The internet is yet evolving! Already, it has brought revolutionary changes like email, e-commerce, online businesses, and so forth. But it also comes with several online threats and for this, an ethical hacker comes in the picture. We have created this ultimate guide on ethical hacking that covers different types of ethical hacking, various hacking attacks & important things that you must know to become a great ethical hacker.
Today, when anyone comes across the term hacking, the first thing that comes in their mind is about data theft, breaches, malware, or ransomware. Contrary to this, initially, hacking was purer (somewhere in the 1970s) and used for finding the ways for the machines to work more efficiently. But with the time, skilled individuals with malicious intent started taking advantage.
Later these individuals will be known by the term hackers who possess the ability to break into your network to steal any valuable information or data. To tackle this, several organizations like the US military and others started paying for IT professionals to break into their systems in order to recognize the weak point and other security vulnerabilities. And with this, ethical hacking and ethical hackers were born.
More Into Ethical Hacking…
With the increased adoption of the internet, high-speeds, an abundance of data like never-before, increased connectivity, a wider range of wireless devices; the need for ethical hacking has now become of utmost importance. A few years back, many experts predicted ethical hacking or cybersecurity as one of the best industries to have a career in, and they were 100% correct.
The security sector of IT is booming and will grow with just over 10% per year till 2023. One study suggests that around 3.5 million jobs related to cybersecurity will be offered in 2021 just in the USA. Moreover, this increased demand and the losses because of the attacks have contributed to the increased demands of ethical hackers with an impressive pay scale. The average salaries of ethical hackers can vary from $80,000 to $130,000 depending upon various roles, skills, and companies around the world.
Adding to the high demands & pay scale, this industry seems resilient to any economic collapses. In one survey, ethical hackers seem pretty confident that they won’t lose their jobs during an upcoming recession. This might be helpful for all the aspirants to future proof their careers!
Some of the Recent Exploits- a Decade of Hacking!
1. Yahoo Goes Public
In 2016, Yahoo announced its data breaches which turned out to be one of the biggest online exploits ever recorded to date. Yahoo disclosed that around 3 billion records were hacked in the span of a few years. It exposed the names, addresses, contact numbers, DOB & emails of its users. It resulted in Yahoo paying over $117 million to settle the lawsuit against it in April 2019.
2. Sony PlayStation Hacked Resulting in Massive Outage
In 2011, Sony revealed to the public that data of over 77 million users of PlayStation Network were compromised. It included financial details and other important information. Because of this, Sony has to shut down its entire PlayStation Network for 23 days. It is also one of the longest outages ever recorded in the history of the PlayStation Network.
3. 2013 Adobe Hack
In November of 2013, Adobe got hacked. They admitted that hackers had stolen the data of over 153 million users which was then dumped online.
4. Ukrainian Power Grid Hack Leading to Power Outage
It was the 1st successful online attack on the power grid’s control. It took place in December 2015, hackers have got access to the Ukraine power grid which resulted in power outages across western Ukraine.
5. MyFitnessPal by UnderArmour Got Hacked
In the year 2018, hackers were successful in hacking the back-end database for a fitness app called “MyFitnessPal” which was powered by UnderArmour. They were successful in getting access to data of over 143 million users that included emails, user names, and hashed passwords.
6. Bangladesh Bank Cyber-Heist in 2016
In 2016, hackers tried to steal over $1 billion from a bank in Bangladesh, but because of a typo they only got away with $81 million. It was a shocker for the world when they came to know that the hackers were from North Korea.
7. Dubsmash Was No Exception Too
In 2019, a famous video messaging app called Dubsmash made it to the public that hackers were successful in nabbing the data of around 161 million users. It again included hashed passwords, user names, and emails.
8. Panama Papers- Rich Are No Exceptions!
Just after the 1st quarter of 2016, an association of investigative journalists released extensive reports called Panama Papers. It was again a shocker for the entire world as it exposed many renowned faces & public figures. It stated how some of the top businessmen, politicians, and celebrities were exploiting tax havens to avoid their income tax.
9. Marriott Hack That Took Place in Late 2018
Though it was not as big as Yahoo, but it also got noticed in the world because of its huge size. In November 2018, hackers managed to steal the data of over 500 million guests who stayed at Starwood Hotel. In 2016, it was acquired by Marriott. Notable the hacked data included details like passport numbers, names, contact information, and addresses.
Not only these, but some other big names like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, British Airways, Dropbox, Tumblr, MySpace, and others have reported some of the other kinds of hacks. This is the reason why cybersecurity or ethical hacking has become the need of an hour for many businesses. With these catastrophes, indeed the industry of ethical hacking is booming with the high demand for skilled ethical hackers.
Let’s Explore Some Common Types of Cyber Attacks!
Basically, in the world of cybersecurity, any individual comes across 2 types of assaults. These are Nontechnical assaults and network-foundation assaults. Now let’s get into detail in each of these.
