Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
If you have criminally good technical skills but can't handle potential prosecution and prison time, you should turn away from the dark side and become an ethical hacker instead. As an ethical hacker, you get to exercise all your hacking skills to find the flaws in networks and applications, but instead of using the holes you find to enrich yourself, you inform the appropriate authority to fix the gap and protect others.
Ethical hackers test both network infrastructure and specific applications to find security risks. Government agencies and private companies use ethical hackers to test both their own applications and their vendors' applications before deploying them. The companies want to avoid data theft, fraud, and the black eye that comes from bad publicity if those events were to occur.
How to Become an Ethical Hacker
Some ethical hackers develop their skills on their own and get a potential employer's attention by finding a flaw in a website and telling the company about it. It's easier and legally safer, though, to get training and then take and pass the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker test.
Training classes teach hacking techniques through hands-on work. You'll try to bring down the training system through techniques like DDoS attacks and buffer overflows. You'll also learn how to create malicious software like viruses and worms.
Besides learning about specific hacking techniques, you should also develop solid general technical skills, with knowledge of computer networks and operating systems. Understanding programming and how programmers think (or fail to think!) is very helpful as well. Knowledge of databases and how queries are written with SQL is extremely helpful, since in most cases the query strings you see in your browser's menu bar get converted to SQL in the back end system.
While you don't need to be able to craft a finely written novel, you'll need to be able to write clearly in order to document your findings.
Don't neglect soft skills, either. You may be a nerdy computer geek, but any job is going to require interacting with other people. Polish your communication skills. If you can become a smooth-talking con man, that'll put you in good shape for the social engineering tasks that are sometimes part of an ethical hacking project.
Employment as an Ethical Hacker
Once you get certified, odds are good you'll find a good job. Companies are spending ever-increasing amounts on system security, with spending expected to increase 40% during the next one five-year period.
When you find a job, you'll make good money, too. Even novice ethical hackers earn $50,000 or more, and experienced ethical hackers can make over $100,000. No need for money laundering before depositing your paychecks, either!
While it may be tempting to use your skills for nefarious purposes, keep it legal. There are some famous hackers who get hired by the agency or company they hacked, but most hackers who get caught aren't that lucky. Any prospective employer will do a background check, and you won't get the job if you fail that check.