Cyber-security and hackers are quite the topic these days! With more and more companies and governmental institutions falling victims to ransomware attacks or data breaches, there’s no wonder that the demand for security specialists is through the roof right now.
But big companies understand they don’t just need someone specialized in defensive techniques; they need actual hackers to test their systems and discover weaknesses. These are what the industry calls ethical hackers or white hat hackers.
What Exactly is an Ethical Hacker?
Sometimes, they are former hackers turned good, but most of the time are people who understand the techniques used by hackers and are curious about cyber-security.
The name covers a wider range of activities since white hat hackers can have different roles. For instance, there are penetration testers (also known as pen testers), security specialists, people who handle the social aspect of the job, and more.
This is the main reason why companies tend to hire teams of ethical hackers or companies known to specialize in this field.
Basically, a white hat hacker will do anything in their power to break an IT system, but with the express permission of their target. Before any hacking can begin, the two parties involved will sign a detailed contract, specifying the procedures to follow once a breach is discovered.
Also, the client can specify modules or areas (of a system or building) that shouldn’t be investigated.
Overall, the job can be extremely fun and quite challenging as it requires an active mind and a desire to create problems. It’s like being paid generously (between $50,000 and $100,000 a year for beginners) for solving complicated puzzles.
How to Become One?
As you can imagine, you can’t be good at beating highly-complex IT systems if you don’t have basic programming and networking skills. But if you’re just finishing college, you’re in luck!
The demand is so high right now that companies offer internships to students that have remarkable results in networking, IT, programming, or even math. So, it helps to be a straight-A student and show off your tech skills.
If you’re doing this by yourself, aim to develop your programming (C, Java, Python, and more) and computer networking skills, keep an inquisitive mind, and train your brain to think outside the box.
You should also learn UNIX and know both Windows and MacOS like the back of your hand (all versions).
But, if you really want people to hire you for breaking into their systems you must take specialized cyber-security courses, get certified, and practice in the field for several years. It also helps if you participate in security conventions and create a network of people involved in this field.
At the end of the day, this is a job that you learn while testing and experimenting, but you should always do it under the guidance of a professional.
Keep in mind: hacking is not just about typing code and finding back doors; it’s also about creating opportunities by interacting with the human component of the system (usually staff).
It’s a Continuously Learning Job
When you work in cyber-security (ethical hacker or not), you never stop learning! Hackers are extremely creative, and they never stop looking for new ways to break the world. So, your job will always be challenging and demanding – we can promise you’ll never get bored!