How Ethical Hacking Helps In Data Protection

March 13, 2019 by Shigraf Aijaz

With my vast experience as a security journalist, my career has mainly been based on cyber-security. Recently  I have sadly noticed that the bars of cyber attacks are raised high.

Throughout the world, the amounts of cyber attacks are increasing which is a somewhat alarming situation. One solution to these attacks is ethical hacking.

Now I know it may come out as a surprise to you that I am offering to hack as a form of solution to cyber crimes. But honestly, it’s a key solution!

Ethical hackers are what Batman was to Gotham!

Throughout my work, I have often come across people perceiving “hacking” as generally negative.

People have generalized the term as something closely related to illegal access within a system or intrusion into a system. Now, this may be partially true as hacking also has a good cop and bad cop analogy!

First of there, comes the malicious hacking or black hat hacking. This hacking is what we refer to as the bad cop. And then there is the good cop that is the ethical hacking or the white hat hacking.

An ethical hacker is what Chris Hemsworth became in the movie black hat!

I am sure you all must be wondering “hacking?  Good activity?” well let me clear the air for you.

What Is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking also is known as “penetration tests,” “intrusion tests” or “red team testing” is permissible hacking into a system by computer experts. These experts can be known as “white knights” to the cyber-security world due to the role they perform.

Ethical hacking plays a vital role in cyber-security. Often time ethical hackers are hired by companies to run tests to check out the security system. They detect and exploit the weaknesses found in the security systems of the said companies.

Typically an ethical hacker and a malicious hacker work in the same way — both work on finding and exploiting the vulnerabilities of a security system. However, ethical hackers perform legal hacking.

As an ethical hacker a person has to stick to the following rules religiously:

  • Permission to inspect and probe a network or a system to identify its vulnerabilities.
  • Respect the company or the individual you are working for privacy.
  • Make sure to not leave the work out in the open and to finish up properly so that no one gets the chance to exploit your client.
  • Inform the client of the weaknesses found in the network and work on sorting them out.

There is much argument, whether ethical hackers exist or not. Most people argue that hacker is a hacker no matter what and is someone that is a danger to cyber-security. However, there is a vast difference between a hacker and an unethical hacker.

How Ethical hacking and data protection!

You all must be aware of the analogy “if you have to stay safe from a criminal then think like a criminal.” Ethical hacking is like the real version of this analogy.

Companies when realized that the old school tricks are no longer working in cyber-security or data protection. This was when the experts came up with ethical hacking.

By now you must be aware of what ethical hacking is. As previously mentioned ethical hackers find flaws in the security systems of companies. They are hackers just working on the right side.

Ethical hackers play a crucial role in data protection. They find flaws in a system that may be exploited by a malicious hacker.  Then they work on those weaknesses and provide solutions for them.

A company hires an ethical hacker to fulfill various tasks. It may require the technologist to do IT checks, and penetration tests to ensure that the data within the company is secure.

Apart from this ethical hackers are also hired by the companies to do background checks in employees to ensure that there are no bugs within the systems.

Also, they may work on finding information on their client’s rival companies so that their client’s business can go up. They can crack passwords, find sensitive details and anything else their client asks them to do

Primarily an ethical hacker works just like a malicious hacker, only that his activities are legal.

Difference between a malicious hacker or ethical hacker? 

The core separating line between an ethical hacker and a malicious is permission! Now let’s shine some light over it.

Malicious hackers

  • They are illegal hackers as portrayed in movies, and T.V shows
  • Mainly hack into systems to exploit and manipulate data, for information theft and to spread malware
  • They gain money by organizing cyber attacks and selling the stolen data.
  • Have the ability to cause harm to the government and are known as criminals
  • Their primary motive is either money or political interest.

Ethical hacker

  • As opposed to malicious hackers they are legal hackers.
  • Primarily do the same work as malicious hackers, but they do so with the consent
  • They go ahead with successful but harmless penetration into a security system.
  • The government and various other companies hire them to find flaws in the security system and strengthen it.
  • They are hired after a thorough background check, and they work under specific rules given to them by their clients.

Apart from the malicious hackers (black hat), and the ethical hackers (white hat)- there is also another type of hackers working about. They are called grey hat hackers.

Grey hat hackers

  • They are neither legal nor illegal.
  • Their work is mainly for the means of protecting society.
  • Mainly hack into systems and networks to find and expose flaws.
  • They don’t take advantage of the loopholes within a system; they present them for the company’s benefits.

Guidelines an ethical hacker has to follow

As aforementioned, ethical hacking is a legal act. The consent of the client allows it. Once a company or a government hires an ethical hacker, they give him a set of rules or guidelines that he has to follow.

An ethical hacker works through six distinct phases. These phases are necessary steps that the expert follows to complete his job.  Those phases are as follows:

Reconnaissance

This is the initiating step. It is the information compiling phase in which the hacker collects all sorts of information that he deems necessary to fulfill the task. The information is gathered regarding the target that he has to work on.

This information consists of packet hops to reach the system, IP configuration, operating systems, detecting services, etc. This work requires tools like Google Dorks, Nmap, Hping, etc.

Scanning

As the name depicts, in this phase the hacker starts scanning or scrutinizing the target. This is done to find flaws or vulnerabilities within the target network or system and exploit them.

Typically tools like Nexpose, Nessus and NMAP are used for this task.

Gaining access

This is a crucial action step. Here the technologist works to exploit the weaknesses he came across while scanning. Using those weaknesses, he tries to access the target network or system without raising any alarms. Metasploit is the most commonly used tool for this step.

Maintaining access

This step is again very crucial. By this step, the hacker has entered into the target system. He now installs various payloads and backdoor.

Now for those of you who don’t know payloads is a name given to the activities performed by the hacker after entering into a system. As for backdoor, the hacker installs them to gain quick access into the system afterward.

Clearing tracks

Even though this step is considered unethical, but the hacker goes through. This is because he has to demonstrate the activities of a malicious hacker.  In this step, the technologist clears out all the logs of actions he did while hacking.

Reporting

This is the ending step of the ethical hacking process. Here the technologist compiles a report of all the work he did and his findings. In it, he includes all the tools he used, the rate of success, the process of exploitation and the weaknesses he came across in the system.

Conclusion

By now I hope your confusion regarding an ethical and malicious hacker is all cleared up. During these times when the rate of cyber-crime is rapidly increasing, ethical hackers have become very treasured. Now more companies are looking forward to hiring an ethical hacker. This might be a good time to become one too!

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