Do You Have What it Takes to Be a White Hat Hacker?
Any IT security professional worth his code should be interested in what it takes to be a successful hacker. Half the battle in IT security lies is knowing the weapons and vulnerabilities that lie within systems and technology, and no IT security professional can afford to overlook hacking.
First, what does it takes to be a hacker? Hackers have a very diverse skill set that is focused on understanding how technology works. A hacker's curiosity is relentless. They do everything from figuring out the code that's used to run a piece of technology to physically taking the technology apart to see what makes it tick. Whatever it takes, a hacker will figure it out.
As a budding white hat hacker, as opposed to a black hat hacker who attacks technology without permission, it's best to focus your energy. IT security specializations (or domains) are abundant, including application security, website security, network security, infrastructure security, physical security, personal security, IoT security, mobile device security, and more.
Once you decide to specialize in a domain of IT security, you will need to understand and master the technologies within that field. Here are four principles to help make you a successful white hat hacker:
1. Develop Your Foundation Before you build or tear down, you have to know what something is built on. Let's use application security as an example. You need to learn how applications are developed, as well as which code is used to create the various applications that you have to protect. You have to educate yourself in the various coding languages that allow applications to function, and how the code is received and run on various platforms. Once this base code is understood, you need to know how coders develop secure code to prevent hackers from compromising their applications. This is not an easy task, but this knowledge is the foundation that will enable you to begin white hat hacking.
2. Understand the Process As an white hat hacker, you will need to go through the process of obtaining authorization to white hat hack. This process involves communicating with the client that will require negotiation and educating the client on what white hat hacking is, how it will be performed, and what fail-safes you have in place for your client and their company.
Strict parameters need to be set and understood around what your team has the authorization to hack. Everything will need to be recorded; this includes your methods and the report of your findings. When this is all settled, have your client sign off on the contract, and only then move forward with penetration testing.
3. Do your Research You need to stay vigilant and relevant to thrive and sustain your success as an white hat hacker. To do this, you need to keep learning about the newest technologies and all their threats and vulnerabilities. You can find this information by searching Google, YouTube, the dark web, going to hacker events, taking courses, and reading books.
4. Do Labs and Testing To be the best white hat hacker you can be, you will need to practice, practice, practice. Set up a lab and run hacks to test the hacking strategies you are learning! This will hone your skills, while enabling you to determine the effectiveness and safety of your hacking strategies.
In a society where technology changes by the day, IT security professionals can only be successful if they keep their knowledge and practice relevant and disciplined. A solid foundation is critical, but once established, it will only be strong as long as you continue to stay educated in your field of expertise, with an eye on the industry at large. Stay disciplined. Stick to your process and keep good records and relations with clients. And practice again and again. Therein lies your hack to becoming a successful white hat hacker.
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