Uber, a ride-hailing app, was fined for failing to notify a data breach that happened in 2016 and compromised the data of 57 million users (customers and drivers) in the United States of America. The stolen information included names, mobile phone numbers, and email addresses of users. To save the embarrassment of a data breach, the company paid $100k to hackers to cover up the incident instead of notifying the authorities. A whopping $148 million fine was paid by the company for violation of “state data breach notification laws”.
“New Yorkers deserve to know that their personal information will be protected – period. This record settlement should send a clear message: we have zero tolerance for those who skirt the law and leave consumer and employee information vulnerable to exploitation. We’ll continue to fight to protect New Yorkers from weak data security and criminal hackers.”
The story clearly indicates the severity of cyber-attacks and impacts it has on companies both in terms of cost incurred and subsequent embarrassment. Customer trust takes a huge hit in case of a security breach and the company suffers immensely. Moreover, with the advent of new technology such attacks are increasing day by day both in terms of variety and severity.
In order to prevent such cyber-attacks, companies rely on professionals known as white-hat hackers or more commonly known as ethical hackers. White-hat hackers should not be confused with cyber criminals; it is a professional role wherein employees focus on identifying vulnerabilities in systems or networks and provide solutions to close the loopholes.
In the current article, we will read more about ethical hacking and its associated career benefits. You’ll also know the importance of achieving a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credential, even if it means taking up a CEH course.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical hacking is a term coined for a systematic study of the loopholes and vulnerability in a system, network, server, or communication infrastructure to prevent any intrusion or malicious cyber-attacks. Ethical hackers identify and report probable threats to companies to take precautionary measures to avoid any damage to the digital infrastructure. Ethical hacking ensures that sensitive and personal data is protected from unauthorized access. This role requires professionals to think like a hacker and find ways to exploit the system or network. However, the intention is to not harm the company rather than to protect it. Ethical hacking is one of the most important roles to improve the overall security posture of a company.
Since ethical hackers work in different capacities in an organization, ethical hackers are expected to know different ways to carry out hacking. Some of the ways are listed below
- System hacking
- Web Server hacking
- Web application hacking
- Hacking Wireless Networks
- Social Engineering
There are a total of five basic phases of ethical hacking:
- Reconnaissance – The phase is about defining the scope and set goals.
- Scanning – Mock intrusion attempts are performed to understand the target reaction.
- Gaining Access – Loopholes are identified and the target is attacked.
- Maintaining Access – Loopholes are exploited further to maintain access for a longer period of time.
- Covering Tracks – It involves removing cache and cookies, modifying log files, and closing all open ports.
Each phase of ethical hacking will require different tools and techniques to pinpoint the loopholes. Moreover, ethical hackers will seek further information to find answers to questions such as the type of information sought by a cybercriminal, the intensity of crime intended, type of information misuse, and ways to avoid the attacks to prepare a comprehensive report.
Benefits of Ethical Hacking as a Career
Now that we have seen, ethical hacking is very important for organizations to protect their data and system. However, what is in it for professionals to enter the cybersecurity domain and work as ethical hackers. Here some of the benefits that an ethical hacking role offers to professionals.
Challenging – Cybercrimes are growing rapidly both in terms of severity and variety. Cybercriminals are adopting new technologies to attack organizations in a variety of new ways such as malware, ransomware, spyware, worms, and trojans. This requires ethical hackers to be ahead in technologies and skills to prevent the attacks. Therefore it is quite challenging and requires you to keep on updating yourself with the latest technology.
Demand – Since the frequency of attacks are increasing day by day and the world is marching toward digitalization, more and more organizations are looking for skilled professionals to protect their data and system. In fact, we can see hackers working in eCommerce, healthcare, financial services, energy, and even government agencies apart from the core domain of information technology. This has increased the demand for ethical hacking professionals to tremendously high levels and will continue to be high in the future as well.
Shortage – Since the role is quite challenging and requires highly skilled professionals, Big void of skilled professionals is created to fill in the ethical hacking domain. In fact, in the absence of skilled professionals, thousands of security jobs are unfilled and the industry is struggling with a huge shortage of trained professionals. According to the CNBC article, 2.8 million professionals are working in the cybersecurity domain across the world. However, an additional 4 million professionals are required to meet the shortage.
Salary – Ethical hackers are highly valuable to companies and get higher paychecks. According to the CNBC article, the average annual salary of cyber security professionals is USD 90,000 in North America. Salary may increase if professionals opt for cyber security certifications. One of the most important certifications in the cyber security domain is the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Certification.
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
CEH is offered by the EC council, a prominent certification body that provides certification across many countries and has to date awarded more than 200,000 certifications. CEH certification is drafted for security professionals who are working as white-hat hackers, managers, administrators, system or network engineers, and auditors. Further details about the certification can be obtained on the EC council website.
In conclusion, with an increase in cyberattacks, ethical hacking can be a promising career. Professionals who like challenging work can contribute to preventing cyber attacks on organizations and government establishments across all sectors. With greater demand due to organizations seeking skilled professionals to fill the talent void created in information security domains, the role offers high paychecks. However, to enhance earning potential, professionals can opt for CEH certification that can increase their value in the security domain.