We all know (and fear) hackers. Sure, a lot of “hackers” are kids on Xbox that say they’re hackers only because they found out how to extract someone’s IP address, but actual, skilled hackers exist, and the damage they’re capable of is… limitless.
However, not every hacker aims to spread chaos and break the law. On the contrary, some hackers use their technical skills for the good, testing security systems, theorizing a cybercriminal’s hacking ability, and helping security officials gain awareness about potential threats.
In the cybersecurity sector, this is called ethical hacking. Yes, ethical hacking does exist, but what are the specifics involved in ethical hacking? What makes certain hacks ethical? Who are the people behind these hacks? Allow me to explain!
What is Ethical Hacking
Ethical hacking takes place when an employee or hired contractor hacks into systems, devices, and other areas in order to test security and loopholes. For example, Microsoft has ethical hackers in their company in order to test any security flaws that may be present in Windows and subsequent updates. If you’re using any form of software from a major company, chances are it’s been hacked over and over before release by an “ethical” hacker.
By the way, if you’re wondering what these ethical hackers are called, they go by white-hats (a reference to malicious hackers, who are known as black-hats).
But how do ethical hackers test security? Is there a certain process that white-hats go through in order to safely test security in software and hardware?
How do Ethical Hacks Work?
White-hats go through multiple stages when it comes to hacking certain, organization-approved software and hardware. According to eccouncil.com, the stages are as follows:
- Planning & Reconnaissance
- Gaining Access
- Maintaining Access
- Analysis and WAF Configuration
Yes, while TV shows like to make hacking look quick and easy, they couldn’t be farther from the truth. White-hat hackers spend days planning their hacks, executing them, and then taking notes upon notes. And if you’re curious: no, malicious hacking is no different.
Every technology sector has it’s fair share of white-hat hackers, and that’s because they’re invaluable to the industry; if a hacker can tell you ways other hackers can get in before you release the product to the general public, then you take that offer.
Sure, you could use security software to protect yourself as the consumer, but simply downloading a VPN isn’t enough to protect yourself from backdoors in an operating system introduced in the latest update. That’s what ethical hacking is for.
But one question remains: where do companies get their “white-hats”?
How Companies Find White-Hat Hackers
Companies risk a lot hiring a hacker to penetrate their systems; after all, a stranger will be given access to systems that provide the business with the information they need to run.
This is why becoming a white-hat hacker can be a difficult task, but far from impossible. Businesses find white-hat hackers by going through thorough background checks, and requirements often include a higher education in cybersecurity and/or computer science and prior experience.
However, there’s more to it than a degree and prior experience. Just like everything else in the tech industry, such an important position requires certificates in certain areas, such as network security, that show you not only know what’s happening when you hack into a system, but that you also know what you’re doing.
White-hats are everywhere, and their job at ethical hacking keeps us safe, and we don’t even know it!
When we hear the word “hacking”, we think of a cybercriminal in a hoodie, sitting down at his laptop, typing fast and hoping to find his next victim. However, not all hackers aim to spread malice; some hackers want to help.
White-hat hackers are, ironically, sort of like the I.T. department of the cybersecurity world: when everything is fine, you won’t even notice their existence, but when something goes wrong? Blame points to them.