Ethical Hackers - The Good Guys

Graham Keegan 16.07.2013
In the past the word "hack" meant to make something work better or to allow it to do things it wasn't meant to. Nowadays, most people take it to mean breaking things. The term generally has bad connotations. But wait... not all hackers are bad guys, they are not inherently bad. 
Hackers, generally speaking, are people who have strong ability and the desire to really understand the inner workings of things. Just like in any other field, there are good guys (with noble intentions), the not so good guys and the in-between kind, with ambiguous ethics.
The good guys are referred to as "White Hats" or "Ethical Hackers". Rather than using their skills for criminal or unethical purposes, they use them for good, legal, ethical purposes. These "White Hats" will still comprise computer security systems but do so without malicious intent, sometimes even with altruistic motives. Generally, they will follow their own defined code of ethics.
Often, the "White Hats" will be employed (by corporations, or even Governments) to test security systems. They may approach this task, as a "Black Hat" would. However, rather than using their access to steal, vandalise or disrupt, they will report back to the company, detailing security issues, pinpointing vulnerabilities and suggesting or implementing security defences. This is a practise called penetration testing. Often, companies will offer reward money to those who point out weaknesses (directly to the company, without first publishing) yet may not be directly employed by the company.
The general consensus amongst the hacking community is - the darker the hat, the more dubious the ethics. The “Black Hats” are opposite to "White Hats", they hold a malicious intent. This group will take advantage of vulnerabilities by stealing data, destroying files, disrupting service etc. for some future benefit to them. Often when they have exploited vulnerabilities, they will publish the details to the web, which can act as a prompt or challenge to other would be "crackers", to follow suit. Despite what the movies tell us though, these "Black Hat" crackers aren't always part of a crime syndicate, seeking monetary gain and out to do harm. Some simply like the challenge and set out to test their skills, but act with little regard for others.
There is also a grey area in between, the individuals who work in this area are the “Grey Hats”. Although the "Grey Hats" may not hold bad intentions, they still comprise security systems, without prior permission which can be illegal. Their ethics are ambiguous.
Morgan McKinley is hiring, an outstanding long term contract opportunity, for the position of Ethical Hacker. If you or someone in your extended network is an Ethical Hacker, please feel free to contact myself or any member of the Morgan McKinley IT team, to discuss the role.
Graham Keegan's picture
Associate Director | Technology