1. Nontechnical Assaults
These are the exploits that control end-clients, individuals, and even you. They can take advantage of the vulnerability of a network foundation or a computer. And when you go by the psychology of the humans, you will find out that they are “trusting” by nature and this is where another type of exploit called social-designing becomes a threat. It exploits the idea of the trusting nature of an individual to get data for destructive reasons.
Physical breaks are another type of compelling assault that takes place against data frameworks. Under this, hackers generally break into computer rooms, structures or various regions having property or basic data. These types of assaults can include dumpster jumping that is scrounging through dumpsters and waste jars for network outlines, protected innovation, passwords, and any sort of data.
2. Network-Foundation Assaults
It is a type of cyber attack wherein, hackers assault any network foundation. In many cases, it can be simple mainly because of the fact that various networks can come from anywhere on the planet through the internet. Some of the cases related to network-foundation assaults are mentioned below:
- A hacker may connect to a network via a maverick modem. This modem must be connected to a computer behind a firewall.
- They can also flood a network with DoS (denial of Service) or numerous solicitations for various kinds of demands.
- In-network transport components, any hacker can exploit shortcomings such as NetBIOS or TCP/IP.
What Are the Different Types of Ethical Hacking?
Mainly, there are four types of hacking that can practice any individual depending upon their knowledge. Individuals don’t practice these with the intention to harm others but to check all the vulnerabilities and loopholes of any system’s security or network so that it can be fixed. Below are the 4 main types of ethical hacking that you should know.
It is a type of ethical hacking or a technique wherein individuals illegally hack into a system for reasons ranging from political to social. Under this, responsible individuals generally leave a message on the home page of the targeted website so that the new users can check out and react accordingly.
The messages can be a video or audio or a speech or anything else that can attract visitors to participate in any particular forum or discussion. This type of hacking is generally done without taking the consent of the target and may include social messages.
2. White Box Penetration Testers
These individuals are also known as white hat hackers and they are hired by the companies to check the vulnerabilities of their current system or any network by hacking into them. They work legally by doing penetration testing or breaking into their systems to spot and fix the weaknesses.
Moreover, these testers are also provided by the complete knowledge of the systems and networks of the target. In simple words, you can consider it as an attack stimulated by the person within the organization so the foreign attacks can be prevented.
3. Cyber Warrior
Similar to white box penetration testers, cyber warriors are also hired by the organization or any individual to creep into the network or system to find the vulnerabilities. These warriors disguise themselves as a wicked hacker who consistently tries to find any weaknesses in the current system or network.
The only difference that separates any cyber warrior from a white box penetration tester is a fact that they don’t possess any prior knowledge of the network or computer system in which he or she is trying to hack.
By practicing without any prior information, they can efficiently figure out all the weak points of the present system or computer network and can work with the organizations to fix it in order to make it more secure.
4. Licensed Penetration Tester or Certified Ethical Hacker
The name says it all! This type is all about licensed penetration testers or certified ethical hackers who are professional in performing their duties of both white box hacking and black box hacking in the field of cybersecurity. Again they are responsible for finding all the loopholes, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities of any particular computer network or computer systems.
Top 10 Important Things of Ethical Hacking That You Must Know
1. Know a Little Bit of Everything
When it comes to the world of ethical hacking or for saying the hacking, the knowledge of the skill set more than just a regular script kiddy exploit becomes essential. Apart from being fluent with the expertise in scripting and coding, the experience of programming languages like Ruby, C, Python, Perl with other skill sets of network analysis, and network security will definitely give you a needed edge over others.
Your ability to write your own scanners or exploits and to see what’s going on the network can make the difference between you getting the right information that you desire or getting caught in a DMZ.
2. Know All the Operating Systems
Just similar to human beings, all the operating systems are different too. Neither a Linux vulnerability will be the same as an OS X, nor any 2 Windows update will be identical. If you want to become an effective ethical hacker then you have to do some extra research apart from the basics.
Any particular OS can easily affect the methodology, feasibility, and impact of any exploit. If you know about the target OS directory and its command then that can be a game-changer for quickly editing files or covering the tracks.
For instance, suppose you don’t have an idea about the location of system files or any specific logs then the risk of being caught by the incident response team is very high. If you invest the time by learning about all these OS, their directory layouts, and commands then you’ll save a lot of energy & time for yourself while you enter any system.
3. Know Your Tools
Having complete knowledge of all the tools that you will be using will become very important. Knowing what they do and how they work will help you to utilize them efficiently. In case, if you don’t have complete knowledge of those tools or don’t know its use then it might backfire upon you and can also damage things.
For instance, suppose you wanted to do a stealth scan but end up doing a highly active scan just because of using a wrong nmap option. These tools can be tricky and unpredictable. All the available tools in ethical hacking can either look easy for you or can be very particular.
