The term hacking has been around for a long time now. The terms ‘Hacking’ and ‘Hacker’ were coined in the 1960s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since then, hacking has evolved into a broadly followed discipline for the computing community. In this “What is Ethical Hacking” article, we are going to go through the fundamentals of Ethical Hacking!
To crack passwords or to steal data? No, it is much more than that. Ethical hacking is to scan vulnerabilities and to find potential threats on a computer or networks. An ethical hacker finds the weak points or loopholes in a computer, web applications or network and reports them to the organization.
Nowadays, the term routinely describes skilled programmers who gain unauthorized access into computer systems by exploiting weaknesses or using bugs, motivated either by malice or mischief. For example, a hacker can create algorithms to crack passwords, penetrate networks, or even disrupt network services.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Hacking is the process of finding vulnerabilities in a system and using these found vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access into the system to perform malicious activities ranging from deleting system files to stealing sensitive information. Hacking is illegal and can lead to extreme consequences if you are caught in the act. People have been sentenced to years of imprisonment because of hacking.
Ethical Hacking is an authorized practice of bypassing system security to identify potential data breaches and threats in a network. The company that owns the system or network allows Cyber Security experts to perform such activities in order to test the system’s defenses. Thus, unlike malicious hacking, this process is planned, approved, and more importantly, legal.
Ethical hackers aim to investigate the system or network for weak points that malicious hackers can exploit or destroy. They collect and analyze the information to figure out ways to strengthen the security of the system/network/applications. By doing so, they can improve the security footprint so that it can better withstand attacks or divert them.
So, let’s explore more about Ethical Hacking step-by-step.
These are various types of hackers:
(1) White Hat Hackers
(2) Black Hat Hackers
(3) Gray Hat Hackers
White Hat Hacker
It is another name for an Ethical Hacker. They hack into a system with prior permission to find out vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed before a person with malicious intent finds them.
Black Hat Hacker
They are also known as crackers, who hack in order to gain unauthorized access to a system & harm its operations or steal sensitive information. It’s always illegal because of its malicious intent which includes stealing corporate data, violating privacy, damaging the system etc.
Grey Hat Hacker
They are a blend of both black hat and white hat hackers. They mostly hack for fun and exploit a security weakness in a computer system or network without the owner’s permission or knowledge. Their intent is to bring the weakness to the attention of the owners & earning some bug bounty.
What are the different types of hacking?
Now that we have discussed the various types of Hackers, let’s go over the different types of hacking. We can segregate hacking into different types depending on what the hacker is trying to achieve.
Hacking a website means taking unauthorized control over a web server and its associated software such as databases and other interfaces.
This includes gaining unauthorized access to an Email account and using it without taking the consent of its owner for sending out spam links, third-party threats, and other such harmful activities.
This is the process of stealing computer ID and password by applying hacking methods and getting unauthorized access to a computer system.
Hacking a network means gathering information about a network by using tools like Telnet, NS lookup, Ping, Tracert, Netstat, etc. with the intent to harm the network system and hamper its operation.
Phases of Ethical Hacking
Following phases are not strict rules, but more like a guideline to be followed.
Reconnaissance is the process of information gathering. In this phase, the hacker gathers relevant information regarding the target system. These include detecting services, operating systems, packet-hops to reach the system, IP configuration etc. Various tools like Nmap, Hping, Google Dorks etc are used for reconnaissance purposes
In the scanning phase, the hacker begins to actively probe the target machine or network for vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Tools like Nessus, Nexpose, and NMAP are widely used by hackers in this process.
In this phase, the vulnerability located during scanning is exploited using various methods and the hacker tries to enter the target system without raising any alarms. The primary tool that is used in this process is Metasploit.
This is one of the most integral phases. In this phase, the hacker installs various backdoors and payloads onto the target system. Just in case you don’t know, Payload is a term used for activities performed on a system after gaining unauthorized access. Backdoors help the hacker gaining quicker access onto the target system in the future.
This process is an unethical activity. It has to do with the deletion of logs of all the activities that take place during the hacking process. Nonetheless, Ethical Hackers still have to perform this phase to demonstrate how a Black Hat Hacker would go about his activities.
Reporting is the last step of finishing the ethical hacking process. Here the Ethical Hacker compiles a report with his findings and the job that was done such as the tools used, the success rate, vulnerabilities found, and the exploit processes.
Roles and Responsibilities of an Ethical Hacker
Ethical Hackers must follow certain guidelines in order to perform hacking legally. A good hacker knows his or her responsibility and adheres to all of the ethical guidelines. Here are the most important rules of Ethical Hacking:
- An ethical hacker must seek authorization from the organization that owns the system. Hackers should obtain complete approval before performing any security assessment on the system or network.
- Determine the scope of their assessment and make known their plan to the organization.
- Report any security breaches and vulnerabilities found in the system or network.
- Keep their discoveries confidential. As their purpose is to secure the system or network, ethical hackers should agree to and respect their non-disclosure agreement.
- Erase all traces of the hack after checking the system for any vulnerability. It prevents malicious hackers from entering the system through the identified loopholes.
Skills Required to Become an Ethical Hacker
An ethical hacker should have in-depth knowledge about all the systems, networks, program codes, security measures, etc. to perform hacking efficiently. Some of these skills include:
- Knowledge of programming – It is required for security professionals working in the field of application security and Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
- Scripting knowledge – This is required for professionals dealing with network-based attacks and host-based attacks.
- Networking skills – This skill is important because threats mostly originate from networks. You should know about all of the devices present in the network, how they are connected, and how to identify if they are compromised.
- Understanding of databases – Attacks are mostly targeted at databases. Knowledge of database management systems such as SQL will help you to effectively inspect operations carried out in databases.
- Knowledge of multiple platforms like Windows, Linux, Unix, etc.
- The ability to work with different hacking tools available in the market.
- Knowledge of search engines and servers.
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