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What Is Ethical Hacking & How Can One Become An Ethical Hacker?

Want to have one of the most dynamic jobs in IT? Then you might want to become an ethical hacker. But how do you even begin to do that? And why are ethical hackers so important? 

Well, as far as the last question is concerned, history isn’t short on cybersecurity breaches. Even industry giants have been the victims of malicious hacking attacks. The likes of Facebook, Sony Pictures, LinkedIn, Adobe, eBay, Canva, and Uber, have been hacked.

Cybercrimes will grow 15% by 2025, costing $10.5 trillion.

For enterprises, losing the credibility and trust of customers is a huge problem…even bigger than monetary loss.

To protect themselves against potential cybercrimes, companies hire ethical hackers to get into their systems and expose problems. Ethical hackers identify weaknesses in their security protocols since these are the same faults that potential malicious hackers can exploit. The actual methods of ethical hackers may be the same as that of cybercriminals, but their motives are different. In fact, the best way companies can prevent security problems is with the help of ethical hackers. 

But what is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking is the process of testing a system to ensure that the security controls are in place and working. It involves identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities. The process applies to the systems, networks, applications, and computer devices. It prevents a malicious attacker from using the system’s weaknesses.

Ethical hacking aims to improve a system’s security against these illegitimate system breaches.

Every technology requires preventive measures against illicit access. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at a new application (mobile or web), information system, or an IT infrastructure. The need for security mean ethical hackers are important and in demand.

But Why is Ethical Hacking Needed?

Suppose you have built a web application with state-of-the-art security protocols – on paper. You need an ethical hacker to establish the robustness of these protocols in the real world.

Unethical hackers try to gain access to such systems for financial benefits, revenge, fun, or even blackmailing. This is also known as malicious hacking. It can happen in any of the following ways;

  • Steal and leak the data
  • Interrupt services
  • Alter or destroy data

Ethical hacking is a subdomain of cybersecurity. Ethical hackers are essential to establishing system security, data, and user privacy protection. They protect their employer’s computer information systems, infrastructures, networks, and personal devices.

Regardless of a business’ size, cybersecurity is paramount. A malicious attack can damages a company in a lot of ways. Their reputation and finances can be severely impacted by hacking attacks. Hacking attacks can erode customer trust, too. Would you use a bank that has had a lot of hacks? No way!

White Hat Vs. Black Hat Hackers

Ethical hackers use the same methods and tools as unethical hackers. But with the permission and authorization of their employers. They look for any threats and vulnerabilities in a system and report any weaknesses found during the testing process. This way, the relevant stakeholders can strengthen their security.

Ethical hackers aim to enhance a system’s security. Since they do it lawfully, they are also called white hat hackers.

Unethical hackers also look for threats and vulnerabilities in a system, but with very different intent. After all, they want to get unauthorized access to the system. They’re known as black hat hackers due to their malicious motivations. 

How to Become an Ethical Hacker?

There is no definite path to becoming an ethical hacker. Not to mention, the standards can vary from one organization to another. You need a blend of education, skills, and training.

What is the Preferred Formal Education Required to Become an Ethical Hacker?

A bachelor’s degree in computer science and information security is a good start. But, a BS in cybersecurity is more relevant for pursuing ethical hacking.

Like other careers, ethical hacking aspirants can also gain relevant beginner experience. The best places to start? Network and information security positions.

Many organizations with cybersecurity positions require higher education. A master’s degree can give ethical hackers a competitive advantage in the industry.

There are professional ethical hacker certifications, too. These certifications can help boost your career advancement.

Recommended Ethical Hacking Skills

Ethical hackers exhibit various skills. The requirements are usually based on the needs of the organization they are working for. You can become a certified ethical hacker if you have a strong knowledge of:

  • Networks and computer systems
  • Security protocols for various operating systems
  • Ability to crack passwords
  • Phases and methodologies used in ethical hacking
  • Encryption techniques
  • Code of ethics
  • Different types of cyber attacks and countermeasures
  • Many programming languages like Python, SQL, PHP, Java, C & C++

Ethical Hacking as a Career

Businesses are increasingly concerned about IT security. Cyber security spending will increase from $1 trillion to $1.75 trillion in the next 5 years

Increased cybersecurity budgets reflect an increase in demand for ethical hackers. Tech companies need someone to think like a black-hat hacker and find weaknesses in their system or network’s security. 

What do ethical hackers do on a day-to-day basis exactly?

  • Penetration testing
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Information security analysis
  • Security consultancy
  • Security engineering

EC Council is the best place to get an ethical hacking certification.  Many employers demand their programs on a resume. Other certifications include but are not limited to;

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

CompTIA Security+ is another well-known certification acquired by cybersecurity domain experts. 

It’s not just technology and internet companies that have ethical hackers. Law enforcement, government agencies, military, and cyber security firms also hire them. Ethical hackers freelance quite often, too. Small or medium-sized companies need freelance consultancy services on security.

Additionally, big companies incentivize ethical hackers via Bug Bounty Programs. They outsource ethical hacking to people anywhere in the world. If a hacker finds a fault in their system, those companies pay them. How much? The amount depends on the company’s size and the bug’s seriousness.

The path of ethical hacking is a promising one. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to grow, and you can smoothly transition into other cyber security jobs. The transition becomes even easier if you have a computer science background.

Want to be an ethical hacker? Here’s where to start:

Explore the Sololearn course catalog and choose a course to level up your programming knowledge. If you’re thinking of a career in cybersecurity, we recommend learning Python and C++. They’re powerful languages that can let you a lot. Best of all? You’ll join a super friendly community and get excellent lessons–all free.