If you do not have an idea about any tool or the options it provides then you may end up with no results or doing something accidentally. It is very important for you to know about every tool that you are using and to make sure that you have tailored them as per your needs or requirements.
4. Know Your Network
If you are looking to attack any network then it will be better for you to know all the possible details before striking it. You should find your network, figure out an attack vector, and of course, its setup. Though it may sound tedious to many but in the end, it is very useful.
It will assist you to keep everything in order without any mess so you can keep track of all your actions and what else needs to be done. Moreover, it will also help you in saving time by preventing you from doing the same step, again and again, to figure out where you were during any particular time of an attack. Do not forget that repeating things can lead to unnecessary traffic that has a high chance to expose your aim.
5. Know the Importance of Documenting
You should be aware of the fact that you should always document everything! If you are hacking for an individual or an organization or any client, then there is a high chance that they want to see the break up of everything that you did. And, it is frustrating for clients to have a report without enough information regarding the vulnerabilities, your steps & processes.
The worst-case scenario occurs when any client asks for more details about any issue or a test and you don’t have any data because you forgot to document it. In these cases, screenshot and notes can be your best friends.
So, I would suggest that you should make the habit of saving everything. Save your logs, tools’ outputs, network traffic and even the arguments passed to the tools. It will add to your workload, but it will definitely help you in showcasing & verifying all your hard work.
6. Know All Your Alternatives
You should always be ready with an alternative approach. The skill of thinking out of the box is something that separates a great hacker from a good one. Going against everyone’s expectation, when you attack any system differently, then it really makes it difficult for your attempt to be caught.
If somehow you find a unique way to exploit any network or system then for sure, it will make your attack and everything else harder to detect. Though a unique attack vendor is not that necessary but it does count for a difference. So, you should always start brainstorming before attempting any strike.
You can think of various ways through which you can get into any particular system or network. When you are striking with a unique attack vendor, then it becomes extremely difficult for the host to detect the origin of the exploit since they use traditional tactics during primary level investigations.
7. Know-How to Exploit the Bug When You Find One
Trust me, bragging about a Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) issue is completely childish unless it is from a high profile app. But what’s more important is to showcase how or why any particular vulnerability is an issue, and being able to show its true risk by exploiting it to the core.
A true skill is to turn an ‘XSS’ into a ‘30,000 User Accounts Compromised via XSS’ with some extra work and efforts into exploitation. Today, it is really not that difficult for even the amateurs to find ‘XSS’, but it really takes some time and skills to effectively exploit it.
8. Know the Right Way to Interact With the Community
It is pretty much impossible for an ethical hacker to keep up with everything going in the industry. But you can take some time off to get involved with any particular or influential groups that regularly provide innovative content and the latest knowledge that you can use in your forthcoming projects.
By actively participating and getting involved regularly, you’ll get to know about other potential hackers, key activities, latest trends, discover new tools and keep track of all the new things happening in your industry. All these things will definitely give you added advantages to your colleagues. So don’t hesitate and start exploring Reddit’s netsec, Twitter, go to cons, forums, participate in CTFs and contribute to open source.
9. Know-How to Communicate With Project Managers, managers, & Developers
For you, knowing that you’ve exploited a Blind SQL Injection vulnerability, or exfiltrated the user’s table, or managed to get the shell can be an achievement but for a CEO or a manager, these can be of no use if they don’t understand the language you’re using.
With your dedication and passion, you may become one of the great hackers of this world with the best technical ability but trust me, if you fail to communicate your findings efficiently and effectively then it will be a lot less valuable to your clients, managers, CEOs, and others.
10. Know the Right Way of Doing the Research
Last but not least, knowing how to do your own research is very crucial in this world of cat and mouse. You can’t just rely on other tools or other people’s knowledge, you gotta create your own. While researching, if you find something interesting or new, then well done, now go ahead and share it with the communities so that they can benefit from it too!
Things We Learned!
Finally, this was it! We pretty much covered all the essential points involved with ethical hacking. If breaking down firewalls excites you, or you exploit vulnerabilities when you are sleeping, or love helping businesses by defending them from online threats, then my friend, you’re already an ethical hacker – or very close to becoming one!
In this article, we discussed some mind-boggling stats regarding the demand of ethical hackers which was followed by again eye-opening hacking exploits in the last decades. It truly showed the importance of ethical hackers in the age of a digital transformation. For a more clear understanding, we also came across 2 main types of cyberattacks and major types of ethical hacking. In the end, the top 10 essential things that every ethical hacker should know were also mentioned.
I hope this covers all your queries and in case, if we missed something then do mention it in the comment so that we can cover it in the forthcoming time. Also, if you are looking to up your cybersecurity skills or to enter the world of cybersecurity, then we have got your back! Recently, we have created one of the exclusive “Cybersecurity E-Degree Program” that is entirely dedicated to making you understand and master Cybersecurity with its practical and real-life approach.
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