We often hear the word Hacker in terms of a bad actor that breaks/breaches into your system or network and tries to compromise important data by stealing it with the purpose of exploiting and damaging an organization’s or an individual’s reputation and assets. This of course is the bad side of the term “Hacking” but it depends on the hacker whether he uses it for bad purposes i.e exploiting vulnerabilities to damage one’s reputation and assets, or for good i.e assessing the infrastructure for security loopholes and suggesting appropriate remediation steps. Let us dive into what is Ethical Hacking, what does an Ethical Hacker do and why does an organization need one.
What is Ethical Hacking?
An ethical hacker exploits vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the IT infrastructure ethically. By ethically we mean taking permission/consent from the organization or individual in order to exploit vulnerabilities keeping in mind the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) of the company. Vulnerabilities are exploited and countermeasures are suggested to the organization so that proper mitigation techniques can be applied in order to protect the organization’s assets, services, or reputation. The process of authorized bypassing of the IT infrastructure which includes but is not limited to LAN, WAN, Wireless network, Cloud network, mobile and web applications, Database management systems, Active directory, Endpoints, security controls, etc in order to assess the overall security posture of the company is known as “Ethical Hacking”. The process involves different hacking techniques such as Man in the middle attacks, DOS, DDOS, exploitation of weak encryption algorithms, outdated application versions, phishing attacks, Advanced Persistent Threats in order to bypass security parameters and exploit vulnerabilities in the system, network, or application in the same way as a threat actor would exploit.
There is a famous saying “To beat a hacker you have to think like one “
An Ethical hacker posses all the skills and mindset that keeps him one step ahead of the adversary or a hacker. That means they will find vulnerabilities and provide necessary countermeasures before some other threat actor tries to exploit them
The Five Phases of Hacking
There is a systematic process through which a Hacker can achieve his objective more effectively and efficiently. Following are the 5 Phases of Ethical Hacking
- Reconnaissance: The reconnaissance phase also known as information gathering or footprinting. This is the initial and most important step in hacking. In this, we try to gather as much information as possible about the target. We usually gather information regarding the host, network, and the people involved in our target.
- Scanning: Scanning involves multiple aspects such as port scanning, scanning for vulnerabilities on the target usually done using automated tools or network mapping such as connectivity of hosts in a network, topology diagram creation with the help of available information.
- Gaining Access: In this phase, the hacker breaks into the system by exploiting any vulnerability found in the previous phase. The hacker will then try to elevate his privileges to an administrator so that he can install malicious software either pivot into other systems on the network or change any configuration he might need to steal or hide data depending on the motive of the hacker.
- Maintaining Access: Once the hacker has gained access he might need to persist his existence on the system or network in order to carry out any malicious activities until he has achieved the desired objective. This is achieved by installing rootkits, backdoors, trojans, or other malicious files.
- Clearing Tracks: When the hacker has achieved his desired intent, he then tries to erase the digital footprint he might have left during any malicious activity. This is necessary so that upon investigation the tracks do not lead to him. The process involves clearing system, application, audit, and security logs, changing registry files, or uninstalling malicious programs involved during hacking.
Types of Hackers
So now that we know what is an Ethical hacker and how does it operates, it’s time we categorize the type of hackers. This categorization is based on the motives and aims of the type of hacker. Although hackers can be categorized into many types we are going to discuss some of the types here.
Black Hat Hacker: Black Hat hackers are the bad guys who hack for personal , financial or political gains.They are highly skilled individuals having sound knowledge about computers programs and exploitation techniques based on different infrastructures.These hackers have a tendency to bypass complex security solutions and controls.
White Hat Hacker a.k.a Ethical Hackers: White Hat hackers also referred to as the good guys because they know how black hats operate and have the necessary skill sets to identify, prevent hacks and deploy countermeasures against critical vulnerabilities that cause serious damage to the organization’s assets, services, and reputation.
Grey Hat hacker: These types of hackers do violate ethical standards and rules but they do not have malicious intent. Grey hat hackers break into a system without the user’s or organization’s permission and may sometimes report to the organization by charging a small fee.
Red Hat Hacker : Red Hat Hackers actually chase the black hats by shutting them down so that they may not cause further damage to an organization. They use the same tools and techniques that the black hats use
Why Do I Need An Ethical Hacker?
Whether you are a small, mid-sized or large business there is always a chance of getting breached by a threat actor or hacker as almost all businesses use some kind of IT infrastructure in order to provide services to the customers be it small or on large scale. IT infrastructure includes computers, Laptops, Servers, Printers, Switches, Wireless routers, etc. These all are at high risk of getting breached at some point in time by hackers or adversaries. The attacks and breaches are becoming more advanced and powerful as technology is evolving. Following are some of the most common cyber-attacks that most organizations face
- DDOS Attacks
- Man In The Middle Attacks
- Data leakage
- Insider Threats
So considering the above facts an Ethical hacker is a must for organizations who want to protect their business from attacks and breaches in order to maintain a reputation in the market. Hiring an ethical hacker for your business will ensure acceptable levels of risk associated with breaches and attacks. Here is how an ethical hacker will help protect your business. An ethical hacker will use different tools and techniques such as running scans for open or unused ports. Identifying vulnerabilities in operating systems, system configurations, software versions, services, etc. He will sometimes perform a penetration test that lies under ethical hacking and aims to penetrate a particular network or system for the identification of security loopholes. After a security flaw or vulnerability has been discovered he will suggest countermeasures and remediation steps for it.
Hiring an Ethical Hacker
The hiring of an Ethical Hacker for any business is very important. An Ethical hacker with the right mindset and approach will serve as a great defender for your organization. The Ethical Hacker should have strong technical knowledge which includes knowledge and is not limited to the latest security trends, advanced persistent threats, complex attack scenarios, the risks associated with different security breaches, information security management frameworks, and standards. He should be well versed with reverse engineering techniques, scripting, identification of vulnerabilities, exploiting them in order to propose countermeasures before an adversary takes advantage and breaches the perimeter. Security certifications prove the ability of an ethical hacker to deal with complex scenarios. Certifications such as CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker), LPT (Licensed Penetration Tester), OSCP(Offensive Security Certified Professional), and GPEN(GIAC Penetration Tester) are the most demanded and prestigious security certifications across the globe.
So if you are a business owner and constantly increasing your business by launching new products or services, upgrading your infrastructure, or getting ready to meet compliance requirements then we suggest you opt for VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing ) services multiple times in a year. This is a very strenuous task and requires a lot of critical thinking and resources. It may seem like overkill, but you’ll thank us! Hiring an ethical hacker can end up saving you a great deal of pain, time, and money from an actual hacker attack. If you have questions on hiring an ethical hacker or would like to move forward with Vulnerability assessment and/or Penetration testing, then CyberBatman can take care of your organization’s security posture and will ensure that your business remains protected against evolving and advanced security threats. Avoid your company being the next target of Cyber Criminals, Contact CyberBatman