Skip to Content

Cybersecurity Consulting

What is a White Hat Hacker?

April 12, 2022

6 minutes

hackers in a server room working on computers

Not all hackers have bad intentions! In cybersecurity, ethical hackers—known as white hat hackers—use modern hacking techniques for positive purposes to help secure businesses.

Read on to learn more about white hat hacking, how these “good” hackers are able to help businesses, and the differences between different types of hackers.

The Definition of White Hat Hacker

A white hat hacker is an ethical hacker who uses modern techniques, technology, and strategies to hack into business systems in the name of cybersecurity.

Unlike a classic depiction of evil hackers, white hats use their power for good, helping businesses identify their weaknesses, strengthen their defenses, and learn more about the vectors that bad actors will use to steal data and plant malware.

An ethical hacker often works with managed security service providers (MSSP) like DOT Security to play a part in building cybersecurity strategies, performing gap analyses, penetration testing, and awareness training.

Having an experienced hacker on the team gives businesses a look inside the mind of those with malicious intent to see how they think, what they’re looking for, and what can be done to stop them.

How Does White Hat Hacking Help Businesses?

what does a white hat hacker do to help

Identify Vulnerabilities

Using the latest hacking techniques, white hat hackers will attempt to infiltrate your system and identify where your biggest vulnerabilities are, how they’re being abused to access your system, and help your cybersecurity team to build a strategy that addresses them.

Test Defenses Against Social Engineering

One part of your cyber defenses that a white hat hacker will test is your resilience to social engineering, testing how aware your teams are of potential malware disguised as harmless emails.

Related: The Importance of Cybersecurity Awareness, Training, and Education

Evaluate Defense Systems

Along with identifying potential weaknesses, white hat hackers will also assess the strength of your established defenses like honeypots, firewalls, password security, credential security, and more.

These are your first lines of defense and if an ethical hacker can break them down, a black hat hacker will have no trouble getting through.

White Hat Hacker Vs. Black Hat Hacker

white hat hacker vs black hat hacker

While a white hat hacker’s goal is to help people improve their cybersecurity systems by finding vulnerabilities and strengthening defenses, black hat hackers use those same skills and tools to do harm.

A black hat hacker creates malware with the intent of spying on people and businesses, seating information, locking out users, and gaining access to networks. Their motivations are always malicious and focused on personal gain, financial gain, or revenge. They can modify data, destroy it, and steal it with the intent to sell it to third parties or hold it for a large ransom (ransomware).

Other Types of Hackers

The hacking world is not always black and white. In fact, there are a few other kinds of hackers both with different motives than black or white hats, but with the same hacking skill and potential for danger.

Grey Hat Hackers: These hackers live on the line between bad and good because they don’t typically hack with the intent to steal data or hold businesses hostage, they do demand money. The way they operate is by hacking businesses, alerting them of the hack, then asking for money to fix what they broke and seal up the hole they used to get in.

Red Hat Hackers: These hackers are the chaotic good of the hacking space. Though they use nefarious means like viruses, malware, and other attacks—they use them against black hat hackers by destroying their systems.

In Conclusion

With white hat hackers on your side, you’re setting your business up to be more protected and better prepared to face the challenges presented by bad actors and malware.

Working with an MSSP like DOT Security gives you access to a team of ethical hackers, cybersecurity specialists, a vCISO, technicians, engineers, and more to help you build the strongest possible defense for your business.

Wondering how covered your business currently is against modern cyberthreats? Explore our new checklist to help you determine what you have, what you need, and how vulnerable you are to an attack.