The term ethical hacking is becoming more and more popular, it is a practice that many technology companies or those with a high level of digitization often resort to. Effective ethical hacking relies on knowledge of the system network, equipment, user interaction, policies, procedures, physical security, and company culture. From this conjecture one could define what ethical hacking is .
Protecting today’s systems and networks requires a broad understanding of attack strategies and a deep understanding of hacker tactics, tools, and motivations . The increasing use of social engineering attack methodologies demands that each tester be aware of the organization and the habits of its IT users (staff).
Sometimes internal personnel are chosen, responsible within the company for testing infrastructure vulnerabilities, but it is also complicated for smaller SMEs. For this reason, they may choose to resort to cybersecurity companies that offer an external consulting service but that allow them to be prepared for attacks by hackers with bad intentions. In some cases these consultants may turn to ethical hackers who can make sure to spot any security weaknesses.
WHAT IS ETHICAL HACKING AND ITS USES
Ethical hacking is defined through what the professionals dedicated to it do, that is, ethical hackers, who do not resort to these practices for criminal purposes, traditionally associated with these actions. These people are hired to hack into a system and identify and fix potential vulnerabilities, effectively preventing exploitation by malicious hackers. They are experts who specialize in the penetration testing of computer systems and software in order to assess, harden and improve security. We can say that they are in charge of implementing an ethical hack to test the security of the system.
This type of hacker or hacker type is often referred to as a ‘white hat’ hacker , in order to differentiate them from criminal hackers, who are known as ‘black hat’ hackers.
One of the most powerful weapons in the fight against cybercriminals has been hackers. Professionals with a deep understanding of how to penetrate the security of an online infrastructure commonly implement measures and firewalls to find vulnerabilities that those on the other side of the moral hacking spectrum would seek to exploit.
TYPES OF HACKERS
If it is necessary to explain what ethical hacking is, it is because there is another type of piracy that has caused its appearance. As you can imagine, not all types of hackers are ethical and there is a wide variety of cybercriminals who test the security measures of an IT infrastructure but with clear malicious purposes, generally stealing information but also sometimes for some type of scam or identity fraud.
Within the cybersecurity community , hackers are divided into three camps: ‘black hat’, ‘grey hat’, and ‘white hat’ hackers. This last type of hacker would be the ethical one, the one with the white hat.
Black hats hack their targets for selfish reasons, such as financial gain, revenge, or simply to wreak havoc. White hats seek precisely to protect computer infrastructures from that other type of hackers, the black hat.
White hat hackers aim to improve security, find holes in it, and notify the victim so they have a chance to fix them before a less scrupulous hacker exploits them.
Gray hats fall somewhere between the two camps, often carrying out slightly more morally questionable operations, such as hacking into groups they are ideologically opposed to, or launching hacktivist protests.
The way these professionals use to earn money also explains what ethical hacking is . Those who practice it are quite often employed by cybersecurity companies, or within the security departments of larger organizations. The fact that they know how attackers operate often gives them valuable insight into how to prevent attacks.
Another way ethical hackers can make a living is by collecting “bug bounties”. Big companies, particularly technology companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, offer a reward to researchers or hackers who discover security holes within their networks or services.
On the other hand, black hacker hackers generally make their money through theft, fraud, extortion, and other nefarious means.
IS ETHICAL HACKING LEGAL?
Most organizations believe that the act of authorizing an ethical hacker to test a company’s defenses is sufficient legal protection to justify both types of actions. First, the act of hiring an ethical hacker , and second, providing the necessary cover for questionable activities.
Obviously it depends on how far the hacker is willing to probe the systems. Or, worse, to go into gray hat mode , determined to get in there to prove that they can.
Social engineering is a technique used by hackers to trick people into leaving sensitive information. White hat hackers use it to help test a company’s defenses. After all, under real attack, a black hat hacker might as well do the same thing.
This often means that the ethical hacker ends up breaking into systems using someone else’s credentials, obtained using illicit methods. At this point the laws are being broken as they then have access to sensitive information. Whether it’s customer or employee information, the hacker and the company may be violating the various data protection laws in place.
A common technique for testing a company’s systems is to gain access through its business partners . Large corporate organizations often have strong security measures in place, so it’s natural to focus on the weakest elements of the supply chain, your suppliers or customers. They may be smaller companies with limited protections, but have privileged access to systems provided by the big company.
Thus, an ethical hacker can hack (in any way that makes sense) into a business partner’s systems and then be able to jump to the intended target through this privileged backdoor. Unless the business partner has been included in the scope of the penetration test, the ethical hacker has gone beyond the bounds of the law to achieve their goals.
BENEFITS OF ETHICAL HACKING FOR COMPANIES
Ethical hacking was born as a measure to combat hackers with bad intentions. Companies hire these professionals because they need to prove their security. By granting their permission, they effectively cover their corporate eyes and ears while these tests are taking place.
They must be able to recruit an ethical or white hat hacker who is trustworthy, as they will sometimes be able to access certain compromised information. Generally, these are experts in computer security or systems that try to maintain a pristine resume, since they usually work for private companies, with high salaries, according to the degree of responsibility they have.
In the end, the ethical hacker presents a well-polished report that points out weaknesses and associated recommendations. Along the way, it’s very likely that laws have been broken that the white hat pirate doesn’t know about (or care about). It is a subject doomed to generate controversy .