What is Ethical Hacking?
Last updated on 29th Sep 2020, Artciles, Blog
Ethical Hacking sometimes called as Penetration Testing is an act of intruding/penetrating into a system or networks to find out threats, vulnerabilities in those systems which a malicious attacker may find and exploit causing loss of data, financial loss or other major damages. The purpose of ethical hacking is to improve the security of the network or systems by fixing the vulnerabilities found during testing. Ethical hackers may use the same methods and tools used by the malicious hackers but with the permission of the authorized person for the purpose of improving the security and defending the systems from attacks by malicious users.
Ethical hackers are expected to report all the vulnerabilities and weakness found during the process to the management
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Hacking experts follow four key protocol concepts:
- Stay legal. Obtain proper approval before accessing and performing a security assessment.
- Define the scope. Determine the scope of the assessment so that the ethical hacker’s work remains legal and within the organization’s approved boundaries.
- Report vulnerabilities. Notify the organization of all vulnerabilities discovered during the assessment. Provide remediation advice for resolving these vulnerabilities.
- Respect data sensitivity. Depending on the data sensitivity, ethical hackers may have to agree to a non-disclosure agreement, in addition to other terms and conditions required by the assessed organization.
- Expertise in scripting languages.
- Proficiency in operating systems.
- A thorough knowledge of networking.
- A solid foundation in the principles of information security.
- EC Council: Certified Ethical Hacking Certification
- Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) Certification
- CompTIA Security+
- Cisco’s CCNA Security
- SANS GIAC
- Injection attacks
- Broken authentication
- Security misconfigurations
- Use of components with known vulnerabilities
- Sensitive data exposure
- Limited scope. Ethical hackers cannot progress beyond a defined scope to make an attack successful. However, it’s not unreasonable to discuss out of scope attack potential with the organization.
- Resource constraints. Malicious hackers don’t have time constraints that ethical hackers often face. Computing power and budget are additional constraints of ethical hackers.
- Restricted methods. Some organizations ask experts to avoid test cases that lead the servers to crash (e.g., Denial of Service (DoS) attacks).
- Black Hats: They hack with malicious intentions, gain authorization and create disruptions in the operation of various systems. Black hats are also known as crackers.
- White Hats: Another name for an ethical hacker, who hack with the intention of finding vulnerabilities in various systems and want to improve them.
- Grey Hats: A mix of black hat and white hat hackers, they hack for fun and/or with the intention of finding vulnerabilities and reporting them but without the permission of the authorities. The major goal of grey hats is to find these loopholes and get monetary benefits in exchange for reporting bugs.
- Suicide Hacker: these are the hackers that hack without the fear of facing any consequences. They operate with a clear motive and usually go after large corporations and infrastructure.
- Script Kiddies: Unskilled hackers who use tools, scripts, and programs built by real hackers to try and hack into a system.
- Cyber Terrorists: Hackers with the motive of spreading large-scale fear.
- State-sponsored hackers: Hackers assigned by the government and who work for them to oversee the security of various systems.
- Hacktivist: Hackers that usually focus on hacking websites and promoting political, social, and religious messages.
- Knowledge of networking as well as security systems
- Knowledge of parameter manipulation, session hijacking, as well as cross-site scripting.
- Technical expertise over things like routers, firewalls, as well as server systems
- Being good at written and verbal communication
- Good troubleshooting skills
- Ability to see system flaws, small and large.
- Meet with the clients to understand the current security system in place
- Research the company’s system, network structure as well as possible penetration sites
- Conduct various penetration tests on the system
- Identify and record security flaws and breaches
- Identify areas of high-level security
- Review and rate the security network
- Create suggestions for security upgrades
- Compile penetration test reports for the client
- Conduct penetration tests once new security features have been implemented
- Suggest alternate upgrades
How are ethical hackers different from malicious hackers?
