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White Hat Hacking: 5 Tips for Becoming a Professional Ethical Hacker

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The world of IT encompasses everything from managed service providers to ethical hacking. Also known as penetration testing, ethical hacking is something that both newcomers and seasoned professionals can dive into for a fulfilling career. Let’s take a look at five tips for how to do it. 

1. Learn the three types of hacking

The three main types of hacking are white hat, gray hat, and black hat. White hat hackers use their ability to hack for good. Also known as ethical hacking, they often work with big companies and government agencies to help identify any flaws in their networks. When vulnerabilities are found, they offer solutions. 

Black hat hackers use their technical expertise for ill intent. That can mean stealing sensitive information to extract a ransom or developing malware to spy on people.

Gray hat hackers exist in between the white hat and black hat poles. They identify vulnerabilities and threats within a system but often do so without the owner’s permission. Upon finding the threats, they usually notify the owner to ask for compensation.

2. Learn what ethical hackers do

Before getting bogged down in the details, it’s important to know the basics of what an ethical hacker does. Although specific job descriptions differ from company to company, most ethical hacking involves assessing security risks, modeling threats, and writing reports. 

Ethical hackers assess the security risks of a network to see how prepared a company is for potential threats. They do that by modeling threats that may compromise the system. This involves identifying where vulnerabilities lie, what preventative measures are available, and what the most promising solutions are. After that, ethical hackers write up their findings in clear reports. Although it may seem like an afterthought, the ability to write concise, well-organized reports is an essential part of the job. 

3. Master the most common computer languages

It should come as no surprise that ethical hacking requires a detailed understanding of different computer languages. That being said, ethical hackers are under no obligation to master them all. Instead, they need to focus on a few fundamental languages.

Alongside C (the so-called mother of all computer languages), this includes learning Python to help you grapple with exploit writing. In addition, JavaScript can help you understand how web applications are hacked and SQL can gear you up for dealing with large database hacks. Don’t stop there, however, because the more computer languages you’re fluent in, the easier it becomes to understand and prevent different kinds of attacks. 

4. Expand your network

In cybersecurity, as in other industries, advancing your career requires growing your network. This kind of professional networking isn’t just about finding new jobs, it’s also about talking shop with other professionals to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the industry. 

Online connections are great, but it’s also helpful to meet face-to-face. This can take the form of attending job fairs and social events as well as in-class training at nearby colleges. Additionally, you can reach out directly to local businesses that may need cybersecurity services. 

5. Get the right credentials

When the cybersecurity industry was small, it was relatively easy to get into the field without certification. Nowadays, however, the industry is booming, so it’s important to get the right credentials to show you understand what you’re doing. For ethical hackers, one of the most important is the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) qualification offered by the EC-Council. 

Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to a successful and satisfying career as a professional ethical hacker. 

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