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Infographic: How to Become a Hacker

  • Category: Infographics
How to Spy on People

Most people jeer at the word "hacker," assuming some angry geek is holed up in his parents' basement, plotting against the government and stealing eHarmony user passwords.

The term has earned a bad rap over the years, with the help of groups like Anonymous. But hackers are people, too.

People like information security analysts and computer programmers, who make a living out of professionally hacking. And a fairly decent living, according to an infographic from Schools.com, which breaks down the negative connotations and provides a guide on how to become a hacker.

Before you go jumping into the hack-o-sphere, take a moment to consider whether it's the right career path for you. Do you claim to be multilingual — fluent in C++, HTML 5, and Ruby? Do you believe that something can only be strengthened by exposing its weaknesses? Are you a staunch supporter of a "free" Internet?

According to Schools.com, those are all good indications that the hacker life is for you. Still, leave that 12-pack of energy drinks at home as you ponder which hacker hat you want to put on each day.

Will you join the "good guys" in white — people who break into a computer system and inform the company they have done so, often concerned employees or security professionals paid to find vulnerabilities? Or perhaps cybercriminals, dressed in black, who infiltrate computer networks and use compromised data for personal gain?

As with anything in life, there is a grey area in between, where hackers with no malicious intent illegally breach a company's network, then notify the public about its security holes.

Only the first category really offers a life of steady paychecks and Friday night happy hours — white hat hackers are folks who work as information security analysts and computer programmers, safeguarding computer networks and monitoring them for breaches, or checking applications for bugs and rewriting code to fix them.

Both fields require a bachelor's degree in computer science, programming, information security or a similar discipline, and earn up to a six-figure annual income. Based on national earnings calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pro hackers make a starting salary of around $43,000 to $50,000; most fall into the average $74,000 to $86,000 range. The top analysts and programmers, however, may walk away with up to $136,000 a year.

Those interested in simply dipping their toe into the world of professional hacking should keep an eye out for annual events like Facebook's Hacker Cup or visit the Blue Hat Microsoft Hacker Conference or Black Hat Briefings to learn more about information security.

Infographic: How To Become a Hacker