Who or what are white hat hackers?

The term "hacker" brings to mind someone who is out to cause harm to people, websites, and enterprise information systems. According to popular belief, they want to mine company data and erase or alter client information. Those types of "bad guys" do exist - the cybersecurity industry refers to them as "Black Hats" - but they aren't the only hackers out there.

Who is a White Hat Hacker?

A white-hat hacker is a computer security expert who tests and assesses the security of protected systems and networks. White hat hackers improve security by reporting flaws before malevolent hackers (also known as black hat hackers) can find and exploit them. Even though the methods used are similar to, if not identical to, those used by evil hackers, white hat hackers have a license to use them against the company that hired them. White hat hackers use their expertise for the greater good of society. They could be repentant black hat hackers or merely knowledgeable about hacking methods and strategies. A company can hire these experts to conduct testing and implement best practices to make them less exposed to future harmful hacking efforts. In most circumstances, the terms "ethical hacker" and "hacker" are equivalent. The name stems from classic Western movies, where the "good guy" wore a white cowboy hat as a cliché. Of course, the "evil men" seemed always to be wearing black hats.

What do they do?

Many company leaders turn to white hat hackers to improve their digital defences and conduct penetration testing against their companies. These Cybersecurity champions began by ethically breaking into their clients' networks to determine how attacks might occur and the potential damage they could create. In some circumstances, they may be directed to attack specific assets such as private networks, applications, or endpoints. Alternatively, they could be given a broad mandate to uncover and close security problems wherever they may be found.

The following are examples of attacks they might use to find flaws in a company's network security −

  • Web application hacking − The durability of web applications and services such as APIs and webpages can be used to measure the network's ability to secure valuable data.

  • Web server hacking − This checks for various security vulnerabilities, such as software misconfiguration on the targeted server, common or unmodified default passwords, and obsolete software that needs to be updated or patched.

  • Wireless network hacking − The Wireless LAN has two vulnerabilities: improper configuration and poor encryption.

  • Social engineering − Simulating social engineering assaults, such as phishing emails, can also expose security awareness gaps, a positive and proactive security awareness approach that helps employees defend the organization's infrastructure and data.

  • Scanning for security − To automate uncovering known vulnerabilities, ethical hackers employ a range of tools. These include web application vulnerability detection tools like Acunetix or Netsparker and open-source pen-testing tools like Metasploit Framework or Nikto.

What are the other types of hackers?

Hackers can be nice, bad, or somewhere in between. Let's look at the various sorts they might be categorized based on which side they support.

Black hat hackers

A black hat hacker infiltrates computer networks, steals sensitive information, and manipulates or destroys entire networks. They occasionally build malware to assist them in breaking into these systems. They are classified as criminals because they hack for nefarious purposes, usually to hurt their victims.

The concept of black and white hat hackers is reminiscent of old cowboy movies, where the bad guys wear black hats, and the good guys wear white hats. This indicates that white hat hackers always follow the law, but black hat hackers do not.

The distinction could also be understood in ethics, with white hat hackers acting ethically and black hat hackers acting unethically. However, because morality is a subjective concept, it is better defined in law.

Grey hat hackers

The grey ones are in the middle of good and evil. They break into huge organizations' computer systems, notify them of the breach, and then demand a set amount of money to repair the damage and avoid future violations. When organizations refuse to collaborate, this might lead to blackmailing and, finally, black hat hacking. While grey hat hackers may rationalize their conduct by citing altruistic motives, their actions are nevertheless immoral and illegal.

Red hat hackers

These are the Linux world's positive personalities, but they work somewhat differently. You may call them cyber vigilantes who go after black hat hackers directly by ruining their systems and, in some cases, rendering their gadgets useless. A red hat hacker usually accomplishes this by infecting computers with various viruses or launching DoS assaults.

White Hat Hacking's Limitations

If security is viewed as a fight between a white hat and a black hat hacker, the white hats have several drawbacks and constraints. A few significant drawbacks are as follows −

There's only a minimum time.

There's one significant distinction between white hat and black hat hackers: time. Malicious hackers have a lot of it, but white hat hackers don't. A white-hat hacker may have a day or a few weeks to complete their task and present their findings after being recruited.

Fundamentally, these persons are constrained by cost, time, and staffing issues. Black hat attackers, on the other hand, are unrelenting. Campaigns by these actors have been known to take years to complete. This provides attackers with a significant advantage: they can test hundreds of different attack strategies until they successfully infiltrate their target networks.

The scope of testing is limited.

White hat hackers frequently use pen testing to infiltrate a corporate environment or asset. On the other hand, infiltration is merely one stage in a full-fledged cyberattack, which is referred to as the "cyber death chain." The kill chain also includes moving around within networks and systems and exfiltrating (stealing) data. However, a white-hat hacker performing pen-testing is unlikely to cover these attempts due to concerns about the impact these approaches may have on the organization.

The highly dynamic nature of today's companies and technology settings exacerbates these limits. Said, if a configuration problem is introduced this week, a white hat hacker's thorough investigation from last week won't help much. Finally, the time and cost associated with white hack hacking are high, making it impossible for companies to use these techniques with the required frequency.

Penetration testing is typically performed once a year by companies that can afford it or for whom it is a legal necessity to meet compliance laws. Rather than ensuring ongoing security, leaders are forced to hope that their security procedures will be effective in the face of an assault.

How to Protect Yourself from Hackers?

Hacker threats cannot be eliminated. No matter what you do, if a black hat hacker discloses the data collected by your favorite department shop, your information could land up on the dark web.

However, you may take action to decrease the chances of hackers gaining access to your personal and financial information.

You should keep the quantity of information you share with others to a minimum.

You won't always be able to avoid disclosing personal information. You'll need to provide a lot of personal data if you wish to enroll your children in your local school system, for example. There are instances, though, when you must use additional prudence.

Check your online banking accounts frequently.

You won't always keep your personal and financial information safe. However, you can monitor your online credit card and bank accounts to ensure that no one uses them to make fraudulent purchases.

These accounts should be checked regularly. And, if you notice any suspicious transactions, such as those made by a cybercriminal who stole or bought your personal information, contact your credit card company and financial institution right away. You may usually get a full refund for fraudulent purchases made with your credit card information if you act early enough.

Put your credit on freeze.

You can freeze your credit with Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to protect yourself from identity theft. Lenders are unable to verify your credit when it is frozen. If someone is posing as you ask for a credit card or a loan in your name, they will be denied, stopping them from starting a false account or taking out a loan in your name.

Freezing your credit is simple, but you must do so at all three credit bureaus. Go to the Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion home pages and look for their credit-freeze pages. Remember that if you want to apply for a credit card or a loan, you must first unfreeze your credit. After you've received permission for that loan or credit card, you can unfreeze it.

Updated on: 15-Mar-2022


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