What Is Ethical Hacking? – A Short Guide

Thanks to the rising numbers of digital threats that are out there, many organizations decide to hire ethical hackers. That way, they can have an expert determine what the vulnerabilities of their systems are and find the most effective ways to prevent data breaches, among other things.

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However, that is not everything that ethical hacking is about. In this article, you will find much more information related to the topic, ranging from the definition of ethical hacking and types of hackers to the responsibilities of ethical hackers, benefits of ethical hacking, and the skills required to become an ethical hacker. Check it out!

What Is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking can be defined as penetration testing on IT systems that are being carried out by certified and skilled individuals. The goal of ethical hacking is to test the security of a system or network and find out if it is vulnerable to attacks.

As mentioned above, ethical hackers are certified and skilled professionals who do not use their skills for malicious purposes. Their main responsibility is to provide valuable feedback about the weaknesses in a system’s security and help improve its overall safety.

Ethical hackers should have at least 2-3 years of working experience as a security professional under their belt before they apply for an ethical hacking certification. However, many companies require their candidates to have at least 5 years of experience in the field.

Types of Ethical Hackers

There are three types of ethical hackers and they are black hat, white hat, and gray hat hackers. While each type has its own set of responsibilities, they all have one thing in common and that is they want to improve the security of networks and systems.

White Hat Hackers

White hat hackers are also known as ethical or legitimate hackers. They must pass a certification test before they are allowed to work. The main goal of white hat hackers is to find vulnerabilities in systems or networks and report them to the owners so that they can fix them.

These guys are hired by organizations to test their systems’ security. That way, they can determine if their systems are vulnerable to attacks. This will help the owners increase their cybersecurity and prevent data breaches, among other things.

Black Hat Hackers

On the contrary to white hat hackers, black hat hackers are not authorized to test the security of networks and systems. They may be employed by organizations but their main objective is to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to secret information without anyone knowing it.

If someone finds out that they have been hacked by a black hat hacker, then they may suffer significant financial loss. Usually, black hat hackers use their skills for illegal purposes and don’t care about the consequences they cause.

Gray Hat Hackers

Unlike black hat hackers, gray hat hackers are not maliciously looking to exploit vulnerabilities in networks and systems. They often break through security systems on purpose but never cause any harm to the servers that have already been penetrated. They do this because they want to let the system owners know about the weakness so that it can be fixed before other malicious hackers get a chance to exploit it.

However, despite their good intentions, gray hat hackers might sometimes get into trouble with the authorities because of the laws that prohibit unauthorized penetration testing on computer systems. The most famous case is that of Adrian Lamo, who was prosecuted for breaking into numerous high-profile computer networks without permission. However, he was never formally charged due to his cooperation with law enforcement authorities.

Responsibilities of Ethical Hackers

Ethical hackers are required to follow certain rules while testing computer systems so that they don’t compromise the data stored in them or violate any privacy laws. Some of these rules include:

  • They should never reveal their true identity during penetration testing. They should also wear a mask so that their identity remains hidden even after penetration testing is complete. This is done because some organizations ask their employees not to reveal their identity to others while performing penetration testing activities.
  • They should never try to access or steal data from a system or network.
  • They should also avoid installing any malware in another person’s computer system without proper consent from an authorized organization.
  • Ethical hackers should only perform penetration testing on devices that belong to them or others who have given them permission to do so.
  • They should notify the owner of a system or network before starting penetration testing activities on it. This will allow the owner to take necessary measures such as patching any vulnerabilities before penetration testing starts or backing up data before it is accessed by a white hat hacker.
  • After completing penetration testing activities, white hat hackers should always leave behind detailed reports detailing what they found during penetration testing and what steps were taken by them during this process.
  • These reports should also detail all the actions taken by them on the system after finding a vulnerability in it. If possible, they should also leave behind proof that they had accessed the system such as screenshots or copies of data they had obtained from it during penetration testing activities.
  • If there is any vulnerability left behind after penetration testing activities have been completed, then ethical hackers should inform system owners about it and offer assistance in patching it up or fixing it permanently.
  • Ethical hackers should provide regular status updates on projects they carry out for clients during penetration testing activities. That way, clients will know how well their projects are progressing and if there are any issues that need immediate fixing.
  • Ethical hackers should also stay up-to-date with emerging cybersecurity trends and techniques so that they can give valuable advice about how systems can be kept secure against new threats and vulnerabilities.

Benefits of Ethical Hacking

By hiring an ethical hacker to assess your company’s cybersecurity measures, you will be able to understand your current vulnerabilities and ensure that your business doesn’t fall victim to cyberattacks anytime soon. Here are some of the other benefits you will enjoy if you hire an ethical hacker:

  • You will increase your chances of avoiding data breaches as well as other cybercrimes such as phishing scams and website defacements due to successful penetration testing.
  • You will be able to monitor your systems on a regular basis and be notified of any vulnerabilities that emerge. That way, you can take necessary measures in order to fix flaws before they can cause any harm.
  • You will not be held responsible for any attacks that occur as a result of a vulnerability in your system. This is because ethical hackers should find the vulnerability first and report it to you so that you can take the necessary action to fix it.
  • You will be able to save money by identifying weaknesses in your system’s cybersecurity before someone with malicious intent discovers them and exploits them for their own gain.

Skills Required to Become an Ethical Hacker

If you are interested in becoming an ethical hacker, then you will need the following skills:

  • An ability to develop new solutions to problems and to avoid the use of brute force during penetration testing activities.
  • The ability to understand that there is no single solution that can fit all penetration testing situations. You will have to think outside the box and adapt to different challenges that may emerge during penetration testing activities.
  • A passion for learning new skills related to computer security and penetration testing techniques. You will need to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity trends so that you don’t fall behind the competition.
  • A sense of responsibility and discipline. You must follow all rules outlined by organizations while performing penetration testing activities on their systems or networks. Otherwise, you might get into trouble with law enforcement officials. You also need to accept the consequences of your actions if you fail to adhere to these rules.
  • An ability to work well under pressure and within a deadline. Penetration testing activities often require white hat hackers to work in a short time frame on a new network or system before its security can be improved permanently. If you are unable to meet this requirement, then you must get better at working under pressure.
  • An ability to communicate effectively with other people and present your ideas and findings clearly and concisely. Your clients will want to know more about what you have discovered during penetration testing activities. Therefore, you must always communicate with them and guide them through penetration testing activities in an efficient manner.


If you have a business, company, or organization and are worried about data breaches, or cyber attacks of any kind, then maybe you should consider hiring an expert ethical hacker. They are professionals and experts in the field who will let you know where you are vulnerable online. It is one of the best ways to determine what you need to do next in terms of security. Digital threats are only getting worse, and so many companies and people have suffered losses because of it. It is estimated that the global economy has lost 1 trillion dollars because of cyber attacks and cyber crime. As you can see from the article above, there are many different types of ethical hackers, so your choice will depend on your individual needs. It is undeniable that in this day and age, hiring an ethical hacker is a must for every company, and the benefits always outway the disadvantages.

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