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Understanding Ethical Hacking

Shania     17 May 2024     Security     0 Comments

What is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking is the process of testing an organization's or individual's infrastructure, systems, and networks to detect vulnerabilities. This is done to prevent cyber attackers from exploiting those potential vulnerabilities and helps businesses secure their infrastructure and data from threats.

Methodologies

Reconnaissance: Gathering Information

To assess potential vulnerabilities, ethical hackers need to first collect some necessary information from the individual or organization. This includes IP addresses, domain names, servers handling workloads in the network, names and login credentials of users connected to the network, as well as the physical location of the target machine.

Vulnerability Analysis: Identifying Weaknesses

After gaining all the necessary initial data, ethical hackers will proceed to identify potential flaws that may give room for attackers to exploit. In this step, ethical hackers use automated scanning tools to gain information on all machines, users, and services within the target network. Ethical hackers usually carry out three types of scans in this stage: network mapping, port scanning, and vulnerability scanning.

Exploitation: Testing Systems for Security Holes

When they are done with identifying all the possible vulnerabilities, ethical hackers will then try to exploit these vulnerabilities. They usually do this through methods that hackers normally use: buffer overflows, SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), or XML External Entity Attacks. This is done to demonstrate the impact of those vulnerabilities on the client.

Reporting and Remediation

Once ethical hackers have found the possible vulnerabilities, they will then list their findings in reports and collaborate closely with the individual or organization to implement the necessary security measures.

Challenges in Ethical Hacking

Legal Dilemmas

Ethical hackers must make sure that they are operating within legal boundaries and following ethical standards, which is a challenge by itself since identifying security vulnerabilities can sometimes cause unintended disruptions.

Scope Limitations

Cyber threats are very dynamic and become more advanced over time. On the other hand, ethical hacking practices often come with pre-decided scopes. This often results in a limited scope for testing. Furthermore, ethical hackers may have restricted access to organizational information, hindering their ability to identify vulnerabilities. Thus, there is always a possibility that some potential attack landscapes can be overlooked, leaving individuals and organizations vulnerable to unforeseen risks.

False Positives and Negatives

There is always a possibility that ethical hackers may encounter false positives, meaning that a harmless element is marked as a threat, or false negatives, where a vulnerability goes undetected.

Resource Constraints

Ethical hacking assessments can take a while, as detailed analysis and testing of systems and networks are necessary to identify vulnerabilities. However, ethical hackers are usually only given a limited time for their assignments. Moreover, access to specific software tools and technologies is needed in ethical hacking to efficiently identify potential attack landscapes. However, not all organizations have those resources, eventually hindering ethical hackers from conducting thorough assessments.

Technological Complexity

Like cyber threats, the technology world also keeps innovating day by day and they can get more complex as time goes by. With this, ethical hackers, like cybersecurity teams, need to continuously learn to keep up and stay ahead of the evolving cyber threats.

Future of Ethical Hacking

Emerging Trends and Technologies

With companies increasingly adopting technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the attack surface for cybercriminals continues to expand. Therefore, ethical hacking will most likely still be around in the future to help individuals and organizations stay ahead of the evolving cyber threats.

Education and Training Initiatives

Ethical hackers need to adapt their strategies to combat evolving cyber threats. However, to be agile, continuous learning is necessary. Thus, in the future, there will more education and training programs aimed at equipping ethical hackers or those who strive to be one to develop their skills in cybersecurity. These programs can come in the form of online courses or certification programs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have learned that ethical hacking means testing an organization's or individual's infrastructure, systems, and networks to detect vulnerabilities. It is important in the business world as ethical hackers help organizations secure their data, and prevent cyber threats from infecting their systems and networks. The ethical hacking process is summarized into 4 steps: reconnaissance, which is the gathering information stage, vulnerability analysis, and exploitation, where ethical hackers test the systems for vulnerabilities, reporting, and remediation.

However, we also learned that ethical hackers also have their challenges. They are faced with legal and ethical dilemmas, scope limitations, the possibility of encountering false positives and negatives, resource constraints, and technological complexities.

In the future, ethical hackers will still be needed, as both technologies and cyber threats continue to advance. Thus, there will also be the need for organizations and individuals to adapt to them well. For ethical hackers to continually stay ahead of emerging threats, they need to learn continuously. This is why, in the future, there will also be more educational programs to prepare these ethical hackers to combat the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

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