Ethical hacking is an authorized process of attempting to gain unauthorized access over a defined network, computer, or data. It is performed by security experts called “white hats,” aimed to improve the security posture of an organization. An ethical hack can be defined as how perfectly one can copy malicious hacker’s actions and strategies. Ethical hackers identify vulnerabilities and suggest resolving before malicious attackers exploited them. They work proactively while pentesting the systems or networks on approval of the organization.
Protocols of ethical hacking:
- Staying legal is the foremost key to ethical hacking. The ethical hackers must take management’s approval before performing a security assessment.
- Approval defines the scope of ethical hacking. The scope of security assessment should be restricted to the pre-defined legal boundaries.
- By reporting vulnerabilities identified during the assessment, an ethical hacker suggests the remedies to resolve them.
- Guided by the ethical motive, data security is again one of the crucial tasks of ethical hackers. They should agree to the organization’s non-disclosure policy.
Types of problems that ethical hacking can address
Ethical hacking duplicates the black hat hacking technique to assess security vulnerabilities. Initially, ethical hackers performed reconnaissance to collect as much information as possible. The information is collected by performing automated and manual testing on the permitted area to attack. Once the vulnerabilities are identified, ethical hackers use exploits against them to explain the consequences.
The most common vulnerabilities that ethical hacking can discover are –
1. Broken authentication
It allows the user to bypass the authentication process on a web application. The attacker can perform automated attacks such as credential surfing. It is part of ethical hacking to test for broken authentication.
2. Security misconfigurations
This vulnerability is listed among the top vulnerabilities on OWASP. It is about the misconception that an organization has with regard to its security posture. The organization will be in a false notion of having a secure environment in the company. Whereas ethical hacking helps locate the security gaps that could lead to serious threats when identified by black hats.
3. Injection attacks
It is a broad attack vector where an attacker injects untrusted input into the application. This code or query gets processed by an interpreter which alters the execution of the program. The ethical hacker on penetrating the application coding can locate the weak corner that allows the attacker to inject the code.
4. Components with known vulnerabilities
These are often ignored by developers, and hence, they are exploited by malicious attackers. Automated tools can be used to identify vulnerable components to some extent. Whereas, few vulnerabilities take deeper intrusions to be found and removed.
5. Sensitive data exposure
It is again listed among the top 10 vulnerabilities of OWASP as it can put critical data at risk. The data may include contact numbers, passwords, credit card details, private health data, and many more. These details, when exposed, may result in a potential data breach.
After performing the penetration testing, ethical hackers list their findings and prepare a detailed report. The document explains the traced vulnerabilities and the process to mitigate them.
What skills and certifications should an ethical hacker have?
Ethical hackers play an important role in the refining of the security posture of an organization. They are subject matter experts with a wide range of computer skills. Briefly, the skills that a typical ethical hacker should have are –
- Proficiency in networking and operating systems
- Expertise in scripting languages
- Knowledge of information security
The most recognized ethical hacking certification: Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH)
C|EH is the most desired security certification that every information security professional seeks to have. It puts you in a hacker’s seat and enables you to think and act similar to that of a malicious attacker. By being in the shoes of an attacker, you could perform the test faster and defend the systems with efficacy. C|EH covers all the five phases of ethical hacking. They are – reconnaissance, gaining access, enumeration, maintaining access and covering your tracks. It is the world’s most advanced and comprehensive ethical hacking course. It has 20 of the most updated security domains and 340 latest methodologies.