Ethical hacking (known as white hat hacking) is the newest frontier of IT security. For IT professionals, it’s an exciting, lucrative and challenging career path. For organizations, hiring ethical hackers is an investment in data loss prevention and customer trust. So, what can you expect with ethical hacking? And how can you get started on this career trajectory?
Rising cybercrime has transformed the IT industry and its security needs.
LinkedIn lost 117 million user passwords. Yahoo had three data breaches that compromised its three billion user accounts. It’s not just huge corporations, either. According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, 61 percent of 2016 breaches hit small businesses — and it’s only growing.
How are businesses responding? By trying to beat hackers at their own game.
What Is an Ethical Hacker?
Also known as white hat hackers, ethical hackers break into computer networks to test and evaluate their security. Ethical hackers have no malicious or criminal intent. Their goal is to improve a company’s online defense.
Ethical hackers have been around since the first computers, gaining traction in IT, security and government. The United States Air Force used ethical hackers to evaluate its operating systems and discovered 55 vulnerabilities. Silicon Valley has also invested heavily in ethical hacking. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and PayPal have all used white hat hackers to find and fix holes in their systems and products.
What Do Ethical Hackers Do?
Ethical hackers look for weaknesses in IT systems. Using the same knowledge and tools as criminal hackers, ethical hackers go deep inside banks, hospitals, utilities and the networks of major companies. They use common exploits, vulnerabilities and countermeasures to identify weak spots and help organizations improve their security.
Ethical hacking involves a blend of critical thinking, creativity, human psychology and IT skills. These hackers go far beyond standard vulnerability scanning, employing creative tactics to identify and expose security flaws. Ethical hackers don’t just stay behind their computer screens. They might hack into security cameras and observe employees to get their login information. Or, they’ll test security protocols, following employees into secure server rooms or trying to con them into releasing their credentials. They might write a piece of code to exploit network flaws or break into a system at 2AM when security is at its lowest.
It’s not a free-for-all. Ethical hacking requires tedious planning and communication and getting specific permission to perform the “attacks.” Ethical hackers are required to research, document and review methods and findings in detail with management and IT teams. An ethical hacker may spend just as much time writing reports as they do hacking networks. They assist with a range of follow-up tasks including:
- Improving disaster protocol and recovery methods
- Recommending how to mitigate vulnerabilities
- Working with developers to advise on security needs and requirements
- Updating security policies and procedures
- Training employees to improve the company’s security program
How to Become an Ethical Hacker
The ballooning number of security threats has turned ethical hacking into a booming industry. Today, there are more than 150,000 ethical hackers, according to the EC-Council. And the numbers are only growing.The National Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the demand for information security analysts (which include ethical hackers) is expected to grow 28% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the national average for all occupations. And the average salary for certified ethical hackers ranges from $75,000 to more $110,000.
Ethical hacking roles have emerged out of necessity, and job titles have evolved as well. Information security analysts, security engineers, penetration testers and security consultants may all utilize ethical hacking skills depending on the organization and role.
Ethical Hacker Training
Ethical hackers not only need a comprehensive IT background, but also the skills to apply their knowledge in unique, disruptive ways. Because they employ many of the same techniques attackers use to breach networks, ethical hackers must have impeccable problem-solving skills, excellent judgment and the ability to stay cool under pressure.
Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or information security in addition to training can help IT professionals build a foundation for an ethical hacking career. IT professionals interested in ethical hacking should start with the basics, such as a CompTIA Security+ Certification, CompTIA Netwokr+ Certification, or tech support position. Next, look to move into a network or administrator role, focusing on information security and penetration testing skills.
Ethical hackers must also have a comprehensive understanding of IT skills and systems including: Virtualization, Networking, Wireless, Scripting, Forensics, Database skills, and Web applications.
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is a vendor-neutral certification that helps IT professionals understand security from the mindset of a hacker. To qualify for the CEH, candidates need a few years of security-related experience and an understanding of penetrating testing, footprinting, reconnaissance and social engineering.
The program teaches common exploits, vulnerabilities and countermeasures. The CEH covers malware, foot printing and reconnaissance, social engineers, session hijacking and system hacking. Participants also learn how to hijack web servers and applications, scan and sniff networks, crack wireless encryptions, evade IDSs, firewalls and honeypots, and IoT hacking.
Certified Ethical Hacker Training From New Horizons
As the world’s largest IT training provider, New Horizons offers Certified Ethical Hacker training to help organizations and individuals develop security skills and countermeasures.
Whether you’re looking to move into a new role or prepare IT staff to ward off digital threats, Certified Ethical Hacker training equips IT professionals with real-world skills to succeed in the information security sector.
(Source: adapted from www.newhorizons.com)