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What In The World is Ethical Hacking

The term “hacker” originated in the 1960s at MIT to describe computer experts who applied their skills to redevelop mainframe systems, boosting their efficiency and enabling them to multi-task.

Nowadays, the word is primarily used to identify skilled programmers who gain unauthorized access into computer systems by exploiting weaknesses or deploying bugs. They’re often thought to be motivated by malice, mischief, or money – and sometimes all three.

With the persistent popularity of the internet and the ever-expanding evolution of e-commerce, malicious hacking has become the most widely recognized form, a perception supported by its portrayal in various kinds of news media and entertainment.

That being said, not all hacking is bad. Which brings us to the second major type of hacking. Ethical hacking, in and of itself, might seem like a contradiction in terms – after all, hacking into somebody’s account or service doesn’t seem particularly ethical. But you may be surprised by the good that it can do.

Before we go further, let’s sort out the major differences between malicious and ethical hackers.

Malicious hacking is carried out in an attempt to breach the systems or networks of an organization (or individual) in order to compromise important data by stealing it, thereby tarnishing the organization’s reputation as well as its assets.

Malicious hackers, often referred to as “Black Hat” hackers, will gladly take advantage of any mistakes made by programmers during the software development process in order to penetrate the security framework of the software.

Ethical hackers, often labeled “White Hat” hackers, essentially employ the same techniques and approach the process with the same mindset as malicious hackers – the difference lies in their intent.

By definition, ethical hacking is the authorized process of intentionally bypassing the security defenses of an organization’s IT infrastructure with the express purpose of identifying any vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and other potential security threats.

Afterwards, the ethical hacker notifies the organization of any issues that they discovered while assessing the systems or network and propose solutions in order to help protect the organization’s assets from future attacks by malicious hackers.

Granting permission to have your crucial infrastructure ethically hacked by professional cybersecurity experts can go a long way toward improving the overall security posture of your organization.

Hiring an outsider to perform this service is generally preferable as it ensures that the ethical hacker uses a systematic and measured approach, thus closely mirroring what an external cyberattack might look like.

Is There Any Rhyme or Reason to an Ethical Hack?

Short answer: YES! In order to perform a hack legally, a White Hat hacker must observe and adhere to a set of clearly delineated ethical guidelines:

Key Protocols of
Ethical Hacking:

  1. Seek authorization from the organization before performing any security assessment on the system or network.
  2. Define the scope of the assessment and ensure that all work remains within the organization’s predefined legal boundaries.
  3. Report any security breaches and vulnerabilities identified during the assessment, and suggest possible remedies for resolving them.
  4. Respect the privacy of the individual or company whose system or network is being assessed. Abide by all terms and conditions of any non-disclosure agreement required by the assessed organization.
  5. After checking the systems for vulnerabilities, erase all traces of the hack. This will prohibit malicious hackers from infiltrating the system via any identified loopholes.
  6. Inform the software developer or hardware manufacturer of any security risks discovered if said risks were previously unknown.

In general, an ethical hacker seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What kinds of vulnerabilities would a potential attacker see?
  • What specific information or systems would a hacker most want to access?
  • What could an attacker potentially do with this information?
  • How many people might notice the attempted hack?
  • What is the best way to resolve these vulnerabilities?

What Are The Main Benefits of Ethical Hacking?

There are four primary benefits of ethical hacking, particularly  when compared with the disadvantages that are part and parcel of nearly all malicious hacks.

Prevent Data from Being Stolen and Misused by Malicious Hackers

Ethical hackers seek to identify and close loopholes in a computer system or network. This can help keep sensitive data from falling into “enemy hands.”

Discover Vulnerabilities from an Attacker’s Point of View

By testing a company’s security measures in a controlled, safe environment, an ethical hacker can work to detect possible entry points from the perspective of a cyberattacker. In doing so, they can address and fix any issues before a malicious hacker has the opportunity to exploit them.

Enhance Computer and Network Security

An ethical hacker can help determine which security measures are effective, which need to be updated, and which prove to be little deterrent to nefarious cyberattackers.

