Ethical Hacking: License to HACK

In the past 10 years, the usage of internet has increased manifolds but with every good thing comes a bad thing. In this case the comfort of technology is accompanied with ‘criminal hackers.’ Governments, companies, and private citizens around the world are anxious to be a part of this revolution. Today we have seen an alarming increase in the number of cyber crime cases, be it hacking email accounts, stealing sensitive data, copying the address book, intercepting data, etc. Cyber crime has become much-more serious, threatening personal, societal, and national security.

No wonder there has been an increased concern for security from criminal hacking in cyberspace among companies, be it big or small, private or public. It is this concern that has given an immeasurable boost to the career of ethical hackers.

Becoming an Ethical Hacker

Ethical hacking is where a person hacks to find weaknesses in a system and then usually patches them. Hacking is simply exploring a computer’s designed features, and learning how to exploit or take advantage of those features. They are called as the white hat people who use their knowledge in a constructive manner to help organizations, companies, government, etc. to secure documents and secret information on the internet. An ethical hacker hacks with legal permission to strengthen systems and makes them penetration proof unlike the cracker who purposely indulges in cyber crime.

To test a security system, ethical hackers use the same methods as criminal hackers, but instead of taking advantage of them, they work against them and report problems to their owners. The ethical hacking process is also known as intrusion testing or penetration testing or red teaming. Hacking is not legal in India but this particular way can segregate good hacking from the bad one easily after being certified as a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).

To become an ethical hacker, being computer savvy and gadget friendly are the important prerequisites. A recent report confirms that cyber crime has surpassed illegal trafficking as the leading criminal money maker. With higher returns, low risk, and difficulty of obtaining evidence, computer and networks have become the fastest growing technology tools favored by criminals.

Such situations have created enormous need for IT professionals who can understand the mindset of cyber criminals and hunt down their illegal activities.

Prerequisites of an Ethical Hacker

A science background is preferred for students willing to enroll in different degree and diploma courses. If one is a plain science or commerce graduate, but one wants to work as an engineer then one should be trained in a particular computer application and manufacturing process. It is recommended that one does a course in this field to help a person learn the tricks of the trade.

Ethical hackers are technically skilled IT professionals with a strong desire to solve problems and prevent malicious hackers from causing damage to network systems. To be a professional ethical hacker you require motivation, dedication, self-education, and formal training in ethical hacking.

An ethical hacker should also have a basic understanding of TCP/IP protocols such as SMTP, ICMP, and HTTP. This allows ethical hackers to confirm the results from automated scans instead of just relying on what the automated test says. This is essential for ensuring accurate reports.

In addition to technical skills, an ethical hacker needs a number of soft skills too. The ability to write effectively is a basic necessity which is critical while writing reports that summarize the results of a penetration test or writing the details of new exploits. Ethical hackers also need critical thinking skills. They must follow precise methodologies in their work and thoroughly analyze data. This practice helps to ensure consistency and accuracy of results obtained.

Perhaps the most important skill, however, is adaptability. When testing software and systems, ethical hackers never know what will come up, so the ability to be resourceful and flexible is vital. One should be technology-driven and have profound love for computers. One should have strong mathematical skills as well. Ability to think critically and analytically and the ability to reason logically are the other qualities required in this field.

Certifications like CISA (Certified Information System Auditor), CISM (Certified Information Security Management) and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professionals) would help a person to start a career in cyber security. Other vendor specific certifications like CCSP (Cisco Certified Security Professional) and MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) also help.

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Every organization today is facing risk in cyber crimes and after seeing this major percentage increase and hidden criminals behind it, they require designated well-trained security professionals who will trace, reduce, and eliminate key security risks being faced by them.

Industry Outlook

The trend of people going for such courses picked up 3 years back when no one was there in the market. Still the demand for such professionals in the country is larger than trained professionals available. That is why job opportunities for ethical hackers are in plenty in the country. The course is also very apt and important to upgrade one’s skills and get promotion and salary hike in the organization.

Although the starting salary for ethical hackers in India ranges from ‘3 lakh to ‘4.2 lakh per annum, with 5 years of experience one can get upto ’10-12 lakh per annum. The annual salary can be anywhere between ‘27.7 lakh to ‘32.5 lakh post currency conversion.

Computer security is a global issue and it’s the job of an ethical hacker to make cyber space safe, now and forever.

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