When we look at the news, there are frequent occurrences of cyber security threats, data leaks, money theft, digital attacks, and cyber espionage. All of this is enabled by the fact that people with malicious intent can now orchestrate these activities in the comfort of their homes, from behind a computer screen. With the widespread access to the Internet across the world, this convenience incentivizes an exponentially greater number of hackers to attempt cyber crimes. Naturally, this phenomenon has led to an increased demand for skilled Ethical Hackers and other Cybersecurity professionals.
In this blog, we will go through the most important Ethical Hacking topics:
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What is Ethical Hacking?
When we talk about Ethical Hacking, it is explicitly implied that we are talking about hacking that is based on ethical or moral values, without any ill intent. Ethical Hacking is defined as any form of hacking that is authorized by the owner of the target system. It can also refer to the process of taking active security measures to defend systems from hackers with malicious intentions on data privacy.
From a technical standpoint, Ethical Hacking is the process of bypassing or cracking security measures implemented by a system to find out vulnerabilities, data breaches, and potential threats. It is only deemed ethical if the regional or organizational cyber laws/rules are followed. This job is formally known as penetration testing. As the name suggests, this practice involves trying to infiltrate the system and documenting the steps involved in it.
To sum it up, an Ethical Hacker hacks the target system before any harmful hacker can. This allows the security team of the organization to apply a security patch in the system and effectively eliminate an opening for the attacker to enter the system or execute a hack.
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Types of Ethical Hacking
- Web Application hacking: Web hacking is the process of exploiting software over HTTP by exploiting the software’s visual chrome browser, meddling with the URI, or colluding with HTTP aspects not stored in the URI.
- System Hacking: Hacktivists gain access to personal computers over a network through system hacking. Password busting, privilege escalation, malicious software construction, and packet sniffing are the defensive measures that IT security experts can use to combat these threats.
- Web Server Hacking: An application software database server generates web information in real-time. So attackers use Gluing, ping deluge, port scan, sniffing attacks, and social engineering techniques to grab credentials, passcodes, and company information from the web application.
- Hacking Wireless networks: Because wireless networks use radio waves to transmit, a hacker can easily squirt the system from either a location nearby. To discover the Identifier and bodge a wireless network, often these assailants use network snorting.
- Social Engineering: The art of manipulating the masses so that they divulge sensitive information is known as social engineering. Eugenics is used by criminals since it is generally easier to attack your organic hard time trusting than it is to figure out how to spoof your device.
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Types of Hackers
A hacker is a person who solves a technical issue by using a computer, networking, or even other abilities. Anyone who uses their skills to gain access to a system or network in application to break laws is referred to as a hacker.
There are different types of hackers:
1. White Hat Hackers
On the dark web, these are the right people who come to our aid. White hat hackers, also known as ethical hackers, are cybersecurity experts who assist the government and businesses by performing penetration testing and identifying security flaws. Ethical hackers use a variety of techniques to protect themselves from black hat hackers and other cybercriminals. They break into our system with the good intention of finding vulnerabilities and assisting you in removing viruses and malware.
2. Black Hat Hackers
These days, black hat hackers are the main perpetrators of cybercrime. The majority of the time, the agenda of a black hat hacker is monetary. These hackers look for flaws in individual computers in businesses and banking systems. They can hack into your network and gain access to your personal, business, and financial information by exploiting any loopholes they find.
3. Grey Hat Hackers
Grey Hat Hackers fall in between white and black hat hackers. Grey hat hackers may not use their skills for personal gain, they can however have both good and bad intentions. For instance, a hacker who hacks into an organization and finds some vulnerability may leak it over the internet or inform the organization about it. Nevertheless, as soon as hackers use their hacking skills for personal gain they become black hat hackers.
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Importance of Ethical Hacking
Let’s understand why Ethical Hacking or penetration testing is such an important field. For this, we need to understand some of the many use cases and types of Ethical Hacking. Here are a few of them:
- Testing password strength
- Ensuring security settings and privilege levels in the domain account and database administration by testing out exploits
- Penetration testing after every software update/upgrade or after adding a new security patch
- Ensuring that data communication channels cannot be intercepted
- Testing validity of authentication protocols
- Ensuring security features in applications, which protect organizational and user databases
- Defense against denial-of-service attacks
- Network security and testing of anti-intrusion features
As you can see, the aforementioned tasks are important to protect the integrity of a digital lifestyle and work environment. If you do not hire Ethical Hackers to deter the threat of unethical hackers, then you are setting yourself up for disaster.
