In the 1960s, the concept of hacking got some limelight and the term hacker was making noise at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They used it to describe experts who were using their skills for re-developing mainframe systems. They were also focusing on allowing these systems to perform multi-task and enhancing their efficiency.
However, today in most situations, the term hacker refers to skilled programmers who usually try for unauthorized access into systems that belongs to others. This job involves exploiting weakness and using bugs and this task is usually motivated by mischief or malