The job outlook for IT security is expected to grow by 32% from 2018 to 2028. The reason behind this rise is the growing frequency of cyber threats and security incidents. To deal with these incidents, we need a strong line of defense, that includes Ethical Hackers.
Who can forget 2019’s Capital One hack? One of the biggest financial institution-oriented hacks in history that affected 106 million users. Then there was Ecuador’s data breach, which exposed the personal details of more than 20 million citizens. Another such incident includes the wave of ransomware attacks against the 23 local government entities in the state of Texas. These serial attacks costed a minimum of $12 million even after the state refused to pay the ransom.
These attacks highlight the importance of hiring cybersecurity professionals. Of which, one of the most in-demand positions is of ethical hackers – security professionals who can penetrate the security infrastructure of an organization to identify existing and potential vulnerabilities and build preventive strategies to stop threat actors from taking advantage of the situation. In this digital age, data is a valuable asset that every individual, as well as organizations, should be looking out to secure. And that’s when ethical hackers step in to fortify the defense system of an organization.
What is ethical hacking? Its scope in 2020
Ethical hacking is a process of penetrating systems or networks to spot any weaknesses that could be exploited by threat actors. The primary objective of ethical hacking is to improve the security stance of an organization. Under this process, ethical hackers rely on the same methodologies and tools used by the malicious actors, eventually reporting all their findings to the management.
The entire 2019 was flooded with incidents targeting data security of numerous organizations, regardless of their business scale. The situation doesn’t seem to improve anytime sooner and so, does the demand for ethical hackers, appearing as one of the 2020s predicted trends.
According to PayScale, the average salary of a Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) is $91,000 (for the US region).
|“We need Ethical Hackers more today than ever before,” Jay Bavisi, President of EC-Council Group.|
How to get paid for breaking into computers?
To become an ethical hacker, you need to gain sound technical skills, such as programming, computer networking, as well as penetration testing skills. From self-study (iLearn) to live online (iWeek), or in-person, there is no shortage of training modes for learning ethical hacking. These options suit different personal choices, depending upon the learning method one prefers.
The Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) is a highly acclaimed program that offers all the mentioned training modes for aspiring ethical hackers. It is dedicated to imparting industry-required knowledge and ethical hacking skills. It is designed by the best minds of the industry, targeting site administrators, staff, dealing with network infrastructure, and other security professionals. The program leaves no stone unturned to transform its attendees into a professional, ethical hacker with the desired hands-on experience. It comes with real-time lab sessions that help in acquiring practically applicable skills.
What do ethical hackers do?
As an ethical hacker, your responsibilities would be to –
- Use different methodologies to penetrate the security system for identifying potential vulnerabilities or flaws that can be exploited.
- Recommend better ways to improve the existing security posture.
- Co-operate with developers or other security professionals to advise on security needs and requirements.
- Train the staff against different malicious cyber traps.
The first two responsibilities – identifying the vulnerabilities and improving the security system consumes the major part of an ethical hacker’s life. In order to achieve them, you will go through different stages, which are –
1. Scope and objective setting
Every ethical hacker needs to set the scope and target. There are a few questions that should be answered beforehand –
- Which computer assets fall under the scope of the test?
- Are there any specific computer over the network, or a service, an application, or certain OS platforms?
- Which vulnerability scanning is involved in the test? Automated or manual or both
- What methods can be included in the test? (Social engineering methods, or any other)
- Will it be a whitebox or blackbox?
Other technical questions cover –
- Is the process limited to gaining privileged access to a computer or data?
- What details to be documented?
It is recommended to document the scope and goal in detail before moving on to further steps.
2. Study the target: Discovery
After the scope and objective setting, ethical hackers study the target, noting all the important details. This information includes IP addresses, OS platforms, patch levels, application programs, or any other data that can lead to asset penetration.
3. Exploit the target
Use the data you gathered during the previous phase to exploit the existing system vulnerabilities. The discovery phase imparts enough information that could help you to gain access to your target system. Depending upon the vulnerability and extent of the exploit, you can turn general user access into privileged user access. Also, as per in scope, the flaw can be identified by either automated or manual approach. After this, work towards achieving your pre-defined goals if you have gained privileged access to the targeted system. Otherwise, try getting closer to your actual target, generally recognized as “lateral” movement, an activity of hopping from one host to another internally.
4. Document the process
The last stage includes writing a detailed report on all your findings and outcomes. It would be useful for the management board and security team in the future.
How do you become an ethical hacker?
A professional with permission from the right people can penetrate the system, and it will be considered as an ethical step. An ethical hacker abides by the law and follows a code of ethics. Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) is a highly acclaimed training program that offers the best public code of ethics. It helps you learn all the stages as mentioned above of ethical hacking, covered under more than 140 real-time labs.