“The best defence is a good offence.”
You can apply this saying to many different fields, including sports and the military.
However, did you know that it applies to the world of IT too? Ethical hacking is a tool used to protect businesses from cyberattack.
Let’s look at ethical hacking, how it is used to keep businesses safe and how you can get started in this up-and-coming career choice.
What is ethical hacking?
Ethical hackers are computer security experts employed by companies to break into their computers and systems legally. They then identify any vulnerabilities they find to the companies, who use this feedback to improve their defences in the future. Ethical hacking is sometimes referred to as ‘white-hat hacking’ or ‘penetration testing.’
Ethical hacking is typically conducted in five stages:
- Planning: The hacker gains knowledge of the system and speaks to the business about what they want to achieve
- Scanning: The hacker scans the system with tools to see how it responds and to find any weak points
- Access: The hacker attacks these weak points to see if they can access data or disrupt the system
- Maintaining access: The hacker tries to maintain access for as long as possible without the system identifying that they are there
- Analysis: The hacker presents their findings to the business. Changes are made to the system, and the hacker attacks the system again to see if the changes have worked
Ethical hackers can work as part of an agency, a consultancy or as freelancers. Larger companies, or businesses where IT security is critical, may have an ethical hacker working in-house. In larger businesses, an ethical hacker may have an additional role, such as a web developer or network administrator.
Ethical hackers are in high demand at the moment across a wide range of industries including IT, manufacturing, retail and government. A typical security analyst can expect an average salary of £48k, with cybersecurity managers earning up to £55k.
Is ethical hacking legal?
Ethical hacking is carried out with the full permission of the business, and the ethical hacker will safely dispose of any data they discover as part of their testing.
Why is ethical hacking so important?
We are all spending more and more time on the internet than ever before. We bank online, buy products online and store all of our essential documents and photos in the cloud. Although this is very convenient for us, it puts our valuable data at stake.
Cybercriminals are finding new ways to exploit websites and systems for financial gain, such as malware, viruses, denial of service attacks and ransomware. Cybercrime attacks can cost businesses time and money to put right and can also cause customers to lose trust.
In fact, according to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2020, almost 50% of all businesses have reported a security breach or attack. All business, no matter their size or industry, are at risk.
This is why ethical hacking is critical, as it identifies any flaws in a business’s security system before cybercriminals can take advantage.
What skills does an ethical hacker need?
Programming languages are needed in order to carry out attacks. Therefore, an ethical hacker needs to be proficient in at least one language. Some of the best languages include Python, SQL and C/C++. A firm grasp of HTML is essential too.
Soft skills are critical as well. For example, an ethical hacker needs to be methodical, analytical and have excellent communication skills. This is because they will have to explain concepts to people who may not know about security or networks.
Integrity is especially important to ethical hackers. They need to ensure that the tests they carry out are legal and moral and that they do not use their skills for illegal purposes.
Many hackers have reformed and are now ethical hackers. For example, Kevin Mitnick is an American security consultant who was arrested in 1995 by the FBI for hacking into their systems. He now carries out penetration testing for companies across the world.
Courses for ethical hackers
Although some ethical hackers are self-taught, a qualified course can teach you the basics and give you the experience needed to make a move into this exciting industry.
Here are some of the courses you can take.
• CompTIA Security+ – this course will show you how to secure your network and how to deal with security threats
• CompTIA PenTest+ – if you already have Security+, this accreditation will teach you how to hack and exploit various systems
• EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) – this qualification will teach you the basics of ethical hacking
• EC-Council Certified Network Defender (CND) – if you want to specialise in networks, this accreditation will teach you how to keep them protected
• EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA) – if you already have experience in hacking and programming, this course will teach you the comprehensive methodologies you need to know to advance in your career
At ITonlinelearning, you can take all of these courses individually.
We also provide a ‘Become an ethical hacker package’ where you can accelerate your knowledge and kickstart your career with six of the best courses available.
Looking to move into the world of ethical hacking? ITonlinelearning can help
Ethical hacking is a rewarding career – you know that the work you do makes a real difference in people’s lives and keeps them safe.
If you are considering penetration testing as a career, there is no better time to start. ITonlinelearning offers a range of accredited courses that will show prospective employers that you are up to the task.
All our courses are online, meaning that you can work at your own pace, between your work and home commitments. As part of our service, we also offer LiveLabs. This simulates the hacking process, meaning that you can practice your penetration testing skills in a safe environment, with support from experienced tutors.