Cybercriminals present one of the biggest problems somebody can find in the digital world. There was a time when hackers weren’t taken as seriously, but things changed drastically in the past several years. In India, for example, many companies pay hefty sums of money to hackers to protect some of their sensitive and valuable information. It was reported back in 2013 that 4 billion dollars were lost by Indian companies during that year alone due to cyber attacks. Ethical hacking led to their defenses against cybercrime being quite minuscule.
As the world of business evolves and becomes more and more technologically dependent, many companies were forced to enter the digital ecosystem and adopt the technologies that the ecosystem offers to function more efficiently. The need for more efficient ways to protect information is becoming more and more prominent due to the threat of more and more intense and damaging breaches of security. All of these changes made the shortage of talented people in the information security sector apparent. Nasscom reported that the need for white hats far surpassed the number of white hats they had in 2015. There were 15,000 certified ethical hackers in India, versus the 77,000 that were needed.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical hacking is the practice of using hacking techniques to help out systems with protecting the important information stored on it. This is a new league in the IT-sphere of programming which is gaining more and more recognition. This line of work employs people to hack into security systems and locate weak points in them and find a way to fix them.
The techniques employed by white hats and black hats are very similar and usually the same. The difference is that white hats need to make improvements to these techniques to stay on top of the more malicious counterparts in the line of work. Corporations that use security systems and work with huge amounts of sensitive information hire white hat hackers to prevent malicious individuals from accessing the information stored on the system. A white-hat hacker’s job is to hack into the system of the employer to locate the parts of the system that are at risk and fix the holes. The first step that every white hat takes is called penetration testing. This is a way to find vulnerabilities in systems. It is an easy way to assess the strength of the system.
Ethical hacking includes many services. Some of these are:
- Application Testing: Detects the flaws in a system
- Remote or war dialing: Tests modem connections
- Local network testing: Works to analyze the work of protocols and devices in the system.
- Wireless security: Checks the overall security of the entire framework.
- System hardening: Strengthens the system and fixes the holes in the system
- Stolen laptop: This is done through the PC of an employee that has access to a bit of information. It checks the personal information stored in software.
- Social engineering: Uses the personality of the hacker to gain access to a system.
The Need for Ethical Hackers
Crackers are becoming more and more sophisticated. They also gain access to more and more funding due to the many malicious organizations that want to steal information from important sources.
Every day, businesses need to improve their systems to get with the advancements in hacking tactics and techniques. Hackers find hidden vulnerabilities in computers more and more often, so to protect your system, you will always have to improve your security. This is the same for every corporation that handles very sensitive information. White hats are usually well-trained professionals who work towards improving these systems.
Some traditional companies have a problem when it comes to the understanding of white hat hacking. The banks in India have often faced vicious hacking attacks that cost them a great deal of money. Their lack of faith in the benefits of ethical hacking led to their defenses against cybercrime being quite minuscule.
There is a malware called “darkhotel” which hit hotels and several other parts of the industry. This proved that the industry was falling behind when it comes to cybersecurity. The malware itself was used to gather information on people of interest that reside within the hotels by using the hotel’s Wireless Network access.
The cracking community constantly grows when it comes to tools and techniques. New kinds of malware, worms, and viruses are made every single day. Due to this, businesses are becoming more aware of the benefits of ethical hacking and how it can help protect their networks.
The bottom line is that owning an enterprise in this day and age is as risky as it could be due to the number of malicious users that have access to so many different tools. This is why every system should be tested regularly to keep up with the times. There is a holistic approach that is involved in the assessment of a system due to the complexity of the field of computer and network security. Some many interactions and operations are involved in any security system and some of them might be very fragile. Ethical hackers are the best people to do this. They are individuals with the ability and know-how that can help anyone fine-tune their system.
How is Ethical Hacking Different from Cracking?
The techniques that all hackers use are similar, if not the same. The tools and techniques used are universally accepted by all of the people that involve themselves in this activity. The only difference between ethical hackers and others is why they are doing what they are doing. Crackers, or black hats, are fueled by their own selfish and malicious reasons like profit or harassment. The efforts of white hats are made to prevent black hats from taking advantage of systems.
Several other things can help you differentiate black hats from white hats:
The goal of the activity: While it is true that white hats use all of the techniques that have been developed by black hats, they do this to help out an individual or corporation. This is done to determine how a black hat would approach the system to spot flaws and help fix them.
Legality: The main differentiation between ethical hackers and crackers is the fact that, even though they do the same thing in the same way, only one side is legally acceptable. White hats have the consent of the system’s owner before doing it, while black hats break the law by doing it without the owner’s knowledge.
Ownership: White hats are hired by different companies to help them out with improving their systems. Black hats do not hold ownership over the system and they are not employed by somebody who does.
Roles and Responsibilities of an Ethical Hacker
The ethical side of hacking is no simple thing. While white hats are often regarded highly in the programming community, as well as among business owners, they are still regarded as criminals by many. The very activity is considered to be immoral by many. Many white hats prefer not to have the connotation of “hacker” next to their name due to the reactions they may get. To keep their practices legal and prevent others from viewing them as criminals, white hat hackers need to be well acquainted with their responsibilities and stick to the guidelines. The following rules are some of the most important for white hat hackers:
- An ethical hacker is always supposed to ask for the consent of the owner of the system before starting to get into it. You will need the approval of the owner for every activity that you do on the system and you are expected to provide the information you gained through your activities to the owner.
- Once the hacker analyzes the system, he must make his findings and plan known to the owner before taking action.
- The hacker must notify the owner of what was found during the search.
- The hacker is expected to keep his findings and activities confidential. Due to the nature of ethical hacking which is helping the security of a system, the hacker should not disclose the information to anyone else.
- Remove all of the found vulnerabilities after finding them to stop black hats from entering the system without authorization.
To be successful in the line of work, you are going to need a certain set of skills. The knowledge a white hat hacker needs to possess is both wide and deep. It needs to encompass several parts of the computer technology field and needs to be highly detailed. Some of the skills that are needed are:
- Detailed knowledge of programming – Any professional that works in the fields of Software Development Life Cycle and application security is required to possess this knowledge.
- Scripting knowledge – This kind of knowledge is important to anyone who works on host-based attacks and network-based attacks.
- Networking skills – Most threats to the system come from networks. Due to this, you will need to know about all of the devices that are connected to the network and how they interact with it.
- Knowledge about different platforms used on different kinds of devices
- Knowledge on how to use hacking tools and techniques available on the market
- Knowledge on servers and search engines