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According to a new report by Bugcrowd, 54% of today’s ethical hackers belong to Gen Z (individuals born between 1997 and 2012) and an additional 35% are millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). Younger than ever, this season of ethical hackers also represents the most ethnically diverse generation in history.

This comprehensive annual report pulls back the curtain on ethical hackers to provide new insights into their backgrounds, lifestyles, skills, and motivations. The practice of ethical hacking helps root out security vulnerabilities, and in so doing it has become a mainstream vocation that allows diverse individuals to generate a sustainable livelihood from anywhere in the world.

Ethical hackers live in 61 countries across six of the world’s seven continents. They aid organizations with identifying unfixed bugs throughout their infrastructure and software development lifecycles.

Infographic. The anatomy of a hacker. $27B of cybercrime prevented by ethical hackers working on the Bugcrowd Platform. 74% of hackers agree there have been more vulnerabilities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 56% of hackers spend more than 5 hours per week working on the Bugcrowd platform. 65% of hackers say working on the Bugcrowd Platform helped them get a job in security. 86% of hackers think reporting a critical vulnerability is more important than trying to make money from it. 58% of ethical hackers do not report a vulnerability if the company lacks a clear way to disclose it. 21% of hackers are neurodivergent and have extraordinary abilities in memory, creativity, or thinking. 50% of hackers earn more from Bugcrowd than they expected. 19% of hackers have postgraduate degrees. 77% of hackers are college graduates. 91% of ethical hackers agree that point-in-time testing cannot secure companies year-round.


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Despite the financial incentives for security researchers, more than half of them describe ethical hacking as work that they find intrinsically motivated. They say they do it to cultivate personal development, challenge themselves, seek excitement, and give back to the community. In fact, 86% of hackers think reporting a critical vulnerability is more important than making money. Seventy-four percent of respondents agree that vulnerabilities have increased since the onset of COVID-19.

Notable highlights from the report include descriptions of whom these ethical hackers are, where their work is focused, and why more forward-looking companies are turning to bug bounty programs to continuously secure innovation and mitigate risks.

The report analyzes survey responses and security research conducted on the Bugcrowd Platform from May 1, 2020, to August 31, 2021, in addition to millions of proprietary data points collected on vulnerabilities from 2,961 security programs. It also features the personal profiles of several ethical hackers who work on the Bugcrowd Platform.

Read the full report by Bugcrowd.

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