Written by: Daniel Haurey on 09/27/17

An ethical hacker seems to be a misleading term until you begin to realize why they do what they do. While most people believe that there isn’t a good side to hacking, those in the technology industry understand just how beneficial hacking skills can be when testing new systems and strengthening security protocols.

All Hackers Are Not the Same

A “hacker” is someone who can break into a system or operation and retrieve or alter the data it contains. To the majority of people, this brings to mind the major security breaches where massive amounts of personal information are compromised which increase the risk of both identity theft and financial loss.  To technology professionals and IT security (cybersecurity) experts, an “ethical” hacker breaks into systems for the right reasons.

While it’s hard to wrap your thinking around any good reason to hack into a program, it does offer benefits. It shows programmers the strengths and weaknesses of a program, allowing them to correct small issues that could eventually lead to major breakdowns that allow other unethical hackers to break in and disrupt the program.

Good Hackers and Bad Hackers

The difference between a good hacker and a bad, or unethical, hacker is intent. A good hacker is often hired by a technology company to test and evaluate the strength of a program and the software associated with it. Good hackers are those who have learned how to effectively hack into programs for the right reasons. While some of what they have done in the past may have been in illegal, it’s the only way to truly hone their skills.

A bad hacker, on the other hand, uses the skills they have learned with malicious intent. They aren’t concerned with legalities and really don’t care if they break the law. Many continue to pursue illegal endeavors for as long as they can before getting caught. In most cases, an ethical hacker can use his or her skills to help technology companies improve their systems so it is harder for the unethical hackers to achieve their goals. While two wrongs don’t make a right, using their skills for the greater good allows ethical hackers to balance the scales.

It Is What It Is

Ethical hacking is still “hacking.” To be truly good at what they do, a hacker almost always has to challenge themselves by illegally breaking into programs and systems. For some, whether they possess malicious intent makes no difference. Many people who practice ethical hacking have no criminal history at all but are considered to be the “bad guys” of the tech industry.

Even though they are very good at what they do and they have learned their lessons well, it doesn’t make them “ethical” and it doesn’t give them a legitimate reason to break into someone else’s system or program. Or does it? Whether we like it or not, the talents most hackers possess are the only real tools that are accurate at proving a system’s strength.

The debate over good or bad hackers will continue. However, if we want to produce  immutable systems and programs, we need the cybersecurity expertise of these unique individuals to help maintain the high level of security that protects the information they contain.

Exigent Technologies provider IT security, penetration testing and other cybersecurity consulting services in the NJ, Manhattan (NYC) and Eastern PA areas.