Editor's Note: This post was originally published November 2015 and has recently been updated and revised for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Business professionals are quickly waking up to the realities of security hacks. Earlier this year, USA Today reported approximately 7.7 million LabCorp customers' information was affected by a third-party security breach. LabCorp admits that information may have included names, addresses, and bank information. What's more, the breach comes just days after Quest Diagnostics announced a 12-million patient data breach.
Major security breaches like these have convinced companies to fight back with hackers of their own. Companies like Google have built their own internal hacking teams like Project Zero working around the clock in an attempt to curtail the seemingly never ending flood of leaks, bugs, and zero-day exploits in the software the whole world is using daily.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em
"Some companies will actually pay people to hack systems."
More specifically, join the legion of cybersecurity professionals who are attempting to hack systems in order to identify vulnerabilities. This is not to be confused with hacktivism, which encourages vigilante-style hacks by unlicensed lone wolves who claim to be acting for the greater good. Rather, some companies will actually pay people to hack systems, and even host competitions in an attempt to find security flaws.
For example, a cybersecurity startup called Zerodium challenges hackers to find a way to breach tech products and systems, according to CSO. The group has set prices for iOS hacks as high as $2 million. In the past, it's also paid for zero-day attacks, which exploits a flaw in software as a way to hack a system.
Cybersecurity opportunities abound
The continuous string of professionally orchestrated hacks on popular computing devices further highlights the significant focus that the IT sector as a whole has been forced to put on cybersecurity. In addition to raising awareness among the public about how vulnerable supposedly impossible-to-hack systems really are, professional hacking groups are sniffing out weak spots before the bad guys do.
Professional hacking is only one way IT professionals can get involved in what has essentially turned into a cyberwar of good vs. evil. But regardless of the specific cybersecurity career path, a strong foundation in computer science is essential. Beginners may want to start with basic computer training and then work their way up to corporate computer training. As they climb the ladder, a network security certification will undoubtedly represent an important milestone. From there, a variety of specialty certifications such as CompTIA, Cisco, and Microsoft security certification can further refine a cybersecurity career path.
So you're wondering whether or not professional hacking is a viable career path, the answer is yes. And it all begins with the right certification and training.