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A guide to ethical hacking

The term ‘hacking’ is often associated with cybercriminals and those who will take advantage of your every click. However, there is a type of hacker that can be your friend and will help protect you and your business. This practice is called ethical hacking. Big brands, including Facebook, employ ethical hackers to help keep them safe. But just what is ethical hacking, and can your business benefit?

Spot the difference

While they sound similar and are both practices using the same techniques, ethical and unethical hacking should not be confused. An ethical hacker is legitimately hacking your system to find any issues or areas of weakness. Unethical hackers are hacking your system to cause trouble, steal data and/or information or to try and extort funds from your business. The use of ethical hacking can actually prevent unethical hackers from gaining access to your network and devices.

A common misconception with ethical hacking is the legality behind it, many individuals believe that hacking of all types is an illegal practice. However, that is not the case. Ethical hacking is perfectly legal. IT Governance explains that ethical hackers ‘have the same knowledge and tools as a criminal hacker, but their work is conducted in a lawful manner’.

Why do it?

It may sound counterproductive, employing people to hack your business. However, this can be a crucial defence mechanism in protecting your business. Ethical hackers will notify you of any weak spots, unprotected areas, or easy ways that malicious hackers can take advantage of and gain access to your network. This will allow you to patch these holes and add technical armour to any areas of weakness before a product goes to market or a system into use. Ethical hacking does what it says on the tin, it is the practice of hacking systems and devices in an ethical manner. It can also be referred to as penetration testing, trying to penetrate a system to test its defences.

Ethical hacking has been around since the early days of the internet. According to Medium.com, the United States Air Force used ethical hacking procedures to evaluate the security of an operating system which unearthed some vulnerable software and hardware. This then allowed them to fix the problem before the system was put into use.

Covering all bases

When engaging an ethical hacker, it is important that you have a clear brief. Be sure to specify which devices you wish to be tested or if it is the full network. We recommend testing the entire network, your individual devices may be secure but when operating with a company-wide network it is vital that all devices, systems, and applications are safe. Your business is only as strong as your weakest device or system.

If that still sounds too good to be true, check out Packt’s examples of successful ethical hacking missions here.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with a member of our team.

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