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What is Ethical Hacking? How does it help?

Cyber Security, Security Testing

Monday October 5, 2020

What is ethical hacking? before we get to it, let’s see how the name was coined. In the 1960s, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology coined the term ‘hacker.’ This word referred to experts who leveraged their skills to re-develop the mainframe systems, optimize their efficiency, and facilitate multi-tasking.

Today, this term is popularly used to describe skilled programmers who acquire unauthorized access systems by using bugs or exploiting weaknesses. With the massive internet penetration and growth in e-commerce, malicious or unethical hacking has witnessed a significant rise.

But not all hacking is bad, which brings us to another form of hacking – Ethical Hacking.

In this, skilled hackers are hired by companies to assess the vulnerabilities of the networks and systems and develop a relevant solution to prevent data exploitation. In this detailed article, we are sharing everything you need to know about ethical hacking.

What is Ethical Hacking

It is essentially an authorized practice of getting into the system security in order to determine potential threats to the network and data breaches. The company hires ethical hackers to perform such activities to test the defensiveness of the system.

Contrary to unethical practices, the process of ethical hacking is planned, organized, approved, and above all, legal.

The main objective of ethical hackers is to investigate the network or systems for the weak point where malicious hackers can enter and exploit.

Furthermore, they gather and analyze information in order to come up with effective ways to reinforce the security of the applications, systems, or networks.

What Are The 7 Types of Hackers?

There are different types of hackers based on the activities. Some of the important types of hackers include:

  1. Whitehat Hackers

These are individuals who perform ethical hacking to assist organizations. These hackers believe that companies should inspect the network in the same way as a criminal hacker in order to better understand the vulnerabilities.

White hackers perform these activities without any criminal intent. These professions test how safe a system, network, or application is and point out the vulnerabilities. Moreover, they leverage their skills and expertise to treat the weak points.

  1. Black Hat Hackers

These hackers are also known as dark side hackers or crackers. They leverage their skills and exploit systems, networks, or applications with criminal intent.

They gain unauthorized access to computer systems to violate privacy rights, transfer funds from various bank accounts, steal sensitive corporate information.

  1. Gray Hat Hackers

These hackers are an amalgamation between whitehat and blackhat hackers. While they adhere to the law, at times, they also take up illegal practices. It is quite risky to appoint gray hat hackers to execute the security duties as you can never tell where they actually stand.

  1. Script Kiddies

It is a term used for system intruders with little to no skills. These are individuals who simply follow the direction or use other people’s shellcodes to perform hacking. They do not necessarily understand the steps involved in the process.

  1. Green Hat Hackers

These hackers are well-versed in hacking codes, programs, and they are amidst the process of learning more. The primary objective is to become an expert in this field. But whether they will be using their skills for ethical practices or unethical practices is yet to be determined.

  1. Purple Hat Hacker

Purple hat hackers are the experts who test themselves on their own systems. They hack into their own systems or applications to identify how good they are at cyber hacking and security.

  1. Blue Hat Hackers

These are junior hackers similar to green hat hackers and script kiddies but with a significant difference. These hackers use their skills to take revenge against an individual or organizations.

Also Read: How to escape from a data breach?

What is the Use of Ethical Hacking?

There are multiple ways ethical hackers assist organizations that include:

  1. Determining Vulnerabilities

Ethical hackers help organizations identify which of their security measures are effective, which contain vulnerabilities and are outdated and can be exploited. Once they have finished the evaluation process, they report their findings back to the organization.

The managers can leverage this data to further make informed decisions about how to improve their security to protect their environment from cyber attacks.

  1. Helping Companies to Determine Cybercriminals’ Pathway

Ethical Hacking practices indicate the hacking techniques that malicious hackers use to attack systems and put the company in danger. However, when companies have a thorough knowledge of the methods selected by the attackers to break into the systems, it is better prepared for their vital resources from being exposed and exploited.

