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The hat you wear as a security researcher matters, say those who took the latest SecurityNow.com poll. And the most effective hat color is black.

Who do you trust to find security issues? What kind of researcher is best at sniffing out vulnerabilities and gaps in security? Do you put your faith in the good guys working for security firms? Do the bad guys always come out on top when finding trouble? Or is the best solution someone who straddles the sometimes-fuzzy line between the two?

That's the question we put to the community here at SecurityNow, and the response was... interesting. It turns out that more than one-third of our readers, 35.1% to be precise, feel that "black hats" have done the most to advance the cause of security in our industry.

Some might feel that this is akin to saying that the Visigoths did the most to advance the cause of Roman civilization, but in a way it makes sense: Black hat hackers devote most of their time to finding vulnerabilities and tend to be rather good at their jobs.

The group getting the next highest number of responses was white hat hackers, given credit for the most advances by one fifth of those responding to the poll. These legitimate professional researchers, often employed by the companies that provide security hardware and software, are paid to do the same sort of work that black hats do, only without actually committing crimes as the point of the whole exercise.

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The group getting the least respect was the cadre known as "grey hats," that is, those who use techniques that might be of questionable legality to do research that tends to be used for legitimate purposes. We don't know why these researchers who try to walk on both sides of the street get less respect, but they do; perhaps they would be better served by committing to one side or the other of the morality (and legality) fence.

What do you think? Have the criminal hackers actually performed a service by exposing security vulnerabilities? Should we be giving more credit to the legitimate, white hat researchers? Let us know, and get ready: Another SecurityNow.com poll question is coming soon!

— Curtis Franklin is the editor of SecurityNow.com. Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.

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About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin, Principal Analyst, Omdia

Senior Analyst, Omdia

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Previously, he was senior editor of Dark Reading, editor of Light Reading's Security Now, and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek, where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications including BYTE, ComputerWorld, CEO, Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and ITWorld.com on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most recent books, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, and Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, are published by Taylor and Francis.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in running, amateur radio (KG4GWA), the MakerFX maker space in Orlando, FL, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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