In today’s context, we come across news about hacking all the time as people with bad intentions continue to wreak havoc in the form of anonymous messages, fake news, denial of service attacks, and data breaches. The dawn of international conflicts has resulted in a steady rise in cybercrime. Organizations are continually facing the challenge of updating hack-preventing tactics and installing several technologies to protect their systems before they fall prey to the hacker. There are new viruses, worms, malware, and ransomware multiplying every day, and hence, there is an urgent need to safeguard the networks of defence, government agencies, and businesses.
Let us now understand ethical hacking at a more foundational level.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical hacking, also known as penetration testing, refers to the act of penetrating or intruding into systems or networks to find out vulnerabilities and threats in those systems in which a malicious attacker may find and exploit thereby causing financial loss, loss of data, and other major damages. The crucial purpose of ethical hacking is to improve network security or system security by fixing the vulnerabilities found during testing.
Who is an Ethical Hacker?
An ethical hacker or a white-hat hacker is the ultimate security professional. They are aware of the tactics to use to find and exploit weaknesses in various systems. An ethical hacker uses his skills in a legitimate and lawful manner to find and fix vulnerabilities before malicious hackers try to access the systems. An ethical hacker may also use the same tools and methods used by malicious hackers after obtaining permission from the authorized person to enhance security and defend the systems from attacks by malicious users.
Benefits of Ethical Hacking
- Implementing a secure network to prevent security breaches.
- Defending national security by safeguarding the data from terrorists and other unscrupulous people.
- Protecting networks with real-world assessments.
- Discovering vulnerabilities from the point of view of the attacker to fix weak points.
- Gaining a high level of trust from customers and investors by ensuring the security of their data and products.
Phases of Ethical Hacking
1. Planning and Reconnaissance
This step defines the scope and goals of a test and the testing methods that will be followed. It also addresses the intelligence to understand how a target works and potential vulnerabilities.
Scanning is done to understand how a target will react to various intrusion attempts. This is done from two perspectives: when the application’s code is functioning and when the application code is static. The former is the most practical way to understand the performance of an application in real-time.
3. Gaining Access
This is a crucial step as this involves attacking the web application to find the vulnerabilities and exploit them by intercepting traffic, stealing, interfering privileges to get an idea of the amount of damage it can cause.
4. Maintaining Access
In this step, the vulnerability is used as a persistent presence in the infected system for a long duration for stealing sensitive information or spreading it inside the network, quickly gaining access to the server.
This is the final stage of ethical hacking or penetration testing. This involves compiling the result by analyzing and commenting on data access, the vulnerabilities that have been exploited, and the amount of time for which the tester can remain unnoticed in the system.
Types of Hackers
The three main types of hackers are:
- White hat hackers or ethical hackers – White hat hackers are legal hackers who identify the weaknesses in a computer system or network.
- Black hat hackers- They are also known as crackers, and they hack to get unauthorized access to a system and its operations. They operate with the aim of harming the networks and stealing sensitive information. It is illegal as it is done with bad intentions such as violating corporate data, stealing corporate data, damaging the system, and blocking network communication.
- Grey hat hackers-They are a combination of both white hat and black hat hackers. They perform hacking activities for fun and do not have any bad or illegal intentions. They hack the security credentials in a system or network without the knowledge or permission of the owner. Their intention is to make the owner aware of the weakness and get an appreciation from the owner.
Responsibilities of Ethical Hackers
- Scanning the systems of organizations to find open ports that are vulnerable to attacks. In case of any issue, study the port and take remedial measures to stop potential attacks.
- Examining patch installations to make sure that they are up-to-date.
- Searching the deep corners of the network and rummaging through digital trash bins to find passwords, chats, and other critical information which has the potential to make an organization vulnerable to an attack.
- Handling issues related to online employee fraud and the theft of laptops or systems.
- Attempting to evade intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems to ensure that everything is functioning properly.
- Sniffing for networks, hijacked web servers, cracked wireless encryptions, and enhanced web applications. In case they find anything, they will fix them.
How to be an Ethical Hacker?
As is the case with any profession, passion for the hacking industry is one of the primary aspects needed to succeed. Strong knowledge in networking and programming is an added bonus as it would help you grasp the concepts in a more efficient and faster way. The field of ethical hacking is a good choice for professionals such as intrusion analysts, security professionals, forensic analysts, security engineers, and security consultants.
To learn the finer nuances of ethical hacking through concepts such as trojans, countermeasures, enrol in the online ethical hacking certifications offered by prestigious online learning platforms.
Ethical hacking jobs and ethical hackers are in high demand in the IT industry. There are many companies that are constantly on the lookout for professionals in the areas of vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.
To know more about ethical hacking and cybersecurity, check out Global Tech Council.