If you keep an eye on technology news all the time, data breaches must not be new for you. There are frequent headlines related to hackers comprising the sensitive information of millions of users and putting the reputation of businesses at risk. Renowned names like Yahoo, Facebook, and JW Marriot have also fallen victims to cybercrimes that cost them huge losses. Malicious hackers are always looking for ways to gain unauthorized access to systems and networks and compromise an organization’s data for their personal gains.
The best talent that companies find to deal with such cyberattacks and secure their systems are ethical hackers or white hat hackers. Companies that are working on digital transformation projects always hire at least one ethical hacker who can take care of security threats. Ethical hackers are more or less similar to malicious hackers, they also use the same tricks and have the same mindset of intruding the systems. The difference lies in their intent, ethical hackers find vulnerabilities and loopholes with the permission of the organization to prevent any possible cyberattack.
Though the term ethical hacking is a common term in the technology sector, many aren’t aware of its fundamentals. This article gives you an in-depth understanding of ethical hacking and its five stages. You’ll further learn why taking an ethical hacking certification becomes important if you wish to excel in this field.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical hacking is a term used to describe a set of practices followed to bypass the security defenses of an organization to find loopholes by duplicating the approaches used by malicious hackers. As the name suggests, it is a legal practice that allows companies to identify vulnerabilities in the systems and networks before they can be exploited externally. Organizations can maintain their robust security posture when they have skilled ethical hackers to deal with cybercriminals.
Ethical hacking is crucial for private organizations as well as government agencies as the intent of malicious hackers can be dangerous. International conflicts are rising across the world and terrorist organizations can fund these cybercriminals to compromise the national security of any country. With growing digitalization, a massive amount of sensitive data is available online and so securing it becomes a top priority for governments.
Ethical hacking is divided into the following types:
- Web application hacking
- System hacking
- Web server hacking
- Hacking wireless networks
- Social engineering
Now let us focus on the stages of ethical hacking.
Ethical Hacking Stages
As described by the EC-Council, there are five phases of ethical hacking. Let us discuss these five stages.
- Planning and Reconnaissance
The first phase of ethical hacking is creating a plan regarding the scope and goals of the test to be conducted and what methods would be used. All the important information about the target is collected like old passwords, organization functioning, employees working in the network department, etc. Footprinting is carried out next that includes collecting data on security postures, finding out specific IP addresses, impersonating a website, using search engines or social network sites to find information about the company, etc.
In this stage, ethical hackers gain access to the networks and try to find out how a target reacts to different intrusion attempts. Information regarding open ports, services running on the host, live systems, etc is obtained by scanning the target. Automated tools are used to then identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Scanning is usually conducted when the application code is running, as it helps in understanding its real-time performance against intrusion.
- Gaining Access
This is the actual phase where hackers break into the web application and escalate their user privileges to manipulate the data. They attack the system using techniques like backdoors, SQL injections, and cross-site scripting. They exploit the vulnerabilities to understand how much system damage can be done.
- Maintaining Access
In this phase, attackers try to maintain the ownership of the target for a long duration in the background. It is accomplished by using trojans, rootkits, and various types of malware or ransomware. Additional attacks on the network can be launched and information can be stolen after gaining quick access to the server.
- Clearing Tracks
As with every kind of theft, hackers do not wish to leave any traces behind and try to escape successfully. So this phase involves deletion of logs, uninstalling any tool or application used for hacking, clearing cache, and closing all open ports. Finally, the test results are documented and other important details are reported.
Learn More about Ethical Hacking…
Ethical hacking is, indeed, a challenging job and a career in it can be rewarding. There is a high demand for skilled ethical hackers in the job market and you too can be a part of the ethical hacking talent. The best way to gain those skills through an ethical hacking online training program and preparing for the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification. This credential is offered by the prestigious EC-Council and recognized by companies all over the world. While you do self-study also, it is better to take training from EC-Council accredited training institutes. Their course material content is aligned with the CEH certification exam syllabus and helps you clear it in a single attempt.