Hacking U: How certified ethical hackers help safeguard data

(WSVN) - Hackers steal your personal information and your sense of security. They take millions from innocent Americans every year, but some hackers are now fighting for the good guys. Jeff Lennox shows you how this web of lies is being broken in his special assignment report, “Hacking U.”

Most of them have no face, no name and are rarely ever caught. They snoop, steal and infect our computers — and along with it, they shatter our sense of security.

Sal Biondo, McFatter Technical Center student: “I was a heavy equipment mechanic for 30 years, but I had a hip replacement and I couldn’t do that job anymore.”

So Sal Biondo decided to become a hacker — a legal hacker, a certified ethical hacker.

Sal Biondo: “I’m learning all about networks and how they work, and how to crack into networks, and how to secure networks.”

Once Sal is done with school, he will get a job as the gatekeeper of companies and their networks, showing them how to protect themselves from the bad guys.

Sal Biondo: “If you’re a bank or a financial institution and you need your network to be secured, you hire an ethical hacker.”

The idea of ethical hacking started not long after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001…

Dr. Mehran Basiratmand, Florida Atlantic University: “By 2004, we noticed there was a significant increase of interest by our students asking about information security.”

So Florida Atlantic University, along with other universities and technical schools, began to offer the classes. Professor Mehran Basiratmand helped to develop the course at FAU.

Dr. Mehran Basiratmand: “There are various courses in forensics, understanding information security and understanding the concept of ethical hacker.”

Last year, American companies like Home Depot, Target and eBay saw some of the largest security breaches in U.S. history. And then there were the celebrities, like Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Grant and Jennifer Lawrence, whose personal information and pictures were hacked.

The FBI even has a top 10 list of the most wanted cyber hackers in the world.

The demand for ethical hackers is high, and the pay is good, some making as much as $135,000 a year.

Belinda Dominguez, SecureWorks: “The biggest challenge is finding qualified people and them keeping them, because oftentimes a big enterprise company will come along and give them a lot more money.”

As for Sal, he’s excited for the future and has a few words of advice for up-and-comers.

Sal Biondo: “Just go for it and stick with it. Prepare to spend four hours a day learning and stick with it.”

Research has found that the number one reason email is hacked is because a weak password.

If you want to find out more about certified ethical hackers and how to protect your personal data, go to https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber.

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