t a hacker) is famous for being right on the grey hacker line between ethics practices and illegal practices.

Another case is when black hat hackers are caught and they convert to white hat hackers to stay on the safe side of the law to avoid what they had to go through as punishment from the law.

How to become a White Hat Hacker

As mentioned above, a hacker has the natural desire for finding out loopholes and security lapses in systems. If finding such lapses, solving digital problems and coding is something you’re interested in you can find a career in ethical hacking.

A white hat hacker would have very strong technical and logical skills. An ethical hacker would have experience in penetrating techniques and penetration testing to find any way possible to get into a system.

Mostly, hackers study and research themselves until they undergo an ethical hacking course to elevate their skills. You need to be able to technically think like a black hat hacker. In the end, it’s the skill of the hacker in finding a way around things.

Requirements change from organization to organization. A masters or bachelor in information security is something that would go a long way in getting you noticed by hiring managers.

Wrap Up

It is always a good practice to stay on the good side of the law whether online or in the real world. Being on the wrong side of the law will only bring you more worries than pleasures. And while white hat hackers enjoy the guilty pleasure of hacking into something they’re not supposed to, they stay on the safe side of the law.

The internet is balanced and works perfectly thanks to the yin yang equilibrium maintained by both groups of hackers.