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White hat hacker

White hat hacker

(also white hat, whitehat)

White hat hacker definition

An ethical security hacker who works with owners to identify flaws and vulnerabilities in their apps, systems, and networks. In cybersecurity, the term “white hat hacker” is often used as a synonym for “penetration tester,” but the two differ in the scope of their operations — penetration testing only seeks to assess discrete parts of the system, while ethical hacking tests the resilience of the system as a whole.

White hat hackers are often confused with gray hat hackers in popular culture. Unlike white hats, gray hats operate without the knowledge and consent of the target. Gray hat activities may benefit the public at large but be detrimental to the owners of the system they penetrate.

Real white hat hacker examples

Kevin Mitnick started out as a black hat hacker, hacking the North American Defense Command (NORAD) in 1982. After serving time in jail for cyberattacks against major corporations, he became a cybersecurity consultant.

Tsutomu Shimomura gained notoriety for aiding the FBI in apprehending Kevin Mitnick. He now works as a cybersecurity consultant.

Jeff Moss founded the Black Hat and DEFCON cybersecurity conferences. He served as an advisor to the US Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security