August 2nd, 2021 Read Time: 5 minutes
Justin Sheil is the Content Marketing Manager at Electric. He has 5+ years experience writing about a wide range of technology topics. As part of his role at Electric, he currently functions as the head of the company’s Research & Insights division.
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Ethical hacking is the art of performing hacking in a professional manner as directed by the client. Once completed, the ethical hacker presents a maturity scorecard highlighting your system's overall risks and vulnerabilities and suggestions to improve.
With the steady rise of cybercrime and ransomware attacks such as the recent Kaseya example, companies must upgrade their hack-preventing tactics by adopting innovative technologies to protect their systems instead of falling victim to hackers.
Ethical hacking is an authorized attempt to gain unsolicited access to a computer system, data, or application in order to identify security vulnerabilities before malicious attackers can exploit them.
Ethical hackers, also known as "white hats," are security experts who perform these assessments to help improve a company's security posture. They often work with the approval of the organization before accessing and performing any security assessment. Additionally, an ethical hacker defines the scope of the assessment to ensure that work remains legal and within the client's approved boundaries.
Afterward, they notify the organization of any vulnerability discovered during the assessment and provide remediation advice for mitigating these vulnerabilities. Depending on the data sensitivity, an ethical hacker may have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and any other terms and conditions set by the assessed organization.
Ethical hacking is performed in six basic steps. They include:
Reconnaissance is the principal step where the hacker gathers data about the objective. It involves identifying the target, figuring out the objective's IP address range, network, DNS records, and other relevant information.
The scanning stage is where the ethical hacker begins to effectively test the objective machine or organization for vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Scanning incorporates the utilization of tools such as network mappers, dialers, port scanners, sweepers, and weakness scanners to gather information.
At this stage, the ethical hacker utilizes the information gathered from the checking and scanning stages to outline the organization's security structure. It's where the hacker concludes that there are alternatives to accessing the organization's system.
This is the stage where the ethical hacker has gained access to your framework and now introduces other secondary passages to gain access to the framework in the future. Most ethical hackers use Metasploit in this cycle.
Clearing tracks is basically an unethical activity that involves erasing logs of the multitude of exercises that happened during the hacking interaction.
The final step of concluding the ethical hacking process is aggregating a report with discoveries made during the hacking interaction. It includes details about the instruments utilized, weaknesses uncovered, the achievement rate, and the mitigation measures.
Cybercrime is skyrocketing amid rising international conflicts. Multiple terrorist organizations fund black hat hackers to promote their illicit grudges with financial motivations or with the aim to compromise national security. The need for ethical hacking has therefore become a necessity. It's a great way to equip your organization with foolproof defense against evolving threat actors.
Primarily, ethical hacking enables you to identify potential cyber attack surfaces before your adversaries do, protecting sensitive data from being misused or stolen.
Benefits of ethical hacking include:
1. Identifying Vulnerabilities
Ethical hackers perform vulnerability scanning to pinpoint security gaps in an IT infrastructure that malicious hackers could exploit in the real world. They may also use fuzzing to intentionally interfere with your program and its input to crash it, which ultimately reveals any security issues.
2. Preventing Unauthorized Data Access
Data security threats and vulnerabilities might extend beyond the firewall guarding your IT infrastructure. To establish an effective data security regime, you may need to challenge your own security construct through critical assessment and testing. Ethical hacking can imitate a criminal hacker's techniques to help identify and fix the issue.
3. Implementing a Secure Network
Through ethical hacking, you can improve your network infrastructure by analyzing and prodding the right architecture to detect vulnerabilities. It helps your organization to build a stronger technical infrastructure by configuring firewalls, protecting network ports, and identifying and implementing the latest network security policies.
4. Preventing a Cyber Attack
A successful cyber attack can make your business lose colossal amounts of money, not to mention dented reputation. You may also incur hefty fines due to failure to adhere to safety compliance standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI - DSS, etc. Ethical hacking prevents cyber attacks by informing you about evolving threat vectors and techniques and enabling security professionals to safeguard your IT infrastructure better.
Ethical hacking isn't the only kind of hacking, of course, there are other types of hackers with different intentions. Depending on the intent of hacking a computer system, hackers can be classified into different categories, including white hat, black hat, and grey hat.
Here are the most common types of hackers:
White Hat Hackers
Also referred to as Ethical Hackers, white hat hackers never intend to harm a system but instead try to find weaknesses in a computing system or a network infrastructure. White hat hackers typically perform penetration testing and vulnerability analysis.
Black Hat Hackers
Black Hat hackers (or crackers) usually hack in order to gain unauthorized access to a computer system and sabotage its operations or steal critical information. Black Hat hacking typically has a bad intent, such as stealing corporate data, damaging the system, violating privacy, blocking network communication, and more.
Grey Hat Hackers
This type of hacking is a blend of both white hat and black hat hacking techniques. They act for fun and without malicious intent to exploit a security weakness in a system or network without the client's permission or knowledge. The intent of a grey hat hacker is to bring the weakness to the business owner's attention and get appreciation or a bounty from the owner.
Now that we’ve answered “what is ethical hacking?” you’ve probably realized the importance of cybersecurity, something Electric takes seriously. As the world continues to navigate the complexities of the hybrid workforce, Electric is here to support your organization. While we’re not ethical hackers, Electric can work closely to help you push security policies and configurations that adhere to industry best practices across your entire company.