Are ethical hackers still considered criminals?

Ethical hacking: definition, occupation, salary

The good side of the force.

White Hat Ethical Hacking and Ethical Hacking are terms used to describe hacking carried out by a company or an individual in order to identify potential threats on a computer or network.

What is ethical hacking? What is a "white hat" hacker?

White Hat Ethical Hacking and Ethical Hacking are terms used to describe hacking carried out by a company or an individual in order to identify potential threats on a computer or network. An "ethical hacker" tries to bypass system security and look for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious hackers. This information is then used by the organization to improve system security and to minimize or eliminate possible attacks.

Who is an "Ethical Hacker"?

For hacking to be considered ethical, the hacker must adhere to the following rules:

  • Express (often written) permission to investigate the network and try to identify potential security risks.
  • Respecting the privacy of the individual or the company.
  • Ethical hackers finalize your work leaving nothing open to exploit them or someone else at a later date.
  • They inform the software developer or hardware manufacturer about any security vulnerabilities that you find in their software or hardware, if they are not already known to the company.

What skills does an ethical hacker need?

An ethical hacker has the same skills as a malicious hacker, but uses them not to cause harm, but to avoid it. An ethical hacker is characterized by an advanced understanding of computers, networks, and programming.

Computer basics

A good understanding of a computer, its components, and how it works is essential for everyone, not just hackers.

Computer security information

Ethical hackers visit relevant computer news sites and communities at least a few times a week to keep up with the latest topics and vulnerabilities. They also participate in computer security forums. By participating in these forums, you can not only test your understanding of the subject, but also learn from others. The current mailing lists on computer security or the special area such as a special Linux distribution that is part of the investigation are no stranger to them.

Hardware knowledge

Extensive knowledge of hardware will help diagnose hardware problems and how computers work.
You should definitely have a basic knowledge of data processing in computers and processors. Depending on whether special hardware components emerge from the respective investigation, further knowledge of hardware architectures is necessary.


Learning how software works by learning a programming language is an invaluable tool. It shows an ethical hacker how to speak directly to the computer, solve programs programmatically, and execute those solutions efficiently. There's also a better understanding of how the calculations work.
Learning scripting languages ​​like Perl and PHP and the basics of HTML web design are also beneficial for any ethical hacker.
In this way, weak points can be checked automatically and the behavior of the system to be examined can be analyzed.

Alternative operating systems

Many people use a version of Microsoft Windows that is suitable for home and office use, but ethical hackers are also familiar with alternative operating systems such as Linux. Working with a Linux distribution not only helps broaden your experience, but is a necessity when working on Linux-based servers.


Networks are indispensable for modern data processing and computer technology. The Internet would be inconceivable without "networks". Networks connect home or office computers with each other, enable communication with remote machines and production systems as well as e.g. the monitoring of wind turbines - the list of examples and use cases. It is important for ethical hackers to know as much as possible about how networks work, including basics like addressing, OSI, ports, protocols, routers, subnet masks, etc.

Of course, it is impossible to be up-to-date and a specialist in all of these areas. Depending on the current object of investigation and specialization in one area, one skill is more important than the other. However, it can't hurt to have at least basic knowledge in all of these areas in order to understand the basic relationships.

How do you become an ethical hacker?

Individuals interested in becoming an ethical hacker can work towards becoming a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). This certification is granted by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council). The exam itself costs about $ 500 and consists of 125 multiple choice questions. The informative value of this certification is controversial, as the practice is rather short here.
Ultimately, the term "white hat hacker" is not a fixed definition either, in principle any talent can be called that. With a certification, however, a professional activity and lucrative employment is much higher.
The best recommendation, however, are "work samples" and speculative applications.

What does an ethical hacker earn?

The earning potential depends on the type of employment and the employer. In the case of freelance ethical hackers, the usual hourly or daily rates for computer security experts apply in the industry. The bandwidth of salaries of permanently employed ethical hackers ranges from starting salaries of EUR 30,000 per year to the six-figure range for experienced experts. It is difficult to make a general statement here, as the remuneration often does not consist of a fixed salary, but rather consists of so-called "bug bounties" "composed. Employed ethical hackers usually earn an average of € 57,800 (between € 50,800 and € 66,600, source: Stepstone).

What does the future of "ethical hacking" look like?

The term "ethical hacker" is sometimes criticized by people who say that there is no such thing as an "ethical" hacker. Hacking is hacking no matter how you look at it, and those who do the hacking are commonly referred to as computer criminals or cyber criminals. However, the work that ethical hackers do for businesses has helped improve system security and can be described as very effective and successful. The need to check systems for security gaps will also increase with increasing digitalization. Therefore, these jobs will also be in demand in the future.