With this knowledge in hand, an organization can make more informed decisions as to how to enhance the underlying security of its IT infrastructure. By doing this, the organization further defends itself against would-be attackers that might seek to exploit the computer network or take advantage of mistakes made by personnel.

Gain the Trust of Clients and Investors

Enacting improved security measures helps safeguard the integrity of customer information, including both products and data. This also helps build trust with clients and investors, the importance of which can’t be emphasized enough.

What Practical Advantages Can Ethical Hackers Bring To Your Organization?

They Understand How the “Bad Guys” Think

Getting inside the mind of a hacker is no easy task, even if you have a background in IT. Failing to comprehend how hackers think and what they want could be catastrophic to your business – and the bad guys are more than willing to turn your weak spots to their advantage.

White Hat hackers may be ethical in their own endeavors, but they know perfectly well how the minds of their questionable  counterparts work. They understand how hackers operate, and they can leverage that knowledge to safeguard your network against intrusion.

They Know Where to Look

Each business network is incredibly complex, with interconnected computers, mobile devices, home-based workers, and traveling employees logging on from the road.

Understanding what to look for when assessing an organization’s cybersecurity can be challenging, but ethical hackers know where to start and where potential blind spots are likely to be lurking.

They Can Discover Weak Spots You May Have Failed to Notice

You may believe that your network is as secure as it can possibly be, but it might have hidden weaknesses that you aren’t aware of. Those weak spots may be imperceptible to you, but a seasoned ethical hacker can recognize them from a mile away.

Pinpointing hidden weaknesses in a system’s cyberdefenses is one of the predominant reasons to enlist the services of an ethical hacker. These “good guy” hackers are experts at finding open ports, backdoors, and other plausible entry points into your computer network.

Their Testing Skills Are Beyond Compare

Testing and retesting your network is an integral part of a successful cyberdefense, but the effectiveness of your strategy depends upon the skillfulness of the testers. If the people testing your network don’t know what to keep an eye out for, this could produce a false sense of security – and culminate in a devastating data breach.

With regard to network testing and intrusion detection, ethical hackers’ skills are unsurpassed. With years of experience scrutinizing networks for vulnerabilities, they know how testing should be carried out, and you can count on the accuracy of the results.

They Can Help You Engineer a Reliable Network At the Outset

If you’re a newcomer to the business world, having an ethical hacker as part of your startup team can help you create a superior and more robust network from day one. Constructing a computer network with integrated security features will considerably reduce your susceptibility to breaches and data theft, and bringing White Hat hackers on board gives you an undeniable advantage.

Ethical hackers have encountered all kinds of networks, and they know how those systems should be constructed. If you want to create a network that’s fast, scalable, and impervious to hackers, these cybersecurity experts can help you accomplish it.

It might seem peculiar to welcome hackers into your company, but the right hackers can truly enhance the security of your organization and your network. Hiring ethical hackers is a phenomenal way to evaluate your cyberdefenses, so you can build a better and more secure corporate network.

Final Thoughts

Data breaches are becoming more common and costly every year. In its latest report, the Center for Strategic and International Studies stated that cybercrime costs an estimated $600 billion per year globally. Most businesses can’t afford to absorb the fines, loss of trust, and other negative impacts associated with data breaches.

With malicious hackers discovering newer ways to penetrate the defenses of networks nearly every day, the role of ethical hackers has become increasingly important across all areas.

Whether yours is a small, mid-sized, or large business, there’s always a possibility that it could fall victim to a cyberattack. Most businesses deploy some type of IT infrastructure to deliver services to their customers – whether it be computers, laptops, servers, printers, wireless routers, or (most likely) a combination of these. All these devices are in danger of being breached at some point in time by cybercriminals, unless your organization takes measures to ensure that they aren’t vulnerable to attacks. This is the critical role that ethical hackers perform.

To learn more about what DataGroup Technologies (DTI) can do to bolster the security of your organization, reach out to us at 252.329.1382 or click HERE to schedule a quick 15-minute discovery call.

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