The word “hacker” is sexy. Don’t lie—you were intrigued when you saw this headline and now you find yourself here. But who are hackers? Why are we so obsessed? Well, it all began with the internet—believe it or not, the internet is not that old. It was only in the 1990s that the internet became popularized, and humans went from storing files safely in cabinets to storing them on this giant, illusive digital entity.
The internet today is still a fairly young, wild place full of security holes and imperfections. Hackers find these vulnerabilities and point them out by building tools to break into systems. Like with any skill, hackers can use their intel for good or evil, and more often than not, the evil makes the news. You may have heard of the recent Linkedin hack that revealed Mark Zuckerberg’s private messages or the Target hack that revealed thousands of shoppers’ credit card numbers. Occasionally, hackers play the white knight card like in the case of the Ashley Madison hack that revealed the information of the site’s infamous adulterers. No matter their intentions, these “black hat” hackers are, in fact, all considered cyber criminals by law.
However, society is increasingly realizing that rather than vilifying these talented individuals, we should be putting them to work. Security holes are a real thing, and we should be actively trying to fix the broken system. Enter White Hat Hackers. The growth of the White Hat Hacking industry has opened career doors for thousands, and offers a stable, legal career in which hackers can do what they love. These IT professionals are hired to test a company’s network infrastructure with a technique called “penetration testing” and find potential security holes before a data breach occurs.
So how does one get started in ethical hacking? The best entry into the field (other than being a notorious hacker, which we do not support) is through IT. Get your start by earning a reputable IT certification like CompTIA’s Network+ or A+. Once you have a bit of experience in the IT industry, begin studying for the Ethical Hacking Certification. This is the gold standard of all things ethical hacking, and will allow you to truly position yourself in the field. There are tons of online resources available that will prepare you to pass this exam including the Become an Ethical Hacking Bundle or the budget-friendly Pay What You Want: White Hat Hacker Bundle.
The price of these courses and the exam itself are pennies in comparison to what comes next. First-year ethical hackers make on average between $50,000-$100,000 per year—and it only gets better from there. If viruses and data breaches get your heart pumping with excitement, there is not a better profession for your bank account and your sense of personal fulfillment.