  1. Strengthening the Defense

Cyberattacks can be detrimental for companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses. But even with the kind of impact these attacks have, most of the organizations continue to be unprepared for them. Ethical hackers know how threat actors work and what information and technique they will use to attack the systems.

When security professionals who work together with ethical hackers are better prepared for future attacks, they can respond to threats’ changing nature.

Is Ethical Hacking Legal?

When ethical hacking practices are used with the right intent, it can prove to be highly valuable. Ethical hackers help an organization strengthen its defense against cyberattacks. However, there are some circumstances where ethical hacking can also become illegal. And we have mentioned some of these situations.

  1. The Hacker has Altered, Misused, or Destroyed the Company Data

While assessing the company’s system, these hackers get direct access to vital information. And when they end up altering or destroying the company’s data. Making changes in the data might compromise the integrity, and the company can file a lawsuit against the hacker. Genuine ethical hackers always document their work to ascertain their authenticity to the company.

  1. Exposure of Confidential Company Data

When companies provide hackers with access to their networks and systems, they come across some confidential and sensitive information. The company staff may not be knowledgeable enough to understand what the hacker is doing or what he or she has come across.

And, if the hackers expose the information to any third party for their personal gain, then it is an evidently illegal practice, and the companies can file lawsuits for breaking the confidentiality agreement.

  1. The Hacker Left the Doors Open for Future Access

Creating backdoors that are only known to the hackers that can only be accessed by them is clearly illegal. The core job of an ethical hacker is to identify the vulnerable areas and fix them.

Are Hackers Rich? What’s the salary of an ethical hacker?

Certified ethical hackers are mainly certified through the CEH certificate by EC-Council. Some colleges, universities, and digital schools also provide degrees and courses that work in collaboration with the EC-Council CEH curriculum. These hackers may work with the government IT sector or corporate sector.

The average annual income of certified ethical hackers stands at $99,000 as per indeed.com. According to the EC-Council, a certified ethical hacker earns an average salary of $95000.

On the whole, an ethical hacker’s salary depends on a lot of factors that include certification, experience, and company.

Is Hacking Easy? What Do Hackers Study?

Being a professional hacker is all about imbibing the right knowledge and skills, and in this section, we tell you how you can start your journey as a professional hacker.

Must-Have Skills

Getting deep into the system requires you to have extensive knowledge of different technical domains and coding skills. So the first step is to master in the following skills:

  • Networking concepts
  • Computer appliances
  • Understanding of operating systems
  • Knowledge of software development lifecycle (SDLC)
  • Efficiency in penetration testing tools and techniques
  • Understanding of cybersecurity fundamentals
  • Strong knowledge of coding
  • Efficient verbal and written communication skills

Along with these above skills, hackers should always be up for learning new technologies at different stages of their careers. Vulnerabilities continue to evolve, and so do technologies. Therefore, in order to be relevant, professional hackers have to stay updated with the latest technologies and methodologies.

Programming Languages Used by Ethical Hackers

A strong understanding of programming languages is a must for ethical hackers. Following are some of the important programming languages an ethical hacker needs to know:

  • HTML: It is the bedrock of the internet, and professional hackers must learn it to understand comprehensive web action, structure, responsiveness, and logic. HyperText Markup Language is one of the easiest and common programming languages.
  • SQL: It stands for Structured Query Language and is basically a comprehensive database programming language that is harnessed to query and gather information from different databases.

All websites and web applications irrespective of their sizes use databases to secure data like login credentials, investors, etc. Therefore, ethical hackers need to learn SQL to connect with databases and generate effective hacking programming on SQL injection.

  • Perl: Considering many old systems use Perl, it has become an important language for ethical hackers to understand. It is also a commonly used language inactive web pages as well as system administration. Perl is considered the best language for manipulating text files based on the Unix system and the implementation of web-databases.
  • PHP: It is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic programming languages. It is popularly used in websites built on CMS.

