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What is a white hat or ethical hacker?

What is a white hat or ethical hacker?

Ethical hackers are a group of cybersecurity professionals tasked with finding security vulnerabilities in organizations and companies. They are authorized to access unauthorized information in computer systems or applications. Ethical hackers, also known as “white hats," use the same type of strategies and processes malicious hackers utilize in order to help improve the organization's security measures.

Ethical hackers perform risk assessments and technical activities to find gaps in computer systems or firewalls where sensitive information lives. Their goal is to report any vulnerabilities and provide remediation advice before malicious attacks occur.

Types of hackers


Not all hackers are the same, and not all hackers follow the same protocols and ethical guidelines. There are generally three types of hackers.

  • Unauthorized hackers. Also known as “black hats," unauthorized hackers are malicious in intent. They use their technical skills to take over computer systems and steal sensitive data. Unauthorized hackers will stop at nothing to gain the information they desire.
  • Authorized hackers. Also known as “white hats” and ethical hackers, authorized hackers have a set of guidelines and permissions they must follow. They are usually hired by companies to find shortcomings in computer systems before any malicious attacks can occur.
  • Grey hat hackers. “Grey hat” hackers are a mix of both authorized and unauthorized hackers. Their primary goal is to exploit vulnerabilities in company systems to spread public awareness of the issues. “Grey hats” may instead share the weak points in security with just the company and not spread the news to the public. And while they don’t share sensitive information with the public, they don’t always follow permissions or a code of ethics when breaking into these systems. 


Related: Preventing Security Breaches in Healthcare


Ethical hacking vs. malicious attacks


While both ethical and unauthorized hackers have the skills and knowledge to pass through security vulnerabilities, there are some key differences between the two.

Ethical hackers

  • Hired and authorized by companies or organizations to find any vulnerabilities in a system
  • Use a code of ethics and guidelines when testing systems. They do not share any sensitive data with anyone other than their clients.
  • Run multiple tests on systems to mirror real-world hackers.


Malicious attackers

  • Are not hired and authorized by a company or organization.
  • No guidelines are followed. They will do whatever they can to breach security. Often using private data for monetary gain.
  • Do not care about a company’s vulnerabilities and will not share weak points with anyone.


Related: To pay or not to pay for stolen data


Ethical hacker limitations


There are a variety of limitations ethical hackers face when hired by a company or organization. Often, they do not have full knowledge of the industry they are trying to break into because multiple different industries can hire them. Usually, unauthorized hackers are specialized in the sectors they are hacking which may make it easier to sweep a system. Ethical hackers need to think as an unauthorized hacker would, mimic their moves and utilize the same tools and programs, all while trying to stay within the limits they have been given. 

In order to keep from servers crashing, companies will often put limits on how far the authorized hacker can go. They have a timeline and budget to consider as well. These are all things an unauthorized hacker does not need to take into account.

Related: 3 sneaky ways hackers exploit uninformed employees

Unethical hackers are a financial and data risk for companies all over the globe. With Paubox you can send HIPAA compliant emails and stop security threats with one end-to-end solution. Paubox blocks incoming phishing emails and other threats leaving you worry free. Our HITRUST CSF certified software integrates with Google Workspace, Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Exchange seamlessly to allow you to send sensitive subject emails without worrying about malicious attacks.

See more: HIPAA compliant email: The definitive guide


How Paubox Can Help


In the healthcare industry, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. With sensitive patient information at risk, it's essential to take all necessary precautions to protect against potential threats. Understanding the different types of hackers, including gray hat hackers, can help healthcare professionals make informed decisions about how to best secure their systems and protect their patients.

One way to mitigate these risks is by implementing strong security measures and staying up to date on the latest cybersecurity threats.

One such solution is Paubox, the leading provider of email encryption and secure messaging solutions for the healthcare industry. With Paubox, healthcare organizations can securely send and receive sensitive information, ensuring their patients' data privacy and security.

Using Paubox, healthcare organizations can protect themselves and their patients from the potential risks of gray hat hacking and other cybersecurity threats.

So if you want to improve your healthcare organization's security, implement Paubox to protect your sensitive data and keep your patients' information safe.

Today, being vigilant in your cyber security efforts is more critical than ever. And Paubox is a valuable tool in helping you do just that.

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