Hack 101: Understanding Ethical hacking
Well, we all know hacking is illegal. Whereas Ethical hacking is considered as a legit profession. Why is that? What is Ethical hacker?
Before we get into this, take a moment and try to remember all the thriller movies you have ever watched. Or if you can’t think of anything, then you can surely recall Mr. Robot (the TV series), in which Elliot is an ethical hacking .
All these scenes surely do generate a curiosity around Hacking, and is also one of the reasons why it is gaining popularity now a days.
We all surely know that hacking in real life is quite different than what we see on screen.
Let us try to understand what is Ethical Hacking and how is it different from Hacking.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Hacking is the process of finding loopholes in a system and using them to gain unauthorized access to perform malicious activities. Ethical hacking is finding these security issues and reporting them to the authorities so that they can be improved upon.
While the means of hacking are illegal and punishable by law, these methods are used to shield against hackers that try to delete or steal data. Ethical hackers are people who hack with proper authority and with no malicious intent.
Different types of Hackers
Let us now take a look at different types of Hackers
- Black Hats: They hack with malicious intentions, gain authorization and create disruptions in the operation of various systems. Black hats are also known as crackers.
- White Hats: Another name for an ethical hacker, who hack with the intention of finding vulnerabilities in various systems and want to improve them.
- Grey Hats: A mix of black hat and white hat hackers, they hack for fun and/or with the intention of finding vulnerabilities and reporting them but without the permission of the authorities. The major goal of grey hats is to find these loopholes and get monetary benefits in exchange for reporting bugs.
- Suicide Hacker: these are the hackers that hack without the fear of facing any consequences. They operate with a clear motive and usually go after large corporations and infrastructure.
- Script Kiddies: Unskilled hackers who use tools, scripts, and programs built by real hackers to try and hack into a system.
- Cyber Terrorists: Hackers with the motive of spreading large-scale fear.
- State-sponsored hackers: Hackers assigned by the government and who work for them to oversee the security of various systems.
- Hacktivist: Hackers that usually focus on hacking websites and promoting political, social, and religious messages.
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Different types of Hacking
Depending upon the intentions of a hacker, these are the different types of hacking:
- Website : Hacking websites and taking unauthorized control over web servers by using techniques like phishing, DNS spoofing, and so on.
- E-mail : Gaining unauthorized access to an E-mail and use to send out spam links, third-party threats, gain information and data, and such malicious intents.
- Confidential : This involves recovering secret passwords that are or were once stored in a computer system. This type of hacking is usually related to identity hacks.
- Computer : Taking control over a computer system by stealing computer ID and passwords using various hacking methods.
- Network : Using tools like Telnet, NS lookup, Ping, Tracert, Netstat, and so on to gather information about a network with the intent to harm and hamper its operations
Phases of Ethical Hacking
Ethical hacking or any kind of hacking has different phases. These aren’t rules which have to be followed mandatorily, they are rather a set of standard guidelines that will help you navigate through the hacking process better.
Hacking, generally, has five phases but ethical hacking requires an extra step to call it “ethical.” Here are the six phases of ethical hacking.
1. Reconnaissance : The first step is to gather data and information about the target system. This is so that we can easily gain control of the system. We can use tools like Nmap, Hping, Google dorks, Nessus, OpenVAS, and others to covertly discover and gather data of the target system.
Reconnaissance tasks involve the following:
- Gather the initial data of the target system
- Learning about the range of networks
- Recognizing all the active and/or connected machines
- Locating open ports and the access points
- Determine the operation of all the active machines
- Mapping all the network
There are two types of reconnaissance, active and passive
- Active: refers to when the hacker works his coding magic by directly interacting with the system.
- Passive: refers to collecting information without interacting with the system.
2. Scanning : This is the phase where the hacker recons the entire system to find vulnerabilities and security loopholes. The hackers can exploit this data later on to their advantage. This phase includes using port scanners, net mappers, and other such tools.
3. Gaining Access : The vulnerabilities found in the previous phase are used at this point to gain access and enter the target system without raising any suspicions. Metasploit is the most commonly used tool in this phase.
4. Maintaining Access : In this phase the hacker uses measures like installing backdoors and payloads into the system to maintain access to the system. These measures also help the hacker return to the system more easily.
5. Clearing Tracks : As the name suggests, this is the phase of clearing all signs of any malicious activities performed in the system. Despite it being an unethical process, ethical hackers still have to perform it to help understand how a cracker might do these activities.
6. Reporting : This is the phase that differentiates an ethical hacker from others. In this phase, the hacker compiles a report of the vulnerabilities found (if any), tools used in each process, success rate, and the processes used to exploit the system.
How to become an Ethical Hacker?
According to CISO, ethical hackers make around INR 5.7 lakhs per annum on an average. The income depends upon the expertise and experience of the individual but hacking nonetheless is a lucrative field in India.
Step 1: Build a foundation
Even though there are no strict or fixed educational criteria to becoming an ethical hacker, having a bachelor’s in computer science or Information technology can help set a great foundation. Some companies will require a degree and some won’t.
Every company has its own set of requirements when it comes to hiring a hacker, so be prepared accordingly.
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Step 2: Dive into programming
More than your educational background, what you will need to become a successful hacker is a good command over the various computing languages. Therefore, learning programming languages like C++, Java, Python, SQL, PHP, and so on are critical to this field. You will also need to learn about operating systems like UNIX, Windows, LINUX, and IOS.
Step 3: Get certified
After this, the next step in your hacking journey is to get CEH certified. Most companies require it and readily look for certified hackers. Even if you decide to open your own agency or firm or become a freelancer, being certified is a way to show your expertise. The EC council is the most trusted body to get this certification. You will need to pass four tests consisting of 125 questions.
Step 4: Look for the right Job Title
You already have a basic idea of the different types of hackers that exist in this digital world. But most ethical hackers don’t have the same job title. Instead, most are called penetration tester. Penetration testing is the process of identifying vulnerabilities using various hacking techniques.
Look for the different job titles and understand the various responsibilities associated with each to better help yourself find the desired job.
Step 5: Keep on Improving and Learning
This helps you to stay at the top of your game. Hacking is ever-changing and you will always encounter new techniques and tools being used. As a result, reading and staying updated about the hacking world is imminent for your success.
In addition to all of this, you need to make yourself very knowledgeable about different aspects involved. Thus, you should constantly work on enhancing on learning the following things.
- Knowledge of networking as well as security systems
- Knowledge of parameter manipulation, session hijacking, as well as cross-site scripting.
- Technical expertise over things like routers, firewalls, as well as server systems
- Being good at written and verbal communication
- Good troubleshooting skills
- Ability to see system flaws, small and large.
Responsibilities of an Ethical Hacker
Every job title brings in its own set of responsibilities. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones:
- Meet with the clients to understand the current security system in place
- Research the company’s system, network structure as well as possible penetration sites
- Conduct various penetration tests on the system
- Identify and record security flaws and breaches
- Identify areas of high-level security
- Review and rate the security network
- Create suggestions for security upgrades
- Compile penetration test reports for the client
- Conduct penetration tests once new security features have been implemented
- Suggest alternate upgrades
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