The Ethical Hacker is an IT security expert who performs cyber attacks on networks, IT infrastructures, websites or applications of the organization for which he works, to identify and resolve any vulnerabilities and improve security. Its “good” purpose is to preemptively combat the criminal activities of malicious hackers, called in slang “Black Hat Hackers “.
The “good”, “ethical” or ” White Hat ” hackers, therefore, stand out from the hackers or ” crackers ” (usually depicted with a black hooded sweatshirt and covered face) because, unlike these, they work for the benefit of companies, entities and organizations. Attacks and attempts to sabotage cybersecurity are authorized and this guarantees the legality of their hacking activities.
What “ethical hackers” do and how do they earns?
The main task of an Ethical Hacker is to test IT security systems through attacks and intrusions, attempts to steal, tamper with or destroy data, to circumvent authentication requests, to make a site inaccessible or replace its content ( website defacement ), to compromise hardware and digital devices such as computers and smartphones.
All with the intent to identify and resolve security holes.
Once engaged, the Ethical Hacker or Penetration Tester collects information on the IT systems to be tested: security protocols, IP addresses, databases, physical locations of servers and IT networks, security personnel, etc. and develop an attack plan.
Attacks can be both virtual, for example through the use of different types of spyware and worms designed to enter the system and allow you to control the computer remotely, and physical (theft of memory units, power failure, damage to the equipment …).
The attack possibilities are potentially infinite, limited only by the creativity and technical skills of the hacker.
To achieve its goal, a Hacker has a wide range of techniques, tools and scripts available: penetration tests, vulnerability assessment of IT infrastructures and web applications, simulation of DoS ( Denial of Service ) or DDoS ( Distributed Denial of Service ) attacks. , the spread of malware, viruses and trojans, phishing techniques, attack simulations on multiple fronts ” red teaming “.
But also social engineering or social hacking practices, or techniques of manipulation of people for the illegal collection of information such as PIN or password. These are just some of the hacking tools, each with a different level of danger and difficulty of execution.
Once the attack is over, the Ethical Hacker prepares a report with a detailed analysis of the vulnerabilities found and the system’s weak points and consequently proposes a remediation plan, that is, a series of technical solutions to improve the level of cyber defences. For example, more effective firewalls, stronger authentication systems, alert systems, physical hardware protection structures, training courses to increase staff awareness of cybersecurity and cyber threats, and more.
Once these measures are implemented, it will be up to the hacker to test their effectiveness again.
The Ethical Hacker then thinks and operates as if he were an attacker, in order to then be able to intervene as a defender of the computer system that he attempted to sabotage. The aim is to provide a picture of the level of real risk to which an organization is subject and to study appropriate measures and countermeasures.
What are the professional opportunities for an Ethical Hacker?
A hacker can find employment as a Cyber Security Consultant (for IT consultancy companies or as a freelancer ), or as an employee of the IT department of various companies, reporting to the head of IT security. Then there are job opportunities also in the Public Administration.
Hackers typically work at the computer, in the office or remotely, with working hours that vary depending on the projects and the cyber attacks in progress.
The demand for “good” or ” White Hat ” hackers is constantly growing. Each company, small or large, has a set of data under management, relating to the company itself or its customers: for example, user names and passwords, contact data, personal information, bank details, invoices and commercial documents. The company must ensure confidential treatment of this often very large set of information, also in compliance with the provisions of the law on privacy and protection of personal data.
In the case of a data breach or a real hacker attack motivated by malicious intentions, the negative consequences can be of various types and of different severity: from a fall in corporate reputation, to the loss of data that endanger business continuity, to economic sanctions for failure to comply with the law.
This is why it is so important for companies to verify that their computer system is secure and that data is protected, thanks to the help of expert Ethical Hackers.
Usually, large companies are the ones that invest the most in IT security, to minimize the risk of data loss or tampering, or companies that have to manage sensitive data such as banks, insurance companies, healthcare facilities, agencies and government bodies (for example in the Defense sector ), IT companies that collect and analyze huge amounts of data about their users.
Tasks of the Ethical Hacker
The main tasks of an Ethical Hacker are:
- Take out penetration tests on IT infrastructures and web applications
- Conduct and simulate cyber attacks
- Check the security of IT systems
- Detect and analyze vulnerabilities
- Document the activities carried out and bring up a security report
- Monitor any system anomalies and recognize unauthorized access attempts
- Counter IT security threats
- Provide cybersecurity advice
- Constantly updated on IT risks and data management rules
How to become an Ethical Hacker?
Training and Requirements.
There is no predefined training path to become a ” White Hat Hacker “: often (but not always) a degree is required in Computer Science, Computer Engineering or in other scientific subjects such as Physics or Mathematics.
The academic training is certainly very useful, although the skills needed to work as an ethical hacker or penetration tester is mainly doing acquire field experience.
There are also several ethical hacking and cybersecurity courses that provide the basis for becoming a hacker.
Among the topics covered in the courses for aspiring hackers there are for example operating systems, databases and servers, networking basics, Linux virtual machines, PHP programming, Python, MySQL, information gathering, computer cryptography, approaches to attacking domains, hosts, web apps basic, techniques and tools in hacking, OWASP, blue and red teams, methods of detection and prevention of violations and incident management.
In the job offers for Ethical Hacker, it is considered a preferential requirement to have cybersecurity certifications, which guarantee both the technical skills and the understanding of the ethical responsibilities connected to the profession. Among the most internationally recognized certifications there are for example:
- CEH ( Certified Ethical Hacker )
- OSCP ( Offensive Security Certified Professional )
- OSCE ( Offensive Security Certified Expert )
- GPEN ( GIAC Penetration Tester )
- ECSA ( EC-Council Certified Security Analyst )
Skills of an Ethical Hacker
The technical skills and the most requested skills to work as Ethical Hacker are:
- In-depth knowledge in the field of information technology and IT security
- Expertise in performing penetration tests and vulnerability assessments
- Knowledge of the main threats and common types of attacks on IT systems
- Experience in the use of tools of hacking and reverse engineering
- Knowledge of best practices relating to cybersecurity
- Knowledge of privacy and data processing legislation
- Inventiveness and flexibility
- Ability to work in a team
- Ethical commitment
- Reliability and discretion
Job openings and career of the Ethical Hacker
Often those who work as Ethical Hackers have several years of experience in the IT world behind them, for example as a systems engineer, IT technician, Developer or Software Tester.
Once you have acquired solid skills in computer security and familiarity with hacking techniques, there are several career prospects. You can work as an ethical hacker freelancer Bug bounty hunter , become a Cybersecurity Expert or find employment as a Penetration Tester in large companies with an internal team dedicated to cybersecurity, to then become responsible for IT security or IT Manager.
Good Reasons to Work As an Ethical Hacker
The working Ethical Hacker is definitely among the most IT professions more attractive and full of charm: The White Hat Hackers are considered almost of modern superheroes, animated by noble ethical principles, fighting against cyber criminals ( Black Hat Hacker s) to defend sites web, apps, networks and computer systems from malicious attacks.
A creative and highly stimulating job: in fact, a Hacker must continually devise new ways to attack and defend, pushing his knowledge of machines, systems, programs and web technologies ever more deeply to find innovative solutions.
The number of companies that use the services of Hacker “good” to identify and solve problems cybersecurity potentially very dangerous is increasing: the jobs for experts in cybersecurity and ethical hackers (v10) certificates are therefore growing, and guarantee usually excellent wages and growth prospects.