The word “hackers” brings a negative image to mind, but they are actually highly skilled individuals whose work can greatly benefit companies and organizations.
In the world of hacking, what separates the “good” guys from the “bad” ones is the intent and permission established under the law.
There are white hats and black hats. White hats are specially hired, and they are required to disclose whatever information they find to their hiring organization. Black hats, on the other hand, are absolutely not hired by any organization. The latter hack into the system and use any information they find for their personal gain. They can gatekeep, sell, or exploit the information.
The key difference between white and black hats lies in what they do with the information discovered. On a technical level, however, white hats are equivalent to black hats, since they employ the same computing techniques.
What are some important techniques used by white hats?
White and black hats carry out identical work. Important techniques are centered around the intent to uncover vulnerabilities. One technique is called pen testing, which includes an identification phase and a subsequent action phase.
Pen testing is when hackers first “poke around” an organization’s system and identify any weaknesses. After identification of these system weaknesses, malicious hackers (black hats) typically exploit these for profit or personal gain and this is done with absolutely no consent from the organization.
On the contrary, white hats explicitly denote the weaknesses and disclose them to the organization. Furthermore, they try to penetrate the systems to gauge their strength and level of stability.
Another key technique involves the disruption of system resources, and this is referred to as a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. A DoS attack intentionally exhausts a system, causing it to be unable to perform its supposed functions. Additionally, exhausting a systems resources denies legitimate users access.
This succeeds in rendering a service inaccessible. For example, suppose a ticket selling platform is preparing for the ticket release date for a popular music artist’s concert. On the day of the sale, black hats can intentionally flood the service to block actual customers from accessing the site to make a purchase.
White hats, on the other hand, are hired to proactively combat this blockage by purposely flooding system servers in a controlled manner to test the system infrastructure.
Testing their infrastructure proactively helps pinpoint areas of improvement.
How do white hats concretely help organizations?
Ultimately, white hats work to help organizations with their response plan. Their work helps organizations understand and implement methods to effectively and appropriately respond to future or potential system setbacks.
Their work overall results in improved system infrastructure and response techniques.
So next time the word “hackers” sounds, perhaps an image of a helpful and skilled professional will come to mind.