Introduction 

Ethical Hacker, also known as a White Hat Hacker or a Penetration Tester is a term used for specialized computer programmers, who break into computer systems or businesses legally, with the motive of finding bugs, security threats, and vulnerabilities.   

With the ever-increasing popularity of the internet and e-commerce, cyber-crime is expected to cost the world $6 trillion by 2021. Computer systems and businesses are forever in the threat of hacking and data breaches. The ethical hacker is therefore hired by organizations with the aim of investigating their computer systems and networks for weaknesses to withstand attacks in a better way. 

  1. Who is an Ethical Hacker?
  2. Career
  3. Tools
  4. Hacker vs. Ethical Hacker
  5. Role
  6. Responsibility

1) Who is an Ethical Hacker? 

It is essential to understand what is ethical hacking to find out who is an ethical hacker. Organizations these days are using hacking as a precautionary measure, to identify bugs and expose chinks in their computer systems, to best protect their systems from cyber-attacks. They hire highly trained professionals and legally allow them to break into their systems, to find vulnerabilities within. This process of breaking into systems legally in order to safeguard them is called ethical hacking. 

Ethical hacker meaning: An ethical hacker is a highly specialized computer programmer with in-depth knowledge of programming, scripting, and networking skills. The person should also have a keen understanding of databases, expertise in working in multiple platforms or operating systems, and the ability to work with different hacking tools at hand.  

2) Career  

A career in ethical hacking is quite lucrative, especially in today’s world where one business falls victim to ransomware every 11 seconds. Cybercrime and data breaches are a threat that companies and even governments face on a regular basis, sometimes even putting their reputations at stake. That’s the reason ethical hackers have become such a vital part of businesses and the career is in-demand and much sought after by techies. 

International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) offers Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification, where a candidate has to apply techniques and use penetration testing tools in a virtual environment to compromise simulated systems. Like all other IT jobs, an ethical hacker needs soft skills in addition to technical know-how. Exceptional problem-solving skills, great communication skills and strong work ethics with keen motivation and dedication to complete the task are also essential.  

3) Tools  

Various ethical hacker tools are used by white hats to gather information, breaking passwords, creating backdoors and payloads, and an array of other such activities. With automation taking a front role in all realms, the ethical hacker definition has also taken up a new meaning. Several tools to pace up ethical hacking are hitting the market every year. Some widely used tools used by the best ethical hackers in the world are: 

  • Nmap (Network Mapper)  
  • Acunetix 
  • Metasploit 
  • Nessus 
  • Nikto 
  • Kismet 
  • NetStumbler 
  • Wireshark  
  • Canvas 
  • SQLninja 

All these tools go a long way in armoring an ethical hacker in the pursuit to safeguard companies by identifying possible shortcomings in internet security and prevent data breaches. 

4) Hacker vs Ethical Hacker 

The term hacker was coined in the 1960s, when computer system security was breached for the first time in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. Since then, the term has evolved and expanded widely in its scope. Hacking is basically breaking into a computer or computer system by finding its vulnerabilities, with malicious intent.  Hacking is illegal and the consequences of getting caught are severe.  

A skilled programmer who indulges in the hacking process to gain unauthorized access into computer systems by exploiting weaknesses or using bugs, motivated either by malice or mischief, is called a Hacker. Hackers are primarily of two types: Black hat hackers (with malicious intent) and White hat hackers (prevent black hat hackers from taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the system). 

The differences between a hacker vs ethical hacker are minute but vast. Although both seek out to break the system but the intention of doing so is what makes them poles apart. 

Hacker/ Black Hat Hacker  Ethical Hacker/ White Hat Hacker 
Violates computer security for personal or monetary gains or aided by maliciousness Use the same techniques used by hackers to fix discrepancies in the system 
Illegal Legitimate and legal 
Neither own the system they break into nor are hired by the system owners Employed by organizations to detect vulnerabilities in their system 

5) Role  

The role of an ethical hacker in any organization is of supreme importance. A good ethical hacker knows the importance of having a security system and adheres to all ethical guidelines while breaking into systems. The major roles played by ethical hackers in any business are: 

  • Must seek all due approvals before performing any security assessment on the company’s computer network. 
  • Run security checks in the system using various tools to check for weaknesses, malpractices, and discrepancies.  
  • Report any weaknesses or vulnerabilities found to the company’s management. 
  • The role of an ethical hacker is very confidential and any security breaches discovered must be kept confidential. 
  • Secure the system and make it stringent to not get affected by cyber-attacks. 
  • Erase all traces of the hack after finding loopholes and fixing them. This prevents hackers from breaking into the systems. 

6) Responsibility  

Ethical hacking is a very demanding and responsible profession. The sole onus of defending a corporate network lies on ethical hackers. The key responsibility of an ethical hacker lies in identifying vulnerability in a system network including: 

  • Injection attacks and other changes in security settings 
  • Exposure of sensitive data to malicious software or hackers 
  • Breach in authentication protocols of the system 

To partake in their duties effectively, they must have programming and scripting knowledge, strong networking skills, knowledge of search engines, services, multiple platforms/ operating systems, and expertise in the latest hacking tools.  

Conclusion  

If one has the prowess to understand computer systems, catching viruses and malware tickles their sensibilities, and breaking into networks is something of a pass time, then becoming a penetration tester aka ethical hacker should be the career of choice for them. 

It is the best way to pursue a hobby and turn it into a means of earning honest livelihood at the same time.  

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.

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