Ethical hackers use their knowledge to secure and improve the technology of organizations. They provide an essential service to these organizations by looking for vulnerabilities that can lead to a security breach.
An ethical hacker reports the identified vulnerabilities to the organization. Additionally, they provide remediation advice. In many cases, with the organization’s consent, the ethical hacker performs a re-test to ensure the vulnerabilities are fully resolved.
Malicious hackers intend to gain unauthorized access to a resource (the more sensitive the better) for financial gain or personal recognition. Some malicious hackers deface websites or crash backend servers for fun, reputation damage, or to cause financial loss. The methods used and vulnerabilities found remain unreported. They aren’t concerned with improving the organization’s security posture.
What skills and certifications should an ethical hacker obtain?
An ethical hacker should have a wide range of computer skills. They often specialize, becoming subject matter experts (SME) on a particular area within the ethical hacking domain.
All ethical hackers should have:
Some of the most well-known and acquired certifications include:
What problems does hacking identify?
While assessing the security of an organization’s IT asset(s), ethical hacking aims to mimic an attacker. In doing so, they look for attack vectors against the target. The initial goal is to perform reconnaissance, gaining as much information as possible.
Once the ethical hacker gathers enough information, they use it to look for vulnerabilities against the asset. They perform this assessment with a combination of automated and manual testing. Even sophisticated systems may have complex countermeasure technologies which may be vulnerable.
They don’t stop at uncovering vulnerabilities. Ethical hackers use exploits against the vulnerabilities to prove how a malicious attacker could exploit it.
Some of the most common vulnerabilities discovered by ethical hackers include:
After the testing period, ethical hackers prepare a detailed report. This documentation includes steps to compromise the discovered vulnerabilities and steps to patch or mitigate them.
Limitations of ethical hacking
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Different types of Hackers
Let us now take a look at different types of Hackers
How to become an Ethical Hacker?
According to CISO, ethical hackers make around INR 5.7 lakhs per annum on an average. The income depends upon the expertise and experience of the individual but hacking nonetheless is a lucrative field in India.
Now let’s take a look at the steps to become an ethical hacker in India:
Step 1: Build a foundation
Even though there are no strict or fixed educational criteria to becoming an ethical hacker, having a bachelor’s in computer science or Information technology can help set a great foundation. Some companies will require a degree and some won’t.
Every company has its own set of requirements when it comes to hiring a hacker, so be prepared accordingly.
If you want to explore the world of Ethical Hacking and build a strong foundation before diving deep in it, checkout MyCaptain‘s course in Ethical Hacking and get mentored by an Ethical Hacker.
Step 2: Dive into programming
More than your educational background, what you will need to become a successful hacker is a good command over the various computing languages. Therefore, learning programming languages like C++, Java, Python, SQL, PHP, and so on are critical to this field. You will also need to learn about operating systems like UNIX, Windows, LINUX, and IOS.
Step 3: Get certified
After this, the next step in your hacking journey is to get CEH certified. Most companies require it and readily look for certified hackers. Even if you decide to open your own agency or firm or become a freelancer, being certified is a way to show your expertise. The EC council is the most trusted body to get this certification. You will need to pass four tests consisting of 125 questions.
Step 4: Look for the right Job Title
You already have a basic idea of the different types of hackers that exist in this digital world. But most ethical hackers don’t have the same job title. Instead, most are called penetration tester. Penetration testing is the process of identifying vulnerabilities using various hacking techniques.
Look for the different job titles and understand the various responsibilities associated with each to better help yourself find the desired job.
Step 5: Keep on Improving and Learning
This helps you to stay at the top of your game. Hacking is ever-changing and you will always encounter new techniques and tools being used. As a result, reading and staying updated about the hacking world is imminent for your success.
In addition to all of this, you need to make yourself very knowledgeable about different aspects involved. Thus, you should constantly work on enhancing on learning the following things.
Responsibilities of an Ethical Hacker
Every job title brings in its own set of responsibilities. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones:
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