Computers

What's A White Hat Hacker?

If you believe the movies, hackers are all impossibly beautiful slobs who regularly break into top-secret networks just for lulz. If you believe stock photography, they're literally cat burglars who put on a ski mask then steal your credit cards online. Either way, they're not the most trustworthy people in the world. But in reality, you can make a pretty good living as a hacker—and you don't even have to break the law to do it.

Want to get started? Try this nine-part Ethical Hacking bundle. At only $49, (about 80% regular price) it will only be available in our Curiosity Store for a limited time.

The Good, The Bad, And The Gray Hat

It might seem strange that hackers would be so concerned with the color of each others' hats. The key is to think of them as actors in an old-timey Western, where the good guys always wear white cowboy hats and the bad guys wear black ones. Basically, a white-hat hacker is someone who discovers vulnerabilities in a system and informs the developers so that they can fix them. They often work in tandem with the developer, and only break into systems when they have permission to do so. A black-hat hacker, on the other hand, is closer to the usual stereotype—somebody who discovers vulnerabilities and exploits them for personal gain. A gray hat is somewhere in between, breaking into systems despite not necessarily having permission, but also without the malicious intent of a black hat.

One high profile example of a gray hat hack came in 2013, when computer expert Khalil Shreateh hacked into Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook account in order to demonstrate a weakness in the social media site (he'd previously attempted the white hat route only to be told that the bug did not exist). In fact, many tech companies keep white hats on staff to test the limits of their security, and nearly all of them offer bounties to hackers who bring bugs to their attention. Also in 2013, Microsoft began its own bounty program, with prizes of up to $100,000 depending on the seriousness of the weakness. So if you've got the tools and the know-how, you can make quite the pretty penny breaking into security systems, and you won't even have to break the law or ominously mutter "I'm in."

Becoming A White Hat Hacker

So if you have no or limited experience in the bug-hunting field, where do you go to earn your white hat? Here's a good place to start. This nine-part online program covers the complex subjects you might expect—like getting started in Linux—and some of the more high-concept aspects of hacking, such as what they call social engineering. Some courses dive deep into specific subjects such as mobile security (how to hack smartphones), while others arm you to combat one of the most common types of attacks that web apps face—cross-site scripting. And for the icing on the digital security cake, the final program hones in on the business side of this career, whether you're taking it on as a freelancer or as a salaried gig. Basically, this $49 investment could give you the foundation to embark on a $120,000/year job—and best of all, you'd get to pretend to be a cowboy while you do it.

Get This Package And Start Hacking

Ready to try this fascinating and always in-demand job? Try this nine-part Ethical Hacking bundle. Straight from our Curiosity store it is only $49 (about 80% regular price!) for a limited time.

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Want to learn about government jobs for hackers? Listen to our conversation with the deputy chief of research at the Army Cyber Institute on the Curiosity Podcast. Stream or download the episode using the player below, or find it everywhere podcasts are found, including iTunesStitcherSoundCloud, and Gretta.

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Written By
Curiosity Staff
June 9, 2017