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How to Hire a Hacker: Is Hiring a Hacker Illegal? – An In-Depth Guide

Hey there! Have you ever considered hiring a hacker but weren‘t sure about the legality or where to look? If so, you‘re not alone. With cybercrime on the rise, companies and individuals are increasingly turning to hackers – but ethical ones!

Hiring an experienced white hat hacker can actually help bolster your security, as long as it‘s done properly. This comprehensive guide will cover:

  • Different types of hackers
  • Legitimate reasons to hire one
  • Smart tips for choosing wisely
  • Costs and pricing models
  • Hypothetical scenarios
  • Expert advice from professional hackers
  • A checklist for planning ethical hacking projects
  • Sample reporting templates
  • Proven best practices for responsible disclosure

Let‘s dig in!

Not All Hackers are Created Equal

Hackers come in different hats and flavors:

White Hats – These "good" hackers use their powers to protect people, test security, and make systems safer. They follow a strict ethical code.

Black Hats – The "bad" hackers who intentionally breach systems for criminal purposes. They‘ll sell your data and exploit weaknesses malicious ways.

Grey Hats – The shady middle ground between ethical and unethical hacking. While not outright malicious, grey hats may sometimes use illegal means in pursuit of their ambiguous goals.

When looking to hire a hacker, you want to exclusively work with white hats who steadfastly follow ethical principles. According to cybersecurity firm Optiv, nearly 65% of hacking projects are for benign security testing purposes. Let‘s explore some of those next.

Legit Uses for Hacker Skills

Hiring an ethical hacker can provide tremendous value in these situations:

Penetration Testing

Your company wants to identify security vulnerabilities in its networks and applications before criminals can find them. A white hat will methodically probe and test your systems using advanced tools to uncover weaknesses.

According to recent research by MarketsandMarkets, the penetration testing industry will grow from $1.4 billion in 2019 to $4.5 billion by 2024. As attacks increase in frequency and impact, pen testing is becoming a cybersecurity essential.

Recovering Lost Data

Let‘s say you accidentally deleted a critical spreadsheet with years of financial data or a hard drive crash erased precious family photos. Hiring a hacker may be the only way to salvage your lost data. They have the forensic skills to resurrect digital data from corrupted drives.

Investigating Cybercrime

If your business suffers a malware infection, intrusion or other cyber attack, hiring a hacker can help determine its origin and collect evidence to identify the perpetrators. This information aids law enforcement in tracking down and prosecuting cybercriminals.

Internal Investigations

To monitor policy compliance and security practices, some organizations secretly hire white hat hackers to penetrate internal systems and compile reports. The results provide valuable risk insights and help refine training. Just be careful, as this tactic can backfire if improperly handled.

How to Choose an Ethical Hacker

With so many hackers offering services online, the prospect of finding a trustworthy provider can be daunting. Here are tips for thoroughly vetting candidates:

  • Verify certifications & qualifications – Credible hackers will have earned designations like CEH, CPTC, OSCP, CISSP. Check professional association memberships too.
  • Review case studies & client reviews – Look for detailed case studies describing their work. Check for positive testimonials. Client references are ideal.
  • Interview extensively – Ask probing questions about their ethical code, typical practices and safeguards. Have them walk you through a sample pen test.
  • Conduct background checks – For sensitive engagements, it may be prudent to do in-depth background checks, contact references, verify identities, etc.
  • Require contracts – Have a legal services agreement explicitly defining rules of engagement, scope of work, confidentiality, liabilities, fees, etc. Leave nothing ambiguous.
  • Leverage trusted platforms – HackerOne, Cobalt, Synack and BugCrowd connect clients to stringently vetted hackers. Their reputations hinge on ethical practices.

Avoid soliciting hacker services through shady channels like the dark web, Craigslist or hidden forums. You have no recourse if things go sideways.

Typical Hacker Costs and Pricing Models

Like any professional service, hacker fees vary based on skill level, project complexity and options:

Penetration Testing – $150 for simple website bug bounty up to $15,000+ for full corporate network testing.

Security Audits – From $200 for basic system audit up to $10,000+ for complex infrastructure review.

Data Recovery – Usually $100 – $500 for personal hard drive recovery or $2,000 – $5,000+ for enterprise RAID recovery.

Compliance Testing -Ranges from $200 for short policy review to $15,000+ for exhaustive multi-system tests over months.

For individual hackers, pricing is often hourly or daily. Platforms like BugCrowd offer tiered monthly plans. Complex engagements involving extensive research, travel or custom tools will land toward the upper ends of these ranges.

When Should You Hire a Hacker?

Wondering if your situation warrants hiring an ethical hacker? Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Have we suffered a security breach or cyber attack recently?
  • Are we launching a new web application or infrastructure?
  • Do we handle sensitive customer/employee data?
  • Are we introducing new internal security policies?
  • Has our developer team grown significantly?
  • Have new regulations imposed stricter compliance requirements?

If you answered yes to some of these, hiring a hacker for penetration testing, auditing or policy review could provide tremendous preventative value.

Expert Hacker Perspectives

To shed more light on this topic, I interviewed two veteran ethical hackers about their experiences:

Mai K., an information security consultant who specializes in healthcare sector pen testing, explained:

"Many of my clients hire me to perform comprehensive testing on their networks, systems and applications a few times a year. It‘s like getting a regular medical checkup – better to identify and treat issues early before they become cancers. Companies recognize cyberattacks could swiftly put them out of business."

When asked for advice on selecting a hacker, Mai said:

"Really vet a hacker‘s background, check references thoroughly and have a rock-solid contract in place. A dishonest or inexperienced hacker could itself jeopardize your security."

Alex G., who runs a boutique pen testing firm, added:

"Every engagement starts with extensive planning – we probably spend more time scoping than actually hacking. My advice is to have very clear objectives and requirements for testing. Document everything extensively. And make sure you have the hacker‘s cooperation securing any vulnerabilities they find before wrapping up."

Step-By Step Guide for Planning an Ethical Hacking Project

If you‘ve decided to hire a hacker, proper planning and execution is critical for success. Follow this checklist to keep your project on track:

1. Define Objectives – Clearly identify goals like testing specific systems, recovering data, evaluating controls or investigating an incident.

2. Develop Scoping Statement – Document known system details, boundaries for testing, types of attacks permitted and duration of engagement.

3. Search & Select Provider – Research hacker qualifications, expertise and pricing. Vet candidates thoroughly.

4. Create Service Agreement – Prepare a detailed contract covering rules of engagement, confidentiality, compliance, payments, liability limits and intellectual property.

5. Establish Rules of Engagement – Specify hacking techniques allowed, testing times/frequencies, required status updates and conditions warranting test suspension.

6. Launch Testing -safely begin penetration tests, data recovery efforts or required tasks. Monitor progress closely.

7. Report Findings – Require hacker to document all vulnerabilities found, reproduce testing steps, provide evidence and recommend fixes.

8. Resolve Vulnerabilities – Order found vulnerabilities by severity. Assign IT team remediation tasks and confirm resolution.

9. Finalize Deliverables – Hacker submits final report detailing all testing activities, findings, remedies and outstanding issues.

10. Closeout & Payment – Confirm satisfactory completion per contract. Exchange final payments and releases of liability.

Best Practices for Responsible Disclosure

It‘s critical to establish policies ensuring hackers ethically disclose vulnerabilities without exposing your systems:

  • Require regular status reports during testing phase
  • Prohibit unauthorized access attempts or exploits beyond agreed-upon scope
  • Mandate hacker communicate potential critical threats immediately
  • Have IT staff monitor logs/networks and be ready to isolate issues
  • Establish reasonable timeline for remediating findings pre-publication
  • Permit delayed public disclosure only after fixes are verified
  • Forsevere flaws, consider coordinating disclosure with CERT coordinating centers

By taking these steps, you can achieve your security objectives while preventing negligent overexposure.

Wrap Up

I hope this guide helped shed light on safely and legally hiring hackers for beneficial security services. While the domain of hacking holds many complexities, just remember these key takeaways:

  • White hat hackers follow ethical principles and can be powerful allies
  • Ensure thorough vetting before engaging any hacker
  • Have well-defined requirements, boundaries and contracts
  • Take precautions when launching testing against live systems
  • Verify remediation of any vulnerabilities discovered
  • Require responsible disclosure per industry best practices

Sometimes fighting fire with fire is your best line of defense! Wield this information wisely to boost your cyber resilience. Stay safe out there!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.