Therefore, an understanding of PHP will help hackers discover vulnerabilities in such websites. Professional hackers use this language to develop server hacking programs as it is a server-side scripting language.

  • JavaScript: It is among the most popularly used languages for web development, making it a prominent language. Hackers leverage this language for creating cross-site scripting hacking programs. Understanding JavaScript helps hackers to identify flaws in web-apps. It is also the most effective language to manipulate front-end as well as back-end web elements.
  • Python: Contrary to other programming languages, Python is easier to learn. It is also the most used language to write automation scripts. This is because it comes with pre-built libraries featuring robust functionality.

Some other important languages include:

  • C
  • C++
  • Ruby
  • Lisp
  • Java

Certification of Being Professional Hacker: Certified Ethical Hacker

In order to become a professional hacker, it is imperative to get C|EH credentials. Recruiters, especially from big companies, are looking for ethical hackers with C|EH certification.

It extends a practical approach of learning along with a chance to acquire practical learning experience. You get to access a plethora of tools and cyber labs to build proficiency in the field. The C|EH generates trust among the employers in respect to your skills and knowledge.

What Software Do Hackers Use?

Following are some of the prominent tools that hackers use to execute various processes:

Nmap

It is a security and port scanner and network exploration tool. Considering that it is an open-source, hackers have free access to it. It also comes with cross-platform support. Nmap is generally used for managing service upgrade schedules, network inventory, monitoring uptime, etc.

Moreover, you also get a binary package for Windows, Mach OS X, and Linux. Its powerful scanning abilities and ease of use have made it highly popular in the hacking community.

Acunetix

It is an automated web application ethical hacking and security testing tool. It is leveraged to audit web applications by determining vulnerabilities such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and other similar weak points.

In simpler terms, the tool scans any web application or website built on HTTP/HTTPS protocol and can be accessed through a web browser.

Acunetix provides a unique and strong solution for interpreting custom web applications. The software integrates an advanced crawler that can identify any file.

Kiuwan

It is a popular vulnerability scanning tool. Kiuwan determines vulnerability in source code through comprehensive security standards that include HIPAA, SANS 25, OWASP, CWE, etc.

Additionally, it is integrated with the IDE for prompt feedback during the process of development. The software is compatible with all major programming languages and supports integration with the latest DevOps tools.

Netsparker

It is one of the most accurate and powerful ethical hacking tools. It is capable of mimicking moves of the hackers to determine vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting, SQL injection, etc.

Moreover, the tool distinctively authenticates vulnerabilities to prove that they are real. So security teams do not need to waste their time verifying the authenticity of vulnerabilities manually.

Metasploit

It is an open-source pen-testing framework written in Ruby. Metasploit works as a public resource, facilitating research for security vulnerabilities and code development. This enables a network administrator to get into the system to determine the security risks and report which vulnerabilities must be addressed.

This hacking tool is mostly used by hackers at the beginning stage to practice their skills. Metasploit allows you to mimic websites for various social engineering purposes.

Wireshark

It is free, open-source software that enables you to interpret real-time network traffic. It harnesses sniffing technology, which allows the software to identify security issues in any network.

Moreover, Wireshark can effectively solve networking problems as well. During the sniffing phase, the results are presented in a readable format, making it easier to detect potential issues, vulnerabilities, and threats.

Intruder

It is a completely automated scanner that identifies weaknesses or cybersecurity in the digital environment and illustrates the risk and assists in remedying the same. It is the perfect tool to include in the collection of ethical hacking tools.

Intruders offer more than 9000 security checks, making this software useful to enterprises of all scales and sizes. The security check includes identification, misconfiguration, common issues with a web application, SQL injection inefficiencies, cross-site scripting, and missing patches.

John the Ripper

This is one of the most powerful password crackers out there. It is used in testing the password strength in the operating system for auditing a password remotely. The tool holds the potential to identify the encryption type used in any password and alter the password test algorithm accordingly.

