‘Hacked’ – this term is more than familiar to almost everyone today, isn’t it? The sheer burst of fear that the term blows up into people using is intense. Hacking thus is under-toned with a negative connotation more than often. However, it is this nightmarishly dangerous hacking malpractice that gave birth to yet another form of hacking which actually arrests the former.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical hacking is a form of hacking that is rather beneficial and actually protective in nature. It has emerged to safeguard us from the negatively intended hacking by cyber-criminals and malicious breaches.
Ethical hacking is basically attempting to hack into and bypass the information security of a computer or network to find vulnerabilities in them. While taking the course of what a malicious hacker would do, ethical hacking identifies the key weaknesses in the system. How and in what areas is the information system vulnerable? What are the potential threats to the secrecy and privacy of the network? Can it be breached and invaded? These are some of the questions that ethical hacking helps answer.
Via duplication of actions that would be adopted by harm intending hackers, weak points are identified. Especially those weaknesses are recorded which are found easy to manipulate by future malicious breachers.
After the key areas requiring changes and improvements are analyzed, the network can be safeguarded from future hacking attempts and invasions of security. Ethical hacking is also called intrusion testing, red teaming and penetration testing.
Who is an Ethical Hacker?
To understand who is an ethical hacker, one needs to first grasp its difference from that of other forms of hackers. Hackers, as we know, are people who breach the security of a computer or network, of protected information systems using technical programming and skills. Hackers, however, are of three distinct types: Black hat hackers, white hat hackers and grey hat hackers.
Black Hat Hackers are the actual ‘bad guys’. They hack into systems and classified accounts with negative intentions and cause harm to companies and the public at large scales.
Right on the other end, are the White Hat Hackers. These are actually the ‘good guys’ who protect us from the Black Hat Hackers. They are actually employed by the company itself to protect against the Black Hats. To identify the key problem areas and potential weak points that can be manipulated by those with malicious longings in the future. Such hackers hack into systems with prior authorized permissions and to help prevent future black hat hacking are termed as ‘Ethical Hackers’.
Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum is yet another form of a hacker called the Grey Hats. While they do not cause any harm, they also don’t hack into a system for the benefit of the company. They hack into systems for selfish interests say such as monetary gains etc while not playing around with sensitive information and using it against the firm.
Thus “white hat” or ethical hackers are those computer security experts that can perform penetration testing diligently. They’re skilled across other mechanisms of testing to ensure that the firm’s information systems are secure.
Ethical Hacking as a career choice
With the advancement of technology and cybercrime, the demand for ethical hackers throughout the world is on a continuous rise. From a prior 60,000 worldwide, India alone is set to demand 77,000 ethical hackers for itself alone. A career in ethical hacking under such circumstances is quite a clever path to tread on.
With the enormity of harm involved, the job of an ethical hacker becomes immensely significant. Mostly all important information centric to the success of a company is today stored digitally. Such information when goes into the hands of a person with destructive motives can cause a firm’s death. Thus even the biggest names today including the highest earning MNCs require and hire efficient ethical hackers to avoid the same. From IBM to Infosys to Reliance to Accenture and Google – all are taking the help of ethical hackers today.
What had started as a part-time or project-based exchange of specialized skill/expertise has today turned into a full-fledged profession (with tons of full-time jobs in place). Thus a career in this industry has great potential.
As far as qualifications are concerned, in order to become an Ethical Hacker, one must complete their Bachelor’s degree in a related field i.e. Information Technology. Example: B.Sc. in IT or Computer Engineering. You can also opt for an advanced diploma in the subject of ‘network security’.
Post this you need to get certified in Ethical hacking. The more validated and reputed the certification institute is the brighter are your career prospects. The biggest I.T companies professionals from key Ethical Hacking institutes. So do opt for one after careful analysis and consideration.
Prep yourself with insightful computer programming skills. Learn and practice some of the important programming languages since the experience with the same is much needed in an ethical hacking career.
Growth prospects and what follows next? While ethical hacking is in itself quite a rewarding career, there is more potential to grow and earn more. The next step usually is to become an LPT Master. You can acquire the EC-Council’s Licensed Penetration Tester (Master) certification. This boosts your career further by adding a much valuable professional hike.
Certification Programs in Ethical Hacking
Getting International certifications from reputed institutes are the key as discussed above. Some relevant certifications in the stream that you may opt for are:
Certified Ethical Hacker (EC-council),
Certified Hacking Forensic Investigator (EC-Council),
GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) by SAN and GIAC,
Intrusion analyst certification (GCIA)
The Ethical Hacking Course program by the EC-Council is highly recognized all over the world. The pass out is considered extremely credible as the Council itself is one of the pioneers and most reputed in the industry. EC-Council offers a range of cyber-security programs. These range across certified network defender, practical CEH, certified chief information security officer, certified threat intelligence analyst.
Salary prospects of an Ethical Hacker
On average the annual salary of ethical hackers is recorded as INR 5,70,000 (CISO). Chief Information Security Officers earn anywhere between INR 12 Lakh annually and INR 80 Lakh. Average annual salaries amount to 23.7 lakh (as recorded in 2015).
So all in all, it is quite evident that even though highly specialized the career path of ethical hacking is extremely promising. The boom of technology is here to stay and so are maliciously intended practices. Ethical hacking is the only saviour for the companies thriving on important classified information and even otherwise.
With the above background and pointers in place, you can make your own call. We’re saying…for all those passionate about computers and the I.T, the ethical hacking domain is exhilarating and rewarding all at once!