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What is Hacking?
Hacking is a deliberate intrusive activity that involves the detection and exploitation of weaknesses in a network or system by compromising their security to gain illegal and unauthorized access to the system resources and data.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical Hacking (also called penetration testing) is the deliberate and intrusive activity that involves the authorized/legal, detection, and penetration of weaknesses in a system or network to find vulnerabilities and threats that a malicious hacker will detect and exploit for personal gain and cause loss (e.g., data loss/financial loss).
The idea behind ethical hacking is to enhance the system and network security by finding and fixing vulnerabilities that were discovered during penetration testing. The ethical hacker protects the privacy of the target/organization that has authorized penetration testing.
Figure 1: Phases of Ethical Hacking
Therefore, the main distinctions between a malicious hacker and an ethical hacker are the fact that:
- The malicious hacker gains unauthorized access while the ethical hacker has authorized permission. The ethical hacker must also report to the target all weaknesses and vulnerabilities found during the intrusive/penetration activity.
- The ethical hacker’s intention is to fix the system or network. The malicious hacker’s intention is usually personal gain or destruction.
The main similarity between the ethical hacker and the malicious hacker is that they may both use the same tools, methods, and tactics to gain access to a system or network. Indeed, the ethical hacker is encouraged to get into the mind of the malicious hacker to be a step ahead of the malicious hacker.
Types of Hacking
There are several different types of hacking. Some of the more common ones include:
- System hacking: OS/web server vulnerabilities are found and exploited, e.g., unpatched system and buffer overflow
- Web server hacking: These are attacks on back-end databases and applications on a network of machines
- Web application hacking: These are attacks that target the interface between the end user and a back-end server that controls access.
- Wireless network hacking: This involves penetrating/intruding the security of a Wireless Local Area Network.
- Social engineering: These attacks involve human interaction by the intruder to manipulate the target to divulge or break standard security best practices, procedures or protocols to gain access to a network/system.
The Benefits of Ethical Hacking as a Career Choice
As an ethical hacker, you can benefit an organization in several ways including:
- Preventing data from being misused or stolen by malicious hackers
- Detecting vulnerabilities from the malicious hacker’s perspective to get ahead of the weaknesses and fix them before a damaging attack can be made
- Protecting networks and systems by understanding the dangerous hacking mindsets/environments and making real-world assessments
- Gaining the trust of stakeholders, like investors, management/legal, quality assurance testers, customers, etc. by guaranteeing that they are protected from malicious hacker threats
However, for your career, the benefits of becoming an ethical hacking are as follows:
There is an enormous need for cybersecurity experts due to the proliferation of software, systems, data and other technologies that every individual across the globe has access to and that are potentially a target for the malicious hacker. To compound the nature of the problem, even more, all these individuals are becoming increasingly connected by the day, using different technologies, and this increases the threat vector that malicious hackers have access to. In short, there is a considerable gap to be filled in the job market for skilled, ethical hackers because there is enormous demand for them by employers.
Figure 2: The cost of hacking
Become an Effective Cybersecurity Expert
If you are going to be useful to organizations as a cybersecurity expert, it is paramount that you understand the hacker’s tools, environment, and mindset to be effective. By competently comprehending these things, you will be better placed to bolster security, not only by identifying threats but also by understanding the attacker and preventing them from making an attack.
New regulations and rules that have been clearly defined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have a much harsher stance towards organizations that collect private data and fail to protect it. If you learn ethical hacking, you will be in a better position to understand the rules, regulations and compliance measures that need to be adhered to.
Development and Quality Assurance
Ethical hacking and quality assurance have overlaps in the context of understanding systems and ensuring that they work as intended from the perspective of the creator and the end-user. As an ethical hacker, you will have access to tools that can be used to rapidly stress-test the design and execution of software/systems/networks. The advantage to an organization is that elaborate testing, and quality assurance methodologies can be simplified and, therefore, save organization resources including time, money and effort.
An infographic represents the roles and responsibilities of an Ethical Hacker
Figure 4: Ethical Hacker Certification Track
All the resources and knowledge required to learn ethical hacking can become overwhelming especially for those without sufficient time or experimentation background to get up to speed with the requirements. For this very reason, learning ethical hacking through a well-organized ethical hacking course is the best alternative for most people.
An CEH Certification Training allows you to get dedicated attention and learning material from experts in the ethical hacking that understand what is required not only in real-life situations but also to pass CEH exam that will enable you to get certified.