We’ve all heard of the term hacking and we’ve all had that image in our heads when it comes to hacking. A bunch of random numbers, flickering rapidly through the screen, only the man in front of the monitor seemingly aware of what’s going on…
But hacking in real-world circumstances paints a different picture that more or less isn’t far from the one painted above. Ethical hacking is a term given by a company or an individual that is said to perform by identifying, in a computer or network, potential threats. They do so, not with malicious intent, but with the sole intent of finding vulnerabilities.
The difference in methods between an ethical hacker (also see grey box penetration testing) and a regular hacker isn’t much. They both use the same technique. The only difference is in their intent. One works for the betterment of security while the other works against it. The ones that work for the betterment are called “white hats” and the ones who work with malicious intent are called “black hats”, a set of terms inspired by old western movies in which the good guy wore a white hat and the antagonists, black hats.
Ethical hacking differentiates itself by following a set of rules which include respecting the privacy of the company or the individual, not leaving a backdoor for anyone, including the hacker himself, to exploit later and also letting the ones responsible know about the vulnerabilities in the software or hardware that the company isn’t aware of.
One of the first instances of ethical hacking ever to be recorded was in the 1970s. The United States government assembled a group of experts which came to be known as the “red team”. The team was assigned to hack into their own systems. This led to the spark which that ignited the inception of a sub-industry within the information security market. It has gone on to dwell both the physical and mental aspects of a corporation’s defense line.
Today, many large companies have a team of ethical hackers; some companies have solely focused on ethical hacking alone, such as Trustwave Holdings, Inc. Trustwave Holdings specialize in penetrating ATMs and surveillance systems. The employment of ethical hackers by large companies has come under question. Many people have often voiced criticism, citing there is no such thing as ethical hacking. This is because hacking is seen as a crime and is an action commonly associated with cybercriminals. Ethical hackers are, therefore, needed to ask permission from the network’s owner to perform probing.
But one cannot undermine the importance of ethical hacking as it has led to the successful improvement of security.