White hat hackers are the ultimate cybersecurity assets – they’ll find vulnerabilities in your digital security, work out how they’d breach your defenses, and plug the gap.
It’s a seriously valuable skill set and vital to many businesses that rely on rock-solid security strategies to protect their data, websites, and any other vital information that could be seen as potentially valuable to black hat hackers or competitors.
But, if you’re not fluent in techie language, it’s natural to tread with extreme caution any time you hear the word “hacker.”
You need to be CERTAIN that the hat they wear is white, not gray, and definitely not black! Not knowing the difference is a big deal, one that could have massive consequences for your business.
Let’s explain the golden rules when searching for a hacker to add to your team, so you know how to hire a white-hat hacker who won’t do more harm than good.
Why Hire a White Hat Hacker?
We’re all confident in our cybersecurity – until we’re not. And when we’re not, it can cause disasters beyond comprehension.
- Your entire sales database is leaked.
- All your customer account information is stolen.
- Every patent, trademark, or R&D project is published online.
Theft these days goes beyond the physical, into the digital realm, and can decimate even established businesses in a few ugly strikes of a keyboard.
You likely already know this, but if we’re exploring the benefits of a white-hat hacker, it’s crucial to reiterate what you need from them.
Benefits of Hiring a White Hat Hacker
We’ll move on to the recruitment process in a second, but first to summarize why you need a white hat hacker:
- Digital security failings usually aren’t apparent until the sirens start ringing. White hat hackers work to find the vulnerabilities in your system before a criminal can exploit them into a happy little payday.
- Most organizations that hire ethical hackers don’t have the time (or cash!) to invest in a full-time cybersecurity team, so a white-hat hacker is a brilliant freelance hire who shores up your systems and limits expensive downtime.
- Finding potential leaks, and cementing them over with an impenetrable layer of extra security, is a way to future-proof your business against cyberattacks.
You need a white hat hacker now, before disaster strikes, while there’s time to reinforce your digital assets and keep them safely out of harm’s way.
How Can I Find a White Hat Hacker?
Ok, so the good news is you don’t need to slither into the belly of the dark web to find yourself a respected white-hat hacker – as they can easily be found on regular freelancer websites!
But the issue is that there are hundreds of contractors, businesses, and freelancers offering professional penetration testing, and they’re far from equal.
- IT consulting firms often have white hat hackers or penetration testing teams, but it’s imperative you check out their reviews, testimonials – or better yet, ask for a referral.
- Freelance white hat hackers can provide incredible value for money, but we’d recommend asking for their credentials (you want a professional, ethical hacker, not a university student with a laptop!).
No doubt hiring hackers as security consultants provides an excellent way to avoid the costs and damage caused by data compromise. Still, it’s equally important that you bring on a hacker who is up to the task.
Choosing the Right Ethical Hacker
Not sure what you need from your penetration tester or what sort of white-hat hacker to hire?
Here are four steps to ensure you pick the right professional.
1. Ask for Evidence of Ethical Hacker Certificates
Several organizations offer ethical hacking qualifications – with a caveat that some incredible security hackers might be taught through a more hands-on experience (like switching over from the shady side!).
Certificates should be registered with a federal awards body like the American National Standards Institute, which lets you know the education standard is high.
2. Identify Your Required Level of Penetration Testing
White hack hackers are further split into white box and black box testers, so you’ll need to be clear on exactly what kind of penetration testing you’re looking for.
Black box hackers use the info that malicious hackers could find in the public domain – so you might give them just your URL and they’ll go snooping for the rest, before reporting back on any data exposure or risks they found.
White box hackers provide deeper testing and evaluate critical business vulnerabilities from directly within the internal systems. This intensive security hack is recommended if you need to protect against internal threats, such as disgruntled ex-employees.
3. Look Into Recommendations and Real-World Examples
It’s all well and good hiring a white hat hacker who says they’re the best in the biz, but it’s way more reliable to choose your contractor based on evidence!
Freelance hackers should be happy to provide references, although they might need to supply anonymous referrals in some cases, as many high-end clients require an NDA.
That’s something you can think about as well if you want to be sure your white hat hacker won’t ever share your business as a case study when there are potential commercial sensitivities involved!
White-hat hackers will typically have a portfolio available on the freelance platform they work with, plus reviews from previous clients, so that’s a great starting point.
4. Make Sure the Hacker Is Invested in Your Success
If you’ve found a freelance white-hat hacker, the last thing you want to do is agree on an upfront fee or a project cost, without any buy-in from the professional.
Many hackers are standalone traders who offer affordable services, but you want someone who stands to lose something if they do a lousy job.
That could include a percentage of the payment being held in escrow, which will only be released after the freelancer has completed the work and you’ve had the chance to review and give your approval.