What is ethical hacking?
Ethical hacking is a way of objectively analysing an organisation’s data security structure. A new league of IT professionals called white hat hackers or ethical hackers are emerging and gaining prominence. The job of an ethical hacker is to purposefully penetrate security systems to fix these weak points.
These professionals employ methods similar to that used by malicious hackers, but they are required to be a step or two ahead of their vicious counterparts. Ethical or white hat hackers may be employed by the government, banks, or private firms to prevent cyber crime. They hack the system with the permission from the client and present a maturity scorecard for the network that highlights their overall risk.
Penetration testing or pen testing is a way of evaluating Internet applications, networks and computer systems for the level of vulnerability. This test helps in gauging the network and giving it a real-world assessment.
Ethical hacking includes services like the following:
- Application Testing: Done to uncover flaws in the system at the very core or logical level
- Remote or war dialing: Used to test open-ended modem connections that remotely connect to a network
- Local network testing: Deals with testing of services, protocols, system devices and virtual private networks
- Wireless security: A method of measuring the level of security available in the framework as a whole
- System hardening: Done to strengthen the host and mend weaknesses
- Stolen laptop: Done using the PC of an important employee, this test examines for passwords and personal information stored in a dial-up software
- Social engineering: This type of hacking is very difficult to carry out as it involves people, personalities and employees.
The need for ethical hackers
Cyber crimes are becoming more common and attackers more sophisticated with rouge nation-states and terrorist organisations funding criminals to breech security networks either to extort hefty ransoms or compromise national security features.
Businesses are faced with the challenge of dealing with complex security requirements that need to be updated as per changing hacking tactics, handling hidden vulnerabilities and evolving technologies. Ethical hacking firms with specially trained professionals come to the rescue of businesses while ensuring effectiveness of service and confidentiality.
While many new businesses are better prepared in case of cyber attacks, traditional businesses still lack the proactive understanding of the need for ethical hacking. For example, in India, banks having faced the brunt many-a-times are hiring professional help to secure their networks. Still the investment infrastructure for banks against cybercrime is quite miniscule compared to that of banks in the US.
Hotels and other service wings of the industry seem to be lagging behind. Recently, many hotels in the country were being attacked by a malware called ‘darkhotel’ in an attempt to spy on or stalk corporate travellers and gain access through the hotel’s WIFI services.
With new worms, malware, ransomwares and viruses springing up everyday, there is a need to create more awareness among businesses and how ethical hacking can help them to safeguard their networks.
Ethical hacking as a career offers immense opportunities. A fresh certified ethical hacker could attract a salary anywhere between INR 3.5 and 4 lakh per year. Experienced professionals in this field such as security consultants, information security analysts, and ethical hacking experts can command salaries in the range of INR 9 to INR 20 lakh.