Data breaches compromised 158 million social security numbers in the last one year. Furthermore, one or the other illicit act of hacking terrorizes business and consumers alike. Wondering how hacking can ever be ethical then? The following sections shall tell you what is ethical hacking and provide you with a basic insight into the world of LEGIT ethical hackers.
What is Hacking?
Hacking has been a branch of computing for almost five decades. It is a very broad discipline that covers a wide range of topics. The first known event of hacking took place in 1960 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA. Consequently, it led to the origin of the term “hacker”.
Hacking is the act of identifying the possible entry points in a computer system or a computer network and finally entering into them. It is usually done to gain unauthorized access to a computer system/network to either cause harm or steal sensitive information.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Yes, hacking can be LEGAL.
BUT, as long as it’s purpose is to identify the vulnerabilities in a computer/network system as a part of penetration testing. This is what Ethical Hacking is all about.
So what is ethical hacking exactly? And what is the work of ethical hackers?
Also called “penetration testing”, it is the act of breaking into a system or network to identify its possible threats and vulnerabilities. Finally, it involves assessing the loopholes that a malicious hacker could exploit to execute data theft, financial heist, cyberwarfare or other major damages.
Ethical hackers use the same tools and methods as malicious hackers to break into a network or system.
The ONLY difference?
Ethical hackers have the authorization to execute hacking for penetration testing.
Ethical Hackers – The ‘Good’ Hackers
Criminal hacking never fails to make headlines with its potential to wreak havoc on a global scale. It can bring the most powerful of the nations down to their knees.
Consider the Yahoo Data Breach, for instance.
The Yahoo Data Breach compromised the email ID, name, phone number, and passwords of nearly 3 billion users!
With growing instances and concerns of cyber attacks, the need for professional ethical hackers who can conduct penetration testing and protect networks/ systems is on the rise.
The Emergence of Ethical Hackers
The 1970’s saw ethical hacking and ethical hackers coming into the limelight for the first time. This was when the US Government formed ‘red teams’ to test their network vulnerabilities by hacking into their own systems.
Yes, there are bad guys out there are launching devastating cyber attacks in the form of malware, viruses, DDoS, and spams. In contrast, another fraternity of hackers possessing the same set of skills is standing guard to protect against such attacks. These are ethical hackers.
A Brief History of Ethical Hacking
6th Century – Origin of practiced gamesmanship involving point and counter-point combats through board games
1475 – Chess gains popularity as a strategy-based game
1812 – A wargame ‘Kriegsspiel’ developed to help Prussian Army prepare for battles
1889 – Adoption of war gaming as a training tool by the US Navy
1964 – Formation of a group of technical specialists called ‘Tiger Teams’
1974 – One of the 1st ethical hacks conducted by the US Air Force
1984 – US Navy Commander, Richard Marcinko, leads Navy Seals who tested the naval bases’ susceptibility to terrorism
1985 – 1st issue of Phrack published, an e-zine written by and for hackers
1995 – ‘Ethical Hacking’ was coined by IBM’s John Patrick
2003 – The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Testing Guide containing penetration testing practices released
2013 – Worldwide expenses on enterprise security touches $6.4 billion
The Evolution of Ethical Hacking
In the wake of the 2001 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, New York, the EC Council mulled ethical hacking. The purpose was to leverage ethical hacking as a means to defend computer systems and networks from malicious attacks. It then received mixed responses and was ultimately rejected by the people and media.
With time, ethical hacking and the fraternity of ethical hackers gained more acceptance and popularity. Apart from penetration testing, there are other responsibilities imparted to ethical hackers. They impersonate a malicious hacker and identify a network’s vulnerabilities so that one may deploy adequate cyber security measures.
How Ethical Hacking is Different from Traditional Hacking?
Ethical hackers and hackers possess the same skills and knowledge of hacking tools and methods. While malicious hackers have unscrupulous intent behind hacking, ethical hackers purposely break into networks/systems to analyze its security vulnerabilities. They employ hacking to conduct penetration testing so as to protect enterprises from catastrophic financial or data loss.
Some ethical hackers engage in ethical hacking for the adrenaline rush and the satisfaction that it brings to them. Whilst, some others come with specialized IT expertise with an emphasis on digital and cyber security. On the other hand, traditional hackers pursue hacking illegally for fun, financial gains or sometimes to seek revenge.
Strategies Used by Ethical Hackers for Penetration Testing
- Port scanning tools such as Nmap or Nessus are often used by ethical hackers to scan systems and identify open ports. This enables them to map the vulnerabilities of the ports and deploy remedial actions.
- Inspection of patch installations to ensure that they are not broken or exploited.
- Ethical hackers often use Social Engineering to gain access to crucial information or coerce employees to share their passwords. This can include techniques such as shoulder surfing or dumpster diving.
- Attempts to escape IPS (Intrusion Prevention systems), IDS (Intrusion Detection systems), firewalls, and honey pots.
- Hijacking web servers and applications, bypassing and cracking wireless encryption, and sniffing networks.
The Ethical Hackers Code of Conduct
The following are the rules that an ethical hacker needs to follow. It is only then that it is ethical and legal to carry out the hacking.
- Articulated (often written) authorization or permission to probe the network and effort to identify potential security risks
- Regard for the individual’s or company’s privacy
- Closing up of efforts, not leaving anything exposed for them or someone else to take advantage of at a later time
- Apprise software developers or hardware manufacturers of any additional security vulnerability found in the system or network.
Benefits of Ethical Hacking
Most of the profits of ethical hacking are obvious, but one tends to overlook various others. The profits range from simply preventing malicious hacking to preventing national security breaches. The benefits include:
- Protection against terrorism and national security breaches
- Deploying defensive measures to avoid cyber security breaches
- Penetration testing to identify security vulnerabilities
- Understanding the hackers’ modus operandi or technique
- Creating adequate preparedness for a cyber attack
Limitations of Ethical Hacking
As with all types of events or procedures, ethical hacking also has its darker side. The probable drawbacks of ethical hacking include:
- The ethical hacker may turn unscrupulous and use the information they gain to execute malicious hacking activities.
- Since a hacker has access to a company or individual’s financial and business-critical data, he/she can misuse it in the worst case scenarios.
- There is always a risk that the ethical hacker may send and/or place malicious code, viruses, malware and other destructive things on a computer system.
Though the above risks are not universal, enterprises or individuals should take these into consideration before availing the services of an ethical hacker.
ARDC – In the League of Creating Exemplary Cyber Security Professionals
The Center for Advanced Research in Digital Forensics and Cyber Security (ARDC) envisions to conduct niche research in Cyber and Digital Forensics. It boasts of a state-of-the-art Digital and Cyber Forensics Lab equipped with the latest digital forensics tools and technologies.
ARDC Provides Ethical Hacking Training in Bangalore
The EC-Council has authorized ARDC to provide ethical hacking training in Bangalore. It offers the coveted Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification accredited by the EC-Council.
This ethical hacking training in Bangalore provides learners with a hands-on experience in advanced hacking techniques and tools. Above all, learners are taught to leverage these techniques ethically break into network and systems, and assess its security vulnerabilities. ARDC’s ethical hacking training in Bangalore offers aspirants an opportunity to work with the government or private organizations to assess their networks for loopholes, bugs, and vulnerabilities.