Hacking is the process of discovering vulnerabilities in a system and using these found vulnerabilities by gaining unauthorized access into the system to perform malicious activities such as deleting system files or stealing sensitive information. It is illegal in terms of unauthorized access, fraud and theft of service. While Ethical hacking is a legitimate simulated cyber-attack against your computer system to check for exploitable vulnerabilities such as unprotected inputs that are susceptible to code injection attacks and attempted breach of number of application systems, i.e. application protocol interfaces (APIs) or front-end/backend servers.
Who performs Ethical Hacking?
It is preferable to have an individual that performed ethical hacking with no prior knowledge of how the system is secure because they may be able to expose blind spots missed by the developers who built the system. Outside contractors are usually brought in to perform the tests. These contractors are referred to as ‘ethical hackers’ since they are being hired to hack into a system with permission and for the purpose of increasing security. Many ethical hackers are experienced developers with advanced degrees and a certification for penetration testing. On the other hand, some of the best ethical hackers are self-taught. In fact, some are reformed cybercriminal hackers who now use their skills to help fix security flaws rather than exploit them. The best candidate to perform ethical hacking can vary greatly depending on the target company and what type of test they want to initiate and after conducting that test they are able to answer:
- Exactly what vulnerability an attacker can exploit
- What kind of information or system is a hacker’s region of interest
- After exploiting, what can the attacker do with that
- How many of people can see the attempted breach
- How to mitigate that vulnerability
Types of Hackers
There are mainly three types of hackers which includes:
Black Hat Hacker
Black hat hackers are non-ethical hackers perform malicious attacks for their own selfish intentions.
Grey Hat Hacker
Grey hat hackers possess both capabilities of white/black hat hackers. They break ethical principles but without malicious intent. They don’t care about stealing sensitive information but to find loopholes and vulnerabilities in a system to notify the administrator or the owner that their system contains one or more vulnerabilities that must be fixed immediately
White Hat Hacker
White hat hackers are Ethical hackers having full rights to perform cyber-attacks and locate vulnerabilities.
Types of Hacking
Hacking can be of several types depending upon the damage it can create and what type of target an attacker would try to exploit. Most commonly would be system hacking, web server hacking, web application hacking, hacking wireless networks and social engineering (Phishing, tailgating, whaling attack)
Five Phases of Ethical Hacking
The five phases of ethical hacking includes:
Planning and Reconnaissance
The first stage in performing ethical hacking is to define the scope and goals of a test, including the systems to be addressed and the testing methods to be used and then Gathering intelligence, i.e. network, mail server and DNS to better understand its possible vulnerabilities and how a target works.
The next step involves performing scanning in which a tester can learn how a target reacts to various intrusion attacks. This can be done either conducting:
- Static Analysis (examining an application’s code to observing the way it behaves while running)
- Dynamic Analysis (examining an application’s code in a running state, as providing a real-time view into an application’s performance)
This is a critical step where web application attacks have been used such as SQL Injection, Cross-site Scripting and backdoors to discover target’s vulnerabilities and then exploit them by stealing information and interfering privileges and observe the amount of damage it can cause
In this step of testing, the found vulnerability is used as a persistent presence in the exploit system for a long duration having objective to steal sensitive information or to spread malicious code inside the network, quickly gaining access to the server.
Analysis and WAF Configuration
The final step is to compile the result by analyzing and documenting about the vulnerabilities exploited, access to the data, and the amount of time that the tester can remain unnoticed in the system.
How to become a Hacker
To be an ethical hacker or a penetration tester the very first thing you need is to have a willingness to learn new things, after that the most fundamental need is to having knowledge of at least one scripting language as well as some basic knowledge of Network and Web Security. This can be achieved by getting hands on training provided by EC-Council.
EC-Council’s Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) course summarizes various independent certification programs in order to deliver outstanding training and learning. The VAPT course structure is as follows:
The three core certifications of this course includes:
- Certified Network Defender
- Certified Ethical Hacker
- Certified Ethical Hacker (Practical)
At the advance level this course includes:
- Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst
- EC-Council Certified Security Analyst
- EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (Practical)
At expert level:
- Licensed Penetration Tester (Master)
Top Hacking Tools
For an instance, let’s just assume you want to know how a threat can occur and what damages it can create, at that point you need to think like a hacker and know the tools and techniques they are likely to use. Ethical hacking tools allow anyone to report security incidents by exploring vulnerabilities and flaws within companies to help make their systems and applications less vulnerable. The top hacking tools used by security experts and individuals are listed below:
Metasploit is an open source project written in Ruby that allows to use different cyber-security tools to discover remote software vulnerabilities and functions as an exploit development module.
Network mapper is a free, open source security tool used to audit and manage operating system and network security for local as well as remote hosts. By using this tool we can detect open ports on remote hosts, network mapping, exploring vulnerabilities inside the network and audit security devices.
Wireshark is another free, open source software allows you to analyze network traffic in real time. It has sniffing technology from which you are able to intercept and see the results in human readable form. It also saves analysis for offline operation making it more effective.
OpenVAS or Nessus is one of the best network vulnerability scanners used to detect remote vulnerabilities in any hosts. Mostly system administrators and DevOps professionals use this tool to perform simultaneous multiple scanning hosts. It has a powerful web-based interface able to exports all results in HTML, XML, LateX and plain text.
Ettercap is another famous packet sniffing tool for LAN networks, capable of handling active as well as passive scans and various encrypted protocols such as SSH and HTTPS. It performs network and host analysis with manipulation of the network over established connections, making easier to test man-in-the-middle attacks.
Some more tools including John the ripper (password cracking tool), Nikto (Web server scanner), SQLMap (launch SQL code injection tests on remote hosts), Wapiti (CLI based vulnerability scanner) and BeEF are effectively used to perform penetration testing.
This article will help you to understand the basic concepts of Ethical Hacking, how to become a Hacker, what are the types of hacking and hackers and the useful tools to perform penetration testing.