When most IT professionals or business leaders hear the word “hacker,” their blood runs cold. The idea of someone poking around in their data uninvited is certainly uncomfortable for them.
Even though the popular definition of a hacker is a cybercriminal, that’s not the only type. Hackers also can serve on the side of the angels, helping businesses and governments strengthen cybersecurity instead of undermining it. Where cybercriminals seek to plunder, other types of hackers work to protect networks and data.
These “white hat” hackers utilize many of the same techniques as their criminal counterparts. They look for any weaknesses in a network’s security. They attempt to bypass security measures. They try to sneak into a company’s data infrastructure unnoticed. But whereas malicious “black hat” hackers do so to steal information or vandalize websites, those working on the right side of the law have a different motivation.
They’re working with network administrators and business owners to identify and resolve security flaws. Businesses large and small have come to rely on white hat hackers as a crucial component of their IT protection strategies. They’ve also become important contributors to national security by helping the government shore up safeguards against cyberterrorists.
Their work continues to become more important. With the average cost of a data breach expected to reach $150 million by 2020, strong cybersecurity is no longer a luxury.
Although criminal hackers can range from common vandals to career cybercriminals, white hat hackers receive extensive training and certification. They also work with the permission of network administrators and share their findings. To gain a better understanding of the many differences between white hat hackers and their malevolent nemeses, take a look at the accompanying infographic. It breaks down how each side can affect your cybersecurity, for better or for worse.