Why Businesses Need Ethical Hacking?

With growing cybersecurity scams, ethical hacking has emerged as the need of the hour. Below we are sharing some of the reasons businesses should consider hiring an ethical hacker:

Hacker’s Mindset

Today, data has become a more important part of the business more than ever. Every business collects a huge amount of data, and this has increased their vulnerability to cyber-attacks.

In order to catch cybercriminals, you need experts who can think like them, which is the basis of ethical hacking. Ethical hackers, with your consent, get deep into your system, identify weak points, and implement remediations.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is also known as PEN testing and is used to discover vulnerabilities of the system that malicious hackers can target. There are different methods to conduct penetration testing, and its usage depends on the requirements. Some of the testing methods include –

  • External testing penetrates systems that are externally exposed like DNS, web servers, etc.
  • Internal testing identifies vulnerabilities that internal users are exposed to via access privileges.
  • Blind testing encourages real attacks from malicious hackers.
  • Targeted testing centers on the people within the organization and the hacker. It is about making the staff aware of the hacking being executed.

Testers are provided with limited data with regards to the target, and they have to perform reconnaissance before the attack. Penetration testing is one of the biggest reasons to hire ethical hackers.

Assistance in Secure Cloud Transition

Organizations are moving towards the cloud to leverage efficient IT outsourcing and virtualization. This transition has also increased the threat level and the need for ethical hackers. Security has been the main concern for cloud computing.

If you want to harness cloud and digitalization potentials without risking your security, you need ethical hackers. The hacking tactics are constantly evolving, and only experts can help in overcoming the issue.

Assurance Development and Quality

When proper security testing is overlooked, it exposes software to threats and attacks. Ethical hackers are trained to execute such testings. They work together with the teams and help them perform extensive security testing. Ethical hackers also assist security teams in imbibing effective security practices to maintain the integrity of the system.

These professionals use powerful tools to eliminate vulnerabilities. The process makes it easier for developers to learn more about coding errors and avoid them in the future.

A Guide to Hiring an Ethical Hacker

Hiring ethical hackers is an effective way to ascertain security. These experts offer an ideal combination of technologies and processes that caters to the organization. But how to hire a skilled, ethical hacker? Read on to find the answer to your question.

Who Are You Looking For in hiring an ethical hacker?

When hiring an ethical hacker, there should be no compromise on the quality. Commitment, personal drive, and formal training should be the main considerations.

However, you also have to ensure that there is no conflict of interest with the hacker you hire. Steer clear from professionals who are all about promoting their products and more focused on the competitor business.

Basically, you have to focus on hiring hackers who have put your company and security needs at the forefront.

The Term of Engagement

The terms related to engagement encompasses non-compete arrangements, communication protocols, termination policies, non-disclosure agreements, etc.

When performing testing of the systems, ethical hackers may come across sensitive information. And the main objective of term engagement is to protect the company’s sensitive information from being leaked.

Skills Portfolio

Based on the business’s requirements, you will need an ethical hacker who has the right skills to cater to the same and also predict future needs. Consider hiring experts who have comprehensive experience in the field of IT security.

Consider Your Budget

The process of hiring an ethical hacker depends a lot on your budget. While the scale of the IT environment and the level of penetration testing are vital factors, willingness to spend is an equally important factor.

If you lack the budget, then consider hiring an initial penetration tester. It is a great way to spend less and these professionals offer you the roadmap of the next steps to be taken.

Also Read: Top 10 Devastating cyber attacks happened in India

Final Thoughts

There you have it, everything that you need to know about ethical hacking. Ethical hackers are in great demand due to the rise in cybercrimes in every industry.

Hiring a credible and experienced ethical hacker can prove invaluable to the organizations. By covering the vulnerable spots of the systems, businesses can leverage reinforced security and avoid detrimental implications of cyberattacks.

 

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