Let’s take a scenario that is very much based on real-world cases in the past. If you are running an e-commerce or social media website, you need to create databases for your web application to save the details of your customer accounts. These details and data can range from birthdays, addresses, likenesses to private multimedia content, privileged messages, payment information, hashed passwords, etc.
As you can probably figure out, any successful attack or exploit on your website, which leads to this data being leaked to an attacker or the public, can prove to be a huge problem. There would be legal repercussions from the customers who had entrusted you with their private data, which could lead to a hefty fine in court. After that, there would be a lack of trust in your website’s security, which would lead to drastically reduced traffic. All of this will be a big liability for your organization.
Based on the above case, you can probably understand the importance of Ethical Hacking.
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Phases of Ethical Hacking
There are multiple phases involved in any elaborate hacking process. Let’s go through them one by one.
Reconnaissance: Before executing any hack, you need to gather some preliminary information about the target system. This information could be about the people or organizations associated with the target, details about the host system, or the target network. The primary intention of this step is to engineer a hack based on the exact technology and security measures implemented by the target system.
Scanning: Most of the time, hacking is done through network access. Most of our devices, whether in an organization or at home, are connected to a network. The common form of this network is Wi-Fi or WLAN. In offices, ethernet connections are also laid down to ensure maximum efficiency. As a hacker, you can take advantage of this factor and focus on gaining unauthorized access to the network of the target host. In this process, the network topology and vulnerable ports are revealed.
Gaining Access: The two aforementioned steps complete the information gathering phase. Now, based on that information, you need to start your hack. This step involves breaking into the target system by cracking the password or bypassing the security measures.
Maintaining access: After gaining access, you need to ensure that once you are done with your first session, you are able to retain access to the target system. This is done through a backdoor. A backdoor is an exploit or a hack that is left in the target system for future access. If you don’t leave a backdoor, the target system may implement a newer security patch or reset its security measures, and you may have to execute or craft the hack once again.
Clearing tracks: After finishing up with the attack or hack, it is important to remove the traces of your incursion. This step involves removing any backdoors, executables, or logs that may lead to the attack being traced back to you or found out in the first place.
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Ethical Hacker: Roles and Responsibilities
Let’s talk about the Certified Ethical Hacker’s responsibilities:
- Meeting with your client to go through the security systems currently put in place
- Verifying the organization’s system, network topology, and vulnerable entry points
- Performing penetration testing on the system(s)
- Identifying and documenting security flaws and vulnerabilities
- Testing the level of security in the network
- Finding out the best security solutions
- Creating penetration test reports
- Performing penetration testing after the implementation of suggested or new security features
- Finding out alternatives to security features, which are not working
Below is an example of how Ethical Hacking job descriptions look like on job portals:
How to become an Ethical Hacker?
If you’re interested in the role of an ethical hacker. It can turn out to be one of the most innovative and interesting career paths. This is partly because the hacking landscape changes every week. There are new viruses and exploits in the market that you constantly need to research and keep up with. This effort doesn’t go unnoticed because the more efficient and experienced you are, the higher the demand is for you, and you’d be compensated accordingly as well.
In the aforementioned job description, we can see that jobs in Ethical Hacking and Cybersecurity require you to be a ‘Certified Ethical Hacker.’ This isn’t just any certification; it refers to the CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) certification by the EC-Council. But the catch is, you cannot appear for this certification without training. You need to get this training from the EC-Council itself or through an accredited training center.
If you are interested in the certification, you can go through Intellipaat’s definitive guide on How to Pass the CEH Exam.
You can forgo the training and appear for the exam directly only if you have 2 years of experience in the Cyber Security domain, which needs to be certified through experience letters.
If you’re looking for an affordable option to clear this certification, then look no further than Intellipaat’s Ethical Hacking course. Intellipaat has partnered up with the EC-Council to provide you with the accredited training required to appear for and clear the CEH exam. Once you attain this certification, with proper qualifications, you can freely apply for jobs in the Cybersecurity domain that require you to be a Certified Ethical Hacker.
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