Whitehat hackers are ethical hackers that use their skills to test a company’s security processes and identify areas vulnerable to a security breach. A whitehat agreement is an agreement between a company and a hacker that determines the scope, terms, and goals of their partnership. In this article, we’ll go into more detail about whitehat hackers and how to choose the right ethical hacker for your security needs.
What is a Whitehat Hacker?
Whitehat hackers are cybersecurity professionals that work with organizations to identify and patch vulnerabilities instead of exploiting them. Whitehat hacking uses extensive knowledge of hacking techniques used by cybercriminals. Ethical hackers will utilize these criminal hacking techniques in an authorized manner to identify areas open to malicious attacks.
By examining an organization’s security system from the perspective of a cybercriminal, ethical hackers can bring valuable insights. Some whitehat hackers also offer a wider range of services, including gathering information about other organizations.
Every possible vulnerability can be explored by a whitehat hacker, from testing firewall defenses to attempting social engineering attacks. By hiring a whitehat security professional to explore their defenses, a company can reduce or eliminate breaches that come from actual attackers.
Whitehat vs Blackhat vs Grayhat Hackers
Whitehat hackers are ethical hackers who work within legal boundaries to help organizations strengthen their security. Black and gray hat hackers, on the other hand, work outside of legal or ethical boundaries to accomplish their own means.
Gray hat hackers are the most often misidentified group as they operate in the gray area between ethical and unethical hacking activity. Gray hat hackers often do the same tasks as whitehat hackers; however, they attempt these actions without being authorized to do so. While gray hat hackers aren’t actively seeking to harm organizations, their forays into high profile systems can cause harm to unprepared businesses. No matter what the intention, without authorization, this form of hacking is illegal.
Black hat hackers, on the other hand, hack organizations illegally without any sense of ethical reasoning. Black hat hackers are responsible for most cyber security threats, while whitehat hackers stand in direct opposition to their goals. These cybercriminals are motivated by monetary gain, or notoriety, and will target any part of a business they can profit off of.
Hiring a White Hat Hacker
A whitehat hacker can be a fantastic asset for identifying vulnerabilities in your security systems, but these partnerships should be made carefully. A whitehat hacker is being trusted with the security of your organization, and as such should have strong experience and certifications under their belt. Here are some certifications to look for:
- Certified Network Defender (CND)
- Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)
- Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT)
- GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst (GCFA)
The background and certifications you’ll need from an ethical hacker will vary depending on your industry and your reason for hiring the whitehat hacker. Take time to look through potential certifications to make sure they fit your needs.
Before you hire a whitehat hacker, you should also make sure you’ve covered all your security basics. If you haven’t updated your firewall, for example, the hacker may not be able to properly evaluate your firewall.
Parameters for a WhiteHat Hacker Agreement
Once you’ve found a whitehat hacker that works for your organization, it’s important to outline the parameters of the job. Here are potential parameters you may want to include in the agreement:
- Identifying potential threats from open ports that receive and transmit information
- Evaluating security systems like firewalls and honeypots
- Searching for network security loopholes
- Using social engineering tactics to evaluate employee's ability to spot fraud
- Analyzing patch installations and searching for vulnerabilities
Clearly define what the hacker is authorized to do, and what they should do if/when they breach a security system. A clear agreement between the hacker and your organization will optimize the time and energy spent by both sides of the partnership.
A whitehat hacker will use the same tactics a malicious hacker would in order to assess your organization’s security systems. Any vulnerabilities will be noted by the hacker so that solutions can be found to patch all the system’s weaknesses. Hiring a whitehat hacker is a fantastic solution if you’re interested in seeing how your security system would stand up to an experienced hacker.
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