In today’s digital landscape, a growing number of companies have recognised the imminent need to migrate their data storage online via cloud-based technology. This move has placed a greater emphasis on cybersecurity, with the elimination of plausible security loopholes a forefront priority for businesses.
As technology continues to advance rapidly, malicious hackers are getting smarter, and infiltrating the databases of enterprises is becoming a common occurrence. To stay competitive, organisations must adapt to the ever-changing cyber threats and secure their crucial digital assets. As such, there is an increased demand for ethical hackers to expose and eradicate vulnerabilities within an organisation’s IT structure.
If you have ever worked in the tech industry, you would likely have heard of the term “penetration testing”, otherwise known as ethical hacking. However, what goes on amidst the process, and how is this different from the various cyber-crimes reported? After all, when the word “hackers” is mentioned, people often associate them with illegal and malicious activities. So, if you are confused about what ethical hacking truly entails, allow us to shed some light on this matter.
What is ethical hacking?
Certified ethical hackers – also known as white hat hackers – are experienced security professionals dedicated to identifying and resolving vulnerabilities within a company’s system. At the behest of businesses, ethical hackers use their skills to compromise an organisation’s security defence by hacking into their system. They then perform assessments to detect potential causes for a data breach before alerting any potential security loophole to their employers.
For many business owners, protecting their critical data is paramount. If a cyberattack was to occur, the organisation’s cloud security defence must be strong enough to prevent data exploitation. With the help of ethical hackers, entrepreneurs can improve the cybersecurity of their entire business by locating the weak points in a network and covering up security weaknesses to avoid a loss of data. This is because ethical hackers are trained to think and act like malicious attackers, scouring for issues within a company’s IT structure that can cripple its system.
Additionally, ethical hacking involves utilising similar methods, tools, and technologies used by cyber attackers but with authorised permission by the company itself. The process involves thoroughly analysing the IT infrastructure and reporting security issues to the management. Subsequently, continuous monitoring of the various applications is needed to strengthen an organisation’s security footprint.
What are the fundamental concepts of ethical hacking?
Hacking experts follow four protocol practices when conducting security assessments for a business’s network defence. Firstly, they are to obtain proper approval from the authorial figures in a company before performing any tests to detect weaknesses in their system. This is to ensure the hired ethical hackers are under protection by the law and can work without fear of reprimand. Businesses can also rest assured that their data is safe, for these tech experts are bound by the law to perform legal tests.
Defining the job scope with an employer is also essential. Before undergoing any penetration tests, ethical hackers should document the full details of each assessment so that their work remains legal and within the enterprise’s approved boundaries. After which, their primary role is to disclose all vulnerabilities and issues discovered during the cybersecurity evaluation. After all, ethical hackers are supposed to identify weaknesses in an IT structure and provide sound remediation advice to target any security loopholes.
Lastly, ethical hackers are to respect a company’s data sensitivity. Because their job is to pose as malicious attackers and infiltrate an organisation’s database, these IT specialists may come across crucial information on the success of a business. Thus, these enterprises may request a non-disclosure agreement in addition to other terms and conditions to prevent the likelihood of ethical hackers spreading their corporate secrets. This agreement is to protect the company from suffering any form of a data breach.
What are the differences between ethical and malicious hackers?
Herein lies the million-dollar question: what sets ethical and malicious hackers apart? For starters, ethical hackers are hired by companies to counter any cybersecurity threats posed by malicious attackers. They then use their technical knowledge to secure and improve the technology of these organisations by performing legal penetration tests under the supervision of the business owners. In essence, the purpose of an ethical hacker is to provide a service to businesses looking to bulk up their cybersecurity.
Conversely, malicious hackers thrive on gaining unauthorised access to a resource storing sensitive information. Their goal of illegally breaching network systems is simple: to either seize personal recognition or monetary gain. They tend to deface websites or crash backend servers to cause reputation damage and financial loss to a company. In contrast to ethical hackers, these malicious attackers do not have plans to improve an organisation’s security posture. Instead, they tear IT infrastructures apart and exploit their weak areas.
How can ethical hackers help an organisation?
Numerous businesses have been enlisting the help of ethical hackers to identify weak points in their cyber defences. This is because these IT specialists possess advanced knowledge in creating more resilient networks. When assessing the security of a company’s digital assets, ethical hackers aim to mimic an attacker by scouring for plausible attack vectors in the organisation’s IT structure.
Ethical hackers source for vulnerabilities in an IT infrastructure via automated and manual penetration testing. They then recommend effective countermeasure technologies to prevent nefarious hackers from infiltrating a business’s database. Additionally, ethical hackers will also utilise exploits against the weaknesses in a system to prove to their employers how a malicious attacker can break-in.
Some of the common culprits behind a data breach include injection attacks, broken authentication, security misconfigurations, sensitive data exposure, and more. Hence, ethical hackers often investigate these various factors first when performing security evaluations. After penetration tests are completed, these tech experts will prepare a detailed report on ways to mitigate or patch any discovered network weaknesses.
What are the skills and certifications needed to be an ethical hacker?
Ethical hacking is an exciting profession. But due to the nature of the work, individuals need to possess specific skills and qualifications to excel in the job. First and foremost, you must be familiar with the various programming languages.
A business faces huge risks when malicious hackers compromise its sensitive assets. So, strengthening the company’s database and rendering it impenetrable is paramount. Therefore, you must also be proficient in utilising the various engines and schemas to help the organisation establish a secure database.
Additionally, boasting the fundamentals of penetration testing is a requisite. Because it is a crucial aspect of an ethical hacker’s job scope, you should have experience performing several pen testing methods, like blind and targeted testing.
Furthermore, it is advisable to attend prominent IT security courses, such as the globally-recognised Certified Ethical Hacker course, to gain insider knowledge from tech experts in the industry. Not only will you acquire proof of your competence upon completing the class, but you are also imparted with the necessary skills needed to assess a business’s security posture accurately.
The need for ethical hackers will only continue to grow as more organisations shift to a digital-first approach. If you intend to pursue a career in this field, you should consider enrolling in BridgingMind’s Certified Ethical Hacker course. Not only will you earn yourself a respectable certification that enhances your resume, but you can also hone the skills needed to flourish at your job.