White Hat Hacker

How to Become a White Hat Hacker

Malicious online activities have become a usual part of our life. Hackers are now coming up with creative ways to infiltrate our network and system and, although hiring an ethical hacker sounds like a defensive approach, it is the best offense that we have come across. It’s more like –

“To stop a hacker, you have to have a mind of a hacker”

Contrary to common belief, not all hackers engage in malicious activities. There are ethical or “white hat” hackers who use their skills proactively to secure and protect entities. These white hat hackers are authorized to infiltrate an organization’s IT security and find vulnerabilities in it. They report bugs, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses, which are then fixed by concerned professionals to strengthen the IT security of the organization.

Qualities of a White Hat Hacker

White hat hacking is not only about problem solving or strong technical grip. It also involves powerful communication skills, intelligence, ability to adapt, envisioning, decision making, and a lot of patience, even under pressure.

In the contemporary world, organizations are free to hire a white hat hacker as per their requirements. But having a bachelor’s or master’s degree in information security, computer science or even mathematics can give you a strong foundation for your final goal.

Anyone who has served in the military or intelligence field are sought after by HR recruiters . There are organizations in the labor market that actively seek candidates with security clearances.

Scope and Job Market for White Hat Hackers

If a white hat hacker wants to kick-start his career, then he/she would primarily begin as an information security analyst or a tech consultant. Professionals from this industry are growing faster than the average job growth. Even as per the last report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in April 2018, in the span of 2016-26, employment as information security analysts will take a 28 percent leap. [1]

Professional Title Employment in 2016 Projected Employment by 2026 Hike from 2016-26 (in percent) Hike from 2016-26 (in numbers)
Information Security Analysts 100,000 128,500 28 28,500

With the increasing frequency of cyberattacks, it is the need of the hour to employ additional white hat hackers to protect our critical data from malicious hackers. Now, the demand for these technical professionals are not limited to the tech industry but are much needed in other industries too, which involves banks, financial institutions, healthcare industry, and others.

Suggested Path for a White Hat Hacker

In this era of the digital world, becoming a white hat hacker demands continuously upgrading technical knowledge. To establish yourself as a professional ethical or white hat hacker, you need to have strong motivation, basic self-education, and thorough training in ethical hacking with a dedicated learning approach.

4-Step White Hat Hacker Training Program

This 4-step program is applicable to those with basic computer networking knowledge.

Step 1 – Certified Network Defender (C|ND)

To become a white hat hacker, it’s important that you learn about various network components, traffic, performance and utilization, network topology, security policy, and many other fundamental networking concepts. Along with that, you are also required to  know network defense fundamentals at the tip of your fingers.

The Certified Network Defender program will train you on –

  • VPNs,
  • Various network protocols,
  • Firewall configuration,
  • Intricacies of network traffic signature,
  • Analysis and vulnerability scanning, and much more.

All the included modules of this program are designed after an in-depth job-task analysis (JTA) which not only helps with a detailed learning but is appropriate as per the job market demand.

This CND program will train you to protect, detect, and respond to cyber threats, efficiently. It is a lab-intensive program for the perfect hands-on experience on major network security tools and techniques.

Step 2 – Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH)

Once you have learned your roles and responsibilities as a Network Defender, it’s time to broaden your existing knowledge with another domain in cybersecurity. A professional white hat hacker understands all the major advanced hacking tools and techniques in detail. But before you start working as a white hat hacker, you need to know footprinting, network scanning, vulnerability assessment, system hacking, numerous cyber threats, cryptography, SQL Injection, IoT hacking, and many other concepts. EC-Council’s C|EH program is systematically engineered to help you build your skills and knowledge as an ethical hacker.

Apart from being an ANSI accredited credential, C|EH is also recognized by the United States Department of Defense (DoD). It also offers simulated real-time lab environment to understand the real-world threats more closely and respond to them with all you have.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Practical

This is the advanced step of the C|EH program. This is a meticulous hands-on exam to demonstrate your hacking abilities in a short span of six hours. Under this program, you will display your ethical hacking techniques involving –

  • Network scanning,
  • OS detection,
  • Vector identification,
  • System hacking and covering tracks,
  • Packet sniffing,
  • Performing SQL injection attacks,
  • Performing various cryptography attacks,
  • Mobile app hacking, etc.,

in order to solve a provided security audit challenge.

C|EH (Practical) program will determine your readiness to step into the ethical hacking industry.

Step 3 – EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)

Now, with all your weaponry of ethical hacking, it’s time for you to establish yourself as a professional by learning appropriate methodologies to apply for penetration testing. You will learn penetration testing methodologies, including –

  • Network penetration testing,
  • Web application penetration testing,
  • Social engineering penetration testing,
  • Wireless penetration testing,
  • Cloud penetration testing, and
  • Database penetration testing.

With this, you will also learn a few professional operations that will be useful when you join an organization. These activities will cover initiating and setting the scope, Rule of Engagement (RoE), and drafting of pen testing report for future reference.

The ECSA program expands your knowledge of hacking tools and techniques to the next level. Its primary objective is to offer you hands-on learning. Like other programs, ECSA is also in compliance with NICE framework which covers area dedicated to Analyze (AN) and Collect and Operate (CO) specialty.

EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA) Practical

Similat to the  CEH practical program, the ECSA (Practical) program also presents you with a few challenges which need to be solved in a 12-hour exam. You should have a thorough knowledge of ethical hacking and network security to perform the security audit. You will also be required to deal with various other challenges like performing advanced network scans beyond perimeter defenses, customization of payloads, performing automated and manual vulnerability analysis, etc.

The ECSA (Practical) credential represents that you possess professional skills to get through such a detailed and precise real-world challenge.

Step 4 – Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT) Master

This is the final step to your white hat hacker credibility. LPT (Master) is an expert level program which is designed to test your advanced penetration testing concepts and techniques. You will be tested on various challenges which will be related to –

  • Multi-level pivoting,
  • Privilege escalation,
  • OS vulnerabilities exploitation,
  • Host-based application exploitations,
  • RFI/LFI,
  • SQL injection,
  • SSH tunneling, etc.

This is the most challenging step of your complete journey. The exam will test you in every possible way to bring out the best.

This 4-step training program falls under our Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) track. The VAPT track is meant for various job roles directly or indirectly relevant to system/network security of an organization. Well, if you want to become a white hat hacker then follow the VAPT track by EC-Council!


[1] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-6

Editor's Note:
Reviewed by Dawie Wentzel, Head of Cyber Forensic Investigations at Absa Group Ltd and Jeff Sowell, Director, Information Security at Ericsson
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