Naturally, the term hacking implies extremely nefarious intentions. You immediately imagine a criminal getting access to your computer, stealing information, and then holding it ransom. This is all true as it stands, but there’s a variation known as ethical hacking, which is well-meaning and only has the best intentions at heart. This is what we’ll be exploring today, but first, we need a general understanding of the umbrella term.
This process involves the identification and exploitation of weaknesses in a system or network, giving the perpetrator access to system resources and sensitive data. So there are two components at work here.
• Unauthorised intrusion into a system or network
• Undue access to sensitive data
Ethical hacking is similar in many ways because it, too, involves the identification and exploitation of weaknesses in a system or network. However, this is only after the relevant party in control of a given network or system has authorised the hacking.
The process is carried out to improve the cybersecurity protocols in place, spotting the vulnerabilities and fixing them before a malicious attacker gets through first. Therefore, an ethical hacker pokes around an organisation’s digital protection framework under the authorised guidance of the relevant stakeholders.
Our services at Triskele fall into this category since our job is to find potential cybersecurity weaknesses and fix them. For ethical hacking to be just that and nothing else, a certain set of rules needs to be followed.
• Permission, usually in written format, is required before assessing systems or networks.
• The organisation’s rules, guidelines, and privacy must be respected at all times.
• After tinkering around, the hired professional can’t leave any loose ends that can be exploited by a cybercriminal.
• The organisation must be informed of any vulnerabilities so that remediation can occur.
Hacking follows five basic steps.
- This is the preparatory stage where information on the network, the host, and the people in the organisation are collected through direct or indirect contact.
- This stage looks to identify the possible ports, vulnerabilities, and networks that can be exploited.
• Gaining access
• Maintaining access
- Some criminals would seek long-term control to continue extracting data.
• Erasing traces
- Naturally, criminals look to hide their footsteps and evade law enforcement officials.
Using the above steps, an attack can target operating systems, applications, code, and misconfigured systems and networks.
One of the best options in the ethical hacking arsenal is penetration testing, where an organisation’s vulnerabilities are exploited using methods likely to be used by an actual attacker. Afterwards, the process underlying the attack is documented so that the appropriate defence mechanisms can be implemented.
Penetration testing can fall under three categories.
Black box testing
- The tester has no information about the firm’s security measures.
Grey box testing
- The tester is privy to some information about a firm’s security measures.
White box testing
- The tester has complete knowledge of a firm’s security measures.
The black box test might be seen as quick, impartial, and simple, while the white box test is more exhaustive and time-consuming since the tester has more information to look through. To understand how these methods differ in more detail, check out this resource.
It’s certainly not mandatory for any business or institution to use ethical hacking services. However, most firms struggle with budgetary constraints and a lack of resources. At the same time, cyber threats evolve and increase in frequency, turning into a problem that’s only worsening. This is where a third party can come in and test your protection mechanisms, identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses quickly and cost-effectively.
In addition, an organisation’s cybersecurity personnel may follow conventional thinking patterns, not the rationale that a criminal is likely to employ. Because of this reason, utilising outside help to assess vulnerabilities is a sound idea.
Finally, it’s best for you to understand that an attack is inevitable, so figuring out ways to thwart them going forward is the most sensible course of action. Firms need to employ a multi-faceted approach to digital protection, and ethical hacking is just one of those methods. This is an approach used by the US Department of Homeland Security to protect its sensitive information, showing its importance at the highest level.
With a proper sense of how ethical hacking works, you might be interested in using this method to improve your business’ cybersecurity defences. At Triskele, we offer numerous penetration testing services looking at a variety of systems and applications, from external and internal networks to mobile apps.