Ethical Hacking and Its Place in Cybersecurity

When we hear the word hacking, we automatically think of the negative—someone is trying to break into a network or system and compromise it. While this is often the case, there is a good side to hacking. It’s called ethical hacking, a very important part of a robust approach to cybersecurity.

Types of Hackers

Before we delve into what an ethical hacker is and what they do, let’s look at the different types of hackers. Not all hackers are created equal, and there are three different types to be aware of:

  • Black hat hackers – These are malicious hackers who intend to infiltrate your network or system for their own benefit or the benefit of a third party.
  • White hat hackers – Also known as ethical hackers, these hackers lawfully enter a system to detect vulnerabilities.
  • Grey hat hackers – These hackers enter a network or system without permission, but not for personal or third-party gain. Instead, they do it to see if they can or to find security vulnerabilities to inform the company, and sometimes the public, that they exist.

What Is Ethical Hacking?

Let’s look at ethical hacking in more detail. At its core, it is a subset of cybersecurity that is used to test a network, system, or application to determine how secure it really is. To do this, an ethical hacker is hired by a company to intentionally try to breach security. They will do this lawfully and with purpose with the intention of finding vulnerabilities and holes within the company’s defenses. Specifically, they will:

  • Identify weaknesses in the network and operating system.
  • Show how easily a cyberattack can be launched on the network.
  • Conduct security assessments.
  • Report on any vulnerabilities and provide recommendations on how to improve cybersecurity.
  • Inform the client how a genuine hack could cause harm to the company’s operations and users.

The ethical hacker should ensure that any weaknesses discovered are kept confidential and that they only communicate this information with the client. Finally, when finished, they must remove all traces of their presence in the company network and systems so they don’t leave any way for a malicious hacker to break in.

The Methods and Tools Used by Ethical Hackers

Ethical hackers must have a solid understanding of all essential operating systems, such as Windows and Linux. They must also have a deep knowledge of security related to the Cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), and applications.

To perform an ethical hack, the hacker will use one or more of the following methods:

The hacker also has a few tools to help them gather the information they need and test for vulnerabilities in a network or system. These include:

  • Network scanning and mapping tool – This tool uses a built-in scripting library to scan the network or system for open ports and other potential vulnerabilities. The most popular tool in use is Nmap.
  • Protocol analyzer – Analyzers such as Wireshark make it possible for ethical hackers to gather the required data without disrupting operations. This allows the hacker to check for cybersecurity weaknesses by allowing them to see the type of traffic/information that is sent and received while the network or system is online.
  • Security testing platform – Burp Suite and similar platforms test web security using any proxy server, intruder, and repeater modes, as well as a range of other tools. This allows the hacker to test for vulnerabilities while maintaining a high level of security against malicious attacks.

The Ethical Hacking Process

Ethical hacking follows a complex process designed to ensure its effectiveness at detecting cybersecurity vulnerabilities. This process is as follows:

  1. Reconnaissance – This is the process of gathering all relevant information from the company network and systems and all information related to the existing state of the company’s cybersecurity.
  2. Scanning – The information gathered during the reconnaissance phase is used to identify vulnerabilities.
  3. Obtaining access – The hack is performed on the network or system. Once access is gained, the hacker uses the information they gathered to make changes.
  4. Maintaining access – The hacker makes whatever changes they need to, using various methods, so they can re-enter the network or system whenever they wish.
  5. Avoiding detection – The ethical hacker will take steps to ensure that the existing security system cannot detect their presence.
  6. Reporting – Once the hack is completed, the hacker will draft a report of their findings, detailing any vulnerabilities and other issues they detected and recommendations for changes required to the cybersecurity system to prevent attacks in the future.

Contact Platinum Technologies today to find out how we can help you determine your cybersecurity vulnerabilities so you can strengthen your security and protect your organization.

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