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What is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical Hacking

Ethical hacking is gaining unconventional/stealth/backdoor access to computer systems in unobtrusive ways to detect vulnerabilities and improve security mechanisms. An ethical hacker tries to duplicate the modus operandi of a malicious hacker, but with the inverse intention of making the system more secure.

Before a malicious hacker tries to exploit the loopholes in a computer system, the ethical hacker detects these loopholes and fixes them. Ethical hackers are security experts who proactively perform security assessments and recommend actions that would make a system more secure.

Why is Ethical Hacking important?  

In this era of modern computing, the usage of electronic /computer systems has permeated all aspects of day-to-day life.  The availability of computing services 24/7, the need for computing systems to operate at their optimal output, and the protection of sensitive data, as a result, have gained paramount importance.

International, political, and business conflicts have resulted in cybercriminals seeking new ways to penetrate security systems, steal/withhold data, and orchestrate DDoS attacks. A disruption or glitch in computing systems can have serious administrative, financial, and moral implications. This suggests the need for ethical hacking to identify potential security loopholes and to ensure that computer systems keep running properly.

Learn More About Hacking At A Conference

Ethical hacking and the coding that makes it up is one of those industries that’s always changing. Hacking methodologies, ethical and otherwise, do change and you learn about those changes at places like conferences or seminars geared towards hacking and coding. There are a few of these hacking conferences around but some are far better than others.

If you’re looking for something in the next year just search for hacking conference 2023 and they’ll start dropping in. A quality hacking conference is held in a good venue, has decent keynote speakers, and a simple registration system. There will be multiple topics at the hacking conference including coding, hacking, ethical hacking, AI (artificial intelligence), etc. You can learn more in a well-organized hacking conference than you would have possibly imagined.

What is the importance/Benefits of Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking helps to:

  • Identify security vulnerabilities that can then be resolved before a malicious attacker has the opportunity to exploit them.
  • Proactively mitigate risks
  • Help create a better security infrastructure
  • Protect against new viruses, worms, and malware that keep multiplying every day
  • Gaining the trust of customers and investors
  • Ensuring return on investment to investors and value for their money to customers

What problems does ethical hacking uncover? 

An ethical hacker follows the intention, thought process, and modus operandi of a malicious hacker. That is to uncover and mitigate potential risks and security loopholes. Some of the problems it could uncover include:

  • Open ports or ports easily accessible to malicious hackers
  • Authentication and Access control systems that could be compromised easily
  • Software and hardware components that are not secure themselves, hence create loopholes within a bigger system
  • Security misconfigurations
  • Possible targets of injection attacks
  • Trojan horses, Viruses, and worms
  • Business and Social networking patterns that could give away confidential information

What are some of the phases/steps followed in ethical hacking? 

  • Firstly, the hacker and his employer reach an agreement as to why this exercise is necessary. They discuss all the goals, deliverables, and processes and ensure they are clear and concise. Finally, they sign legal agreements that protect the hacker as well as the employer/company.
  • The process starts with inspecting and investigating the computing infrastructure (reconnaissance step).
  • Following the inspection, the hack will scan for potential vulnerabilities. This includes scanning individual computers, networking assets, internet access points, cloud locations, etc.

An experienced ethical hacker can perceive weak points and loopholes at this stage.

  • Next, the hacker tries to gain unauthorized access to the target systems, using sophisticated tools and methods. The intention here is to demonstrate that malicious access is possible and that undesired actions can be performed by an unethical hacker. Also, attempts are made at maintaining unwanted access for a long time, to simulate attacks like DDoS/Hijacking, etc. Trojan horses and Viruses are hurled at the systems, the hacker attempts to maintain their unauthorized access until they complete their malicious activities, without being detected.
  • The penultimate step is to backtrack, and close all the gates that were opened by treason. They then take the systems back to (or better than) the state they were in before the attack simulation. This ensures that no tracks are left behind for a malicious hacker to exploit later. No traceable evidence or clues are left behind.
    This is done by erasing the digital footprint, using reverse HTTP shells and ICMP Tunnelling, etc.
  • Lastly, the ethical hacker submits his report and recommendations to the management. They then leave with a promise to maintain secrecy and professional ethics.

This job is not only satisfying as you help people help themselves, but it also involves constant learning and skill upgradation.

What are some limitations of ethical hacking? 

The first limitation obviously is that you cannot perform an actual attack. Instead, you just have to simulate it with all precautions and measures in place. A malicious attacker could have more methods at his disposal as he does not have to care about the business's assets. But an ethical hacker knows this and advises steps to circumvent such situations. Secondly, an ethical hacker has to work within a legal framework and strict guidelines. Thirdly, an ethical hacker has to respect a company's hierarchy and some possible reservations/non-cooperation by other workers.

How to become an ethical hacker? 

You must have an excellent understanding of operating systems, know at least one programming and one scripting language, have a thorough knowledge of networking, and know the tenets of information security like the back of your hand. There are many specialized courses run by experienced instructors to learn different software and programs.

What do ethical hacking courses normally cover? 

These courses mostly cover the subjects below and a lot more

  • Identity and Access Management
  • Security Infrastructure and Security operations
  • Business Continuity
  • Monitoring, Inspection, and continuous improvement
  • Threat Intelligence Awareness
  • Emerging attack identification
  • Risky patterns and behavior
  • Risk mitigation
  • Anti-phishing and anti-malware practices
  • Disaster recovery plans
  • Methodologies include footprinting, scanning, enumeration, vulnerability assessment, protective methods, implementation, and maintenance
  • Defining, Following, and Upgrading a Security Policy

Conclusion

Now you know what ethical hacking is, and some of its important aspects. If this area of operation interests you, there are a few good institutes that can teach you and help you hone these skills.

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