White hat hackers are 'immune system of the Internet'

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) As governments and organisations the world over face cyber security threats on a daily basis, hackers who are actually the "immune system of the internet" has earned a real bad name in the recent past.

The term 'hacker' has a negative perception around it but according to HackerOne, the leading hacker-powered security platform, the misconceptions are finally changing owing to the rise of ethical hacking or "white-hat" hacking.

"What previously was viewed as a criminal offence 20 or 30 years ago is now seen as a legitimate profession. In fact, with the rise of bug bounties, hacking can be lucrative, earning more than physicians and architects in the US," Ben Sadeghipour, Head of Hacker Operations at HackerOne, told IANS.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) first coined the term "hacking" in the 1950s in reference to using a machine for trial and error experiments and its original connotation wasn not a bad one.

"In fact, MIT has a long-standing tradition of hacking and accepts 'hacking' as part of its culture and synonymises the word with 'curious exploration' and creative inventions that demonstrate ingenuity and cleverness,' added Sadeghipour, himself a hacker.

More companies and government organisations are realising that in order to protect themselves online, they too need highly-skilled and creative individuals on their side.

In the 1990s, Netscape coined the term "bug bounty and was one of the first companies to put budget behind a programme dedicated to financially rewarding hackers for finding vulnerabilities.

Today, tech giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft offer their own bug bounty programmes.

"A physician earns an average of $195,000 and an architect earns an average of $115,000; meanwhile, the top paid hackers are earning over seven figures. This year there have been record bounties earned with the first teenager earning over $1 million in ethical hacking," informed Sadeghipour .

A recent study revealed that 70 per cent of IT professionals wanted the Cambridge dictionary definition of a hacker changed to show hackers in a favourable light, such as with the more accurate definition like MIT uses.

Another study showed that hackers' top motivations are the opportunity to learn, to be challenged, and to have fun.

Perhaps, those who break into networks and systems with malicious purpose should better be called cyber criminals, not hackers.

--IANS

na/dpb

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