From the December 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

Hacking isn't all bad. White-hat hacking, or ethical hacking, is becoming an important tool in the arsenals of business IT managers. Some are turning to ethical hacking classes to get up-to-date on the methods and exploits that could harm their networks. Gary Godwin, an IT manager for a small company in the Bay Area, signed up with Vigilar's Intense School, a provider of online and in-person IT classes. Now he's well on his way to becoming a certified ethical hacker.

Godwin describes the weeklong course, which he took online: "You try to find vulnerabilities and actually break into systems--with people's permission, of course. You're verifying that all the patches and all the measures taken to protect those systems are actually working." Training includes learning what tools hackers use and how they use them, the social engineering of hacking and the hacker mind-set. The lab portion of the class involves using hacking tools on test networks.

Godwin was pleased with the level of technical detail the class went into. All that knowledge has many real-world applications. "It's going to help me in troubleshooting, choosing the right applications to protect my network, and also using the right tools to find out if any of my machines have been compromised," says Godwin. Since hacking is constantly changing, the class also covers how to keep up-to-date using online groups and resources.

Any growing business could benefit from having an IT manager with ethical hacking experience. And with a class like Intense School's, it only takes a short time. Picking up that information on your own could take months.