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What Is a White Hat Hacker and White Hat Security?

White Hat Hacker Definition

A white hat hacker refers to a person who uses their hacking ability to find security vulnerabilities in software, hardware, or networks. A white hat hacker is different from a black hat hacker.  Both black and white hats hack systems, but white hat hackers do it solely for the purposes of benefiting the organization for which they work

White Hat Hackers: The Ethical Hackers

White hat hackers engage in ethical hacking because they use their skills to help improve cybersecurity. White hat markets are alive and well because these hackers are in demand. White hats are often referred to as security researchers and act as independent contractors to help an organization tighten its cybersecurity. Some companies employ white hat hackers to work within their company to constantly try to hack their system, exposing vulnerabilities and preventing more dangerous attacks.

White hat hackers also take on the role of penetration testers as they test how easily a system can be infiltrated by a black hat hacker. This may involve looking for encryption backdoors that hackers could use to bypass encryption meant to protect the network or its communications.

A white hat hacker can also be considered an IT security engineer or a network security analyst because they help conceive and implement security solutions.

White Hat Security Meaning

White hat security gives you a more comprehensive web security program, primarily because a white hat hacker can test various aspects of your security solution. Without the services of a white hat hacker—or robust security tools like next-generation firewalls (NGFWs)—your IT team may miss some key vulnerabilities.

Their services can be performed at scale. You just need to communicate the sectors of the network you would like the white hat hacker to test. Further, because experienced white hat hackers have a wide assortment of tools, they can test systems regardless of their size or scope.

Proactive Remediation

With white hat hackers, you can be proactive with your remediation efforts because they actively seek out vulnerabilities and tell you both where they are and how they could be exploited. This allows you to address the concerns before you get attacked.

Always-on Risk Assessment

With a white hat security solution, you can have the service constantly test your network for vulnerabilities. This way, the white hat hacker can assess your risk on an ongoing basis, revealing issues as they arise.

Accuracy Unmatched in the Industry

White hat hackers may provide the most accurate assessment of a system’s vulnerabilities because they can bombard it with a variety of different kinds of attacks. Organizations often engage in bug bounty programs that reward white hat hackers with money or recognition when they successfully discover a bug in the company’s system. These kinds of issues may not have been revealed if they had not been discovered by the white hat.

Difference Between White, Black, and Gray Hat Hackers

Legally speaking, the difference between white hat vs. black hat hackers is stark, and gray hat hackers are in-between on the ethical spectrum.

White Hat = only hacks for ethical reasons and does so using ethical means. They provide full transparency into their tools and methodology.

Gray Hat = consider themselves good guys, but they may not tell an organization all they do to penetrate their system or ask for approval beforehand. They may also ask the owner to pay them to fix vulnerabilities they discover.

Black Hat = hack for personal gain or to exploit a system and break the law while doing so.

White Hat Hacking Tools and Techniques

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing incorporates getting information regarding the target, like a web application or network. This may include finding potential points of entry, attempting to break through them, and reporting what they discover to the organization.

Denial-of-Service Attacks

A white hat hacker may perform a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, inundating the system with web requests until it can no longer process legitimate requests. This could reveal the point at which a site becomes vulnerable, exposing frailties in their current protections.

Social Engineering

With social engineering, a white hat hacker will try to manipulate people in the organization into revealing sensitive information or violating security policies. In this way, they can test the human element of a company’s overall solution.

How Fortinet Can Help

FortiWeb can be used in conjunction with White Hat Sentinel to immediately address security vulnerabilities. FortiWeb uses several sophisticated tools like parameters, Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) methods, signatures, and Unified Resource Locators (URLs) to create rules that address every security vulnerability White Hat Sentinel discovers. Because FortiWeb uses so many tools in its solution, the chances of getting false positives are minimized, giving your IT team only actionable information.

With FortiWeb, you get virtual patching that creates an immediate solution to protect your network in the short term. This gives you the flexibility to work on an adequate software solution and roll it out at an opportune time. In the meantime, FortiWeb can keep your system up and running and safe from attackers that may have sought to capitalize on the vulnerabilities discovered.