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If uncovering bugs and exposing system weaknesses sound appealing to you, a career as an ethical hacker may be your calling.

While the term “hacker” conjures up an image of a shady tech-savvy criminal conducting business underground, not all hackers work illegally.

Many hackers are commissioned by government organizations and businesses to find weaknesses in their networks and improve their systems.

Did you know Google once paid a hacker $112,000 for finding a security flaw?

The job market for ethical hackers is robust and growing. With cybersecurity issues on the rise, companies are hiring more and more ethical hackers to protect the integrity of their businesses.

What Is an Ethical Hacker?

The term “hacker” was originally used to describe someone adept at computer programming and network security before popular media used it to brand cyber villains and malicious criminals.

Today, hacking takes on multiple forms, including “black hat” and “white hat” hacking – also known as ethical hacking.

Ethical hackers are given permission to infiltrate and probe a company’s computer system and find critical security flaws and risk in their network and applications.

Ethical hackers relay their findings to companies and work with them to patch up their vulnerabilities and make necessary updates to prevent data theft and fraud.

Famous White Hat Hackers

As the name suggests, white hat hackers are the complete opposite of black hat hackers, who use their skills to illegally bypass systems and obtain information for personal gain.

White hat hackers are the “heroes” of the cybersecurity world – they not only improve vulnerabilities, but also thwart the efforts of black hat hackers.

Marc Maiffret is a famous name in the white hacking space, known his invention of the first vulnerability management application. He is also credited with discovering Code Red, Microsoft’s first major computer worm.

Tsutomu Shimomura is another big name, earning his heroic reputation for assisting the FBI in taking down Kevin Mitnick, who was once one of the most notorious black hat hackers.

Getting a Job as an Ethical Hacker

To get a career as ethical hacker, you will need prior IT security experience on top of the right degrees and certifications. A good way to gain experience is to participate in “bug bounty” programs offered by major companies like Apple and Google.

These companies challenge ethical hackers to break into their security systems to find them find weak spots, offering a large of money to anyone who can help make their products safer.

To learn more about becoming an ethical hacker, check out the infographic below from Varonis for a rundown of the necessary background, certifications, earning potential, job descriptions, and examples of more influential ethical hackers.

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Written By
Rob Sobers is the inbound marketing director at Varonis, a leading provider of cyber attack and insider threat solutions to help companies protect their data. He has been writing and designing software for 20 years and is the the co-author of the book “Learn Ruby the Hard Way.” He has also held roles in engineering, design, and professional services.

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