December 9

White Hat Hackers: The Good or the Bad?

By Quantum Space

December 9, 2021

The word “hacker” conjures the image of someone with ill intent toward individuals, and company information systems. The prevailing theory is that they look for ways to mine company data and destroy or change customer information. Those types of “bad guys” certainly exist. The cyber security industry calls them Black Hats, but in reality, they aren’t the only hackers lurking in cyberspace. The 3 types of hackers are Black Hat Hacker, Grey Hat Hacker, and White Hat Hacker

Black Hat Hacker

Black hat hackers are criminals who break into computer networks with malicious intent. They may also release malware that destroys files, holds computers hostage, or steals passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information. Black hats are motivated by self-serving reasons, such as financial gain, revenge, or simply to spread havoc.

Grey Hat Hacker

Somewhere between white and black are gray hat hackers. Gray hat hackers enact a blend of both black hat and white hat activities. Gray hat hackers often look for vulnerabilities in a system without the owner’s permission or knowledge. If issues are found, they report them to the owner, sometimes requesting a small fee to fix the problem. A gray hat’s real intention is to show off their skills and gain publicity, maybe even appreciation for what they consider a contribution to cyber security.

White Hat Hacker

The good guy who uses his (or her) capabilities to damage your organisation but only hypothetically. A white-hat hacker is also referred to as a “good hacker” or an “ethical hacker”. It is someone who exploits computer systems or networks to identify security flaws and make improvement recommendations to help you safeguard your business and personal information from dangerous hackers.

How do white hat hackers work?

White hat hackers use the same hacking methods as black hats, but the key difference is they have the permission of the system owner first, which makes the process completely legal. Instead of exploiting vulnerabilities to spread code, white hat hackers work with network operators to help fix the issue before others discover it.

White hat hacker tactics and skills include:

1. Social engineering

White hat hackers commonly use social engineering (“people hacking”) to discover weaknesses in an organisation’s “human” defenses. Social engineering is about tricking and manipulating victims into doing something they should not (making wire transfers, sharing login credentials, and so on).

2. Penetration testing

Penetration testing aims to uncover vulnerabilities and weaknesses in an organisation’s defenses and endpoints so they can be rectified.

3. Reconnaissance and research

This involves researching the organisation to discover vulnerabilities within the physical and IT infrastructure. The objective is to gain enough information to identify ways to legally bypass security controls and mechanisms without damaging or breaking anything.

4. Programming

White hat hackers create a virtual trap to lure attackers or cybercriminals to distract them or help the white hats gain valuable information about the attackers.

5. Using a variety of digital and physical tools

This includes hardware and devices that allow the penetration testers to install bots and other malware and gain access to the network or servers.

For some white hat hackers, the process is gamified in the form of bug bounty programs – competitions that reward hackers with cash prizes for reporting vulnerabilities.

How to protect yourself from hackers?

Here are some ways which parents can advise their children to protect them from hackers:

1. Use unique, complex passwords

A strong password is not easy to guess and ideally made up of a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, special characters, and numbers. People often leave passwords unchanged for years, which reduces their security. By breaching a password, hackers get one step closer to getting your data. Avoid writing your passwords down on a piece of paper, and don’t share them with others. A password manager tool is an excellent way to manage your passwords.

2. Use secure websites

Use shopping websites that have Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. To check whether a website has this installed, look at the URL – it should begin with “HTTPS://” instead of “HTTP://”. The “s” stands for “secure”. There will also be a lock icon nearby, and where this appears depends on your browser. Try to avoid saving payment information on shopping websites – if fraudsters compromise the site, they will gain access to your information.

3. Enable two-factor authentication

This adds a layer of security to the login process. When you set it up, you will still need to enter your username and password, but you will also have to verify your identity through a second authentication factor – often a PIN sent to your cell phone. This means an identity thief would need to know your login details and have possession of your cell phone – which is a less likely scenario.

4. Deactivate the autofill option

It is a time-saving feature, but if it is convenient for you, it’s also convenient for hackers. All the auto-fill info must be kept somewhere, such as in your browser profile folder. This is the first place a hacker will go to look for your name, address, phone number, and all the other information they need to steal your identity or access your accounts.

5. Disable and manage third-party permissions

On mobile phones, third-party applications that users download onto their devices have certain permissions turned on without notifying the gadget’s owner. Therefore, location services, automatic uploads, data backup, and even public displays of personal phone numbers are all permissions set to green upon installation. Managing these settings and on-set permission, especially those connected to the cloud, is essential when keeping your data secure from hackers.

There are hackers present in every industry. Every school has students who are exceptionally good with computers, write their own code, and are generally well versed with the processes involved. Those children, without the correct guidance, could resort to seeking all answers on the internet which is at times not an ideal place for an ethical hacker to learn and grow. Hence, parents must educate their children about both the legal and illegal aspects of hacking. 

“We’re fortunate to live in a time where the easiest path to get started in hacking is the legal and ethical path.” – Jack Cable

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