What is ‘white hat hacking’?

Ethical hacking involves ‘white hat’ hackers attempting to gain unauthorised access to corporate data and systems.

Ethical hackers mimic the strategies used by cyber-criminals in order to test the resilience of a business’s security controls. This helps to identify harmful gaps in your security posture which can be remediated before you fall victim to a cyber-attack. Ethical hackers are Cyber Security experts who use there hacking skills to improve security rather than tear it down. Ethical white hat hackers always have permission from a company to attempt to gain access to their critical systems. The mission of white hat hacking is to put security systems to the test to see whether they are strong enough to withstand hacking attempts.

While ethical hackers are referred to as “white hats”, cyber-criminals are called “black hats” and “grey hats” are somewhere in the middle of the two. Grey hats are non-malicious, but they gain authorised access to systems in a bid to identify security holes or make a political statement. Although white hat hackers follow the same processes as bad actors, instead of exploiting vulnerabilities for financial gain, they work alongside businesses to mitigate and patch any security holes discovered. While both types of hackers most likely get buzz out of successfully being able to break into a ‘protected’ system, their motives are completely different.


What are their motives?

The motives of a “black hat” hacker is to steal data which they can then sell on the dark web for huge financial gain (or fraudulently use financial information). Shockingly, Black hat hackers are also known to be hired by other companies to take down competitor websites and systems. In complete contrast to cyber criminals, the white hat hackers are the good guys of the cyber security community. The motives of a white hat hacker is to help businesses harden security controls and improve their overall security posture. White hat hackers always notify the victim so they can mitigate threats before a hacker can discover them.

On the other hand, grey hat hackers are known to take part in more questionable processes like launching unauthorised hacktivist protests. However, they can also be identified as 'ethical' hackers. Many ethical hackers are also known to take part in competitions called “bug bounty programs” which reward hackers with large sums of money for finding security vulnerabilities. Most hackers are driven by a curiosity to see whether they have the power to bypass security defences. They often enjoy the challenge of trying too to outsmart carefully designed security structures. Being an ethical hacker means you can legally indulge in your hacking desires.


Are there any famous ‘white-hat hackers’?

Charlie Miller is one of the most famous ethical hackers within the industry. He not only has a Ph.D. in Mathematics he also worked for the National Security Agency for five years. Some of his notable achievements include winning CanSecWest’s annual PWN2OWN hacking competition four times.  He was also the very first hacker to be able to exploit the iPhone remotely by sending an SMS message, impressive huh?!

Another famous ethical hacker is HD Moor. At the age of 17 HD Moore started working for the US Government as a security researcher. During his successful career, Moore was involved in discovering a number of critical security vulnerabilities. Furthermore, he was heavily involved with Metasploit penetration testing platform which is used to discover network vulnerabilities. This framework was a highly influential platform within the industry during this era, it has since been acquired by Rapid7.

How can Equilibrium help?

Here at Equilibrium, we are CREST-certified ethical penetration testers. The CREST certification is a proven cyber security framework which demonstrates that we have up to date knowledge of the latest vulnerabilities and techniques used by real attackers.  In order to achieve the CREST certification you must undertake a series of thorough examinations which are assessed and approved by GCHQ and NCSC.

Our team of penetration testers are highly qualified and have many years of ethical hacking experience within large corporate organisations. Our experts are both CREST and OSCP certified. The OSCP ethical hacking certification follows an intense and hands on examination process which requires deep knowledge of advanced hacking techniques. If you are interested in finding out more about our penetration testing service, please head to our web page below.

Find out more about our ethical hacking services

You can call our office on 0121 663 0055