Why you should be thanking hackers

hands shaking computer monitors

With titles like "cyber terrorist" floating around, hackers have been associated with all things criminal, malicious, and in some cases, just plain psychotic. A fair argument, considering how many cases of identity theft, loss of income, slander, and more have come from a data breach thanks to a keyboard and a few hours.

So why should you be thanking hackers?

What we have are three different columns of hackers; white hats, gray hats, and black hats. The black hat is the terrorist; the gray hat is the one who doesn’t always do damage but wants to make a point; and the white hat is someone who’s made your life a lot safer and easier.

Why do you owe white and even gray hat hackers a debt of gratitude?

1.They’re Keeping Your Data Safe

When you think of a hacker getting access to your email, you don’t think of it in a good light. With black hat hackers who delete your contact information or ask your friends for money, you’re right. But white hat hackers decide to use their powers for good; rather than taking advantage of the data they access, they discover ways to keep it even safer. Many businesses hire hackers to purposefully break into wherever they can, and in doing so, they identify weak points in hybrid cloud computing solutions that may be exploited by those with less honorable intentions. These weak points can then be altered and safeguarded with insights from the white hat hacker to make sure your data is as safe as possible.

2.They’re Good Watchdogs

As controversial as it is, some of those gray hat hackers are doing good as well. With security breaches in major corporations and government offices shedding light on information no one wants to share, these hackers are unveiling the dirty secrets the public should know about. This allows people to make informed decisions on who they support, how they should protect themselves, and what actions need to be taken against these groups that have been doing plenty of law breaking themselves but have just never been caught -- until now.

3.They’ve Given You Things Other Programmers Can’t

Anyone who’s played Minecraft can see the advantages of someone knows how to "mod" a game -- hacking into it and do some programming of their own. Whether it’s gaming, a change to your Microsoft Word, or a much needed alteration to your operating system, some of the best improvements -- which are sometimes later adapted by the original developer -- have come from people with computer skills and the creativity to do something with them. This form of hacking is technically still digital breaking and entering, but the results improve the software or program as a whole. So the next time you admire a certain feature, remember that it may have been a hacker’s doing.

4.They’ve Created Some of Your Favorite Technology

What do the creators of Apple and Facebook have in common? They were both experienced hackers before their debut as entrepreneurs, and this expertise led them to their world-famous creations. You can only understand something if you’ve taken it apart and put it back together again, and these two entrepreneurs basically disassembled and reassembled some of the top software available in their time. Using this as practice, they developed a better understanding of how it worked and made the next leap to something creative and original. Hacking, in a way, is self-taught programming college.

5.They Demand Quality

When you sit down to play a computer game or open up your favorite program, any flaws or glitches you encounter will be disappointing but brushed off. That’s if you notice them at all; you’re not a programmer, how should you know what is top notch or not? Hackers, however, are more than just consumers -- they’re educated consumers. They have the ability to dig into and analyze programs and software to see what it’s actually made of, where corners have been cut, and where developers have been getting lazy though still charging the full price. With this risk, it encourages developers to be more invested in their creations and offer up exactly what they advertise; if they don’t, there will be a whistleblower ready to call them out.

Photo Credit: Cory Thoman/Shutterstock

rick_delgadoRick Delgado has been blessed to have had a successful career and has recently taken a step back to pursue his passion of freelance writing. He loves to write about new technologies and ways of keeping ourselves secure in a changing digital landscape. He writes articles for several companies, including Dell.

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