Hackers get so much notoriety from their portrayal in the media and pop culture. Even so, people know so little truth about them.

It’s important to know more about hackers. More and more of the world gets connected to the World Wide Web, so it’s crucial to know if hackers are friends or if they’re truly the enemies of the cyber world.

Most of them are ethical, professional hackers.

This is something that a lot of people will find surprising. You can, in fact, become a professional hacker. It’s a large industry with a close-knit family.

Of course, there are a few bad eggs in the bunch. There’s no denying that some hackers choose to work for the dark side. In fact, they’re the reason why ethical hackers got employed. Professional hackers are there to find a system’s weak spots so that the owner can strengthen them.

They’re called “white hat” hackers, and they’re a million-dollar industry in the US alone. They’re employed by companies that rely heavily on the web, such as Microsoft, Google, and government agencies.

Hackers get decent pay.

Professional hackers make sure that computer systems are secure. They do this by trying to find ways to hack into the server and then reporting their findings. It’s like the story of Frank Abagnale, the notorious con man from the 1960s who later on was employed by the federal government to teach them how to catch con artists. Professional hackers are paid to hack into a system so that the “bad” hackers can’t.

When you put this into context, you can see why hackers can get paid for a hefty sum.

And hackers don’t have to work steady regular hours, too. Hackers can also freelance, just like other professionals. Facebook and Google pays hackers for every bug they find in their systems (Facebook pays at least $500 while Google pays up to $20,000 for serious errors).

There’s even a website for collecting your cash. It’s called Bugcrowd, and it’s like a bounty board for hackers.

Hackers are ordinary people.

The movies love to portray hackers as eccentric geniuses or fat, unmarried slobs. While there might be one or two hackers that would fit those descriptions, most of them are your run of the mill normal persons.

Hackers have families and kids. They go to clubs and bars on the weekends. They might also call in late if they have a particularly bad hangover the next morning. You know, like a regular office worker. Because that’s professional hacking is: a regular office job.

There are several well-known hacker groups.

Cyberspace is such a vast uncharted territory. It’s no wonder that a lot of things abound. Among them are hacker groups, groups of mostly unprofessional or unregistered hackers whose aim is to fight for a common cause, expose security threats, or simply cause mischief.

The mischievous hackers are known in the industry as “black hat” hackers, and there have been a few throughout history:

• Anonymous

One of the most well-known hacker group is Anonymous. Anonymous calls themselves as “a legion of ‘hacktivists’,” and that their goal is to expose and fight against the evils of government systems, corporations, and even religious groups.

Some of Anonymous’ most famous heists or hacks include Operation Payback, in which they hacked PayPal, Mastercard, and Visa because of a misunderstanding with WikiLeaks in 2012. They also hacked NYSE’s (New York Stock Exchange) website in 2011, in support to the Occupy Wall Street movement. They’ve also hacked the Pentagon.

• Chaos Computer Club

The CCC was founded in the 1980s in Berlin and is one of the largest hacking groups in Europe. They’re famous for hacking into a bank in Hamburg and stealing money roughly around $100,000.

They returned the money to the bank the next day with a note about the security flaw.

• TeaMp0isoN

This hacker group was founded in 2010 by a 16-year-old hacker known as TriCk. The group originally hacked for fun and mischief, hacking into Facebook, NATO, and the English Defense League. They disbanded in 2012 and regrouped in 2015, but now as a “white hat” hacking research group.

• globalHell

This group was founded by a street gang member, Patrick Gregory. His group was composed of other street gang members, who all thought doing mischief on the Internet was better than doing mischief in the streets. GlobalHell hacked hundreds of computer systems, causing millions of dollars of damages.

There are other hacker groups still around. Some of them are owned by their countries’ own governments.

Hackers aren’t IT experts.

One of the biggest myths about hackers and hacking is that you need to be an IT expert to become a hacker. In reality, you can have zero experience in the IT field and be a competent white hat hacker in a year.

This is especially true in the field of security hacking. Most computer research groups will go to career fairs and scope out those without any experience so they can teach them to focus on a handful of known security flaws.

The Web Application Security Consortium recognizes only around 50 threats. It’s much more effective if a security hacker specializes in about 5 to 10 of those threats than learning all of them.

And learning about them isn’t that difficult. You can even teach yourself the basics of hacking using the website HackThisSite.org.

What about typing speed? Hackers in movies all seem to have inhuman typing speeds, racing against the computer securities in their cyber heists. The truth is that most of hacking is point and click, since there are hacking programs and tools already built to do the dirty work for you.

That’s not to say that a monkey could hack competently. While hacking programs exist, a hacker still needs to use their creativity to reach their goal.

For example, a client asked a hacker to find weak spots in their website’s security. While the hacking tool will try to penetrate by itself, 9 out of 10 times, it will fail. But, it will return with data about the attempt, and it will be the hacker’s job to analyze the data, look for the weaknesses in security, and think of creative ways on how to exploit those weaknesses to break in. So you really don’t need to be an IT expert to be a hacker – you just need to be someone who can think outside the box.

Hackers, for the most part, have been misunderstood. White hat hackers play a huge important role in internet security. It’s only fitting that people should know more about them. Who knows, you might become interested in white hat hacking, too!