While historically, the term hacking was only spoken of with a negative connotation, the profession has now grown to divulge into two main categories: blackhat hackers and whitehat hackers. While both categories use both offensive and defensive techniques in various manners, the major difference in their roles lies in their intentions: while blackhat hackers aim to exploit a system’s weaknesses for financial gain, revenge, or other self-serving reasons, whitehat hackers try to find and fix a system’s vulnerabilities to fortify it against the bad guys. Whitehat hackers try to approach a system from the perspective of a blackhat hacker and attempt to uncover any weaknesses that could be exploited by a third party.
Why Become An Ethical Hacker?
Over the previous years, multiple industries have fallen prey to hacking attempts and schemes that have halted their operations and caused great losses for companies. This has been especially prevalent in the IT and financial sectors where customer data is extremely sensitive. Multiple countries have created entire government departments dedicated to IT security and protection for other government agencies, and have also tightened the security measures that financial institutions are to take for their customers and clients.
This heightened level of compliance has created a demand for professionals proficient in ethical hacking and ensuring data security. The fact that the demand for ethical hackers is currently high while the supply is low has led to great working conditions, and much above average compensation packages for relevant professionals.
Certifications Needed To Become An Ethical Hacker
To qualify as an ethical hacker, individuals are required to demonstrate their ability and proficiency and hold coveted certifications in the field. Not only do these certifications testify that the said individual understands the fundamentals of ethical hacking, but also profess their capabilities and skills. There are essentially three ethical hacking certifications that are currently in demand in the market which include:
- Certified Ethical Hacker
Certified Ethical Hacker or CEH certification is designed to educate individuals about the bases of security threats and digital risks and how those can be fought or countered. However, to appear for the exam for this certification, one may not require any prior training if they can submit legitimate proof of their work experience in the cybersecurity space for at least two years. This is by far the easiest out of the three certifications that an ethical hacker has to obtain.
The CEH is managed by The International Council of Electronic Commerce, otherwise known as the EC-Council. This certification is highly flexible in terms of various study options for individuals which include the option to self-study, attend video lectures or in-person classes by certified trainers. The KnowledgeHut offers an online ethical hacking course that provides the CEH certification for its students.
- Offensive Security Certified Professional
The Offensive Security Certified Professional or OSCP is a highly technical and difficult ethical hacking certification that one pursuing this field is to obtain. While it isn’t widely known or popular, the OSCP is marketed for its 100% emphasis on hands-on training and technical understanding. It is designed specifically for professionals who are already present in the field of ethical hacking and are looking to further expand on their skills. Such individuals are required to have a backdoor of knowledge and experience in networking protocols, software and app development, and internal systems such as Kali-Linux. The final exam that individuals have to appear for is highly interesting in terms of it being a challenge-based exam where individuals have to hack into a system and gain administrative access within a limited period.
- Global Information Assurance Certification
The Global Information Assurance Certification or GIAC is managed by the SANS Institute which has been a long-running name in the world of cybersecurity. The GIAC is also known as the Penetration Tester certification which is one of the most comprehensive cybersecurity exams an ethical hacker could appear for. This certification uses an ideal balance of theory and training for its attendees. The main purpose of this certification and its awarding body is to be two steps ahead of the technological advancements in the workings of blackhat hackers. To pass this certification, individuals need to write a practical paper on a specific area which is then converted into a research paper and then published. This growing number of research articles and publications is what ensures that GIAC remains at the forefront of ethical hacking techniques and innovations.
Skills Required To Become An Ethical Hacker
Since becoming an ethical hacker required individuals to have access to a company’s sensitive information, it is obvious that good morality and ethical decision-making are essential soft skills that one requires to become an ethical hacker. Other than those, given below are other skills needed:
Cryptography is the study of secure communication systems and techniques that allows for the sender and receiver to communicate in a way that the messages only make sense to the latter. It is the study of encrypting and decrypting messages.
- Database Engines
These are control points for database security, and essentially the stepping stone to understanding ethical hacking.
- Programming Languages
Certain products by Linux, such as Kali Linux are used to perform penetration testing and in-depth assessments of vulnerability which is why proficiency in Linux is required.
- Critical Thinking
This refers to strong thinking skills to defeat malicious software and understand backdoors to software.
- Penetration Testing
Known as pen testing, this refers to intentionally simulating and launching cyberattacks on a system to understand its vulnerabilities.
- Computer Hardware
This refers to studying the physical devices and aspects of hardware security on a computer system.
- Reverse Engineering
In software engineering, reverse engineering refers to the act of understanding the functionalities and workings of software or hardware by studying the finished product.
- Computer Networking
Computer networking is the study of understanding how computers communicate with one another when they are sharing resources provided by a common node.
Becoming an ethical hacker is a truly exciting profession: ethical hackers get to be a part of a growing profession with having something new to learn every day. If you love the world of all things IT and love a challenge, then this may be the profession for you.
This field requires you to work harder and smarter than any other field of IT. You will have to keep doing research while practicing and experimenting as you won’t find everything in courses. Keep your expectations in check as this field is not like the hacking you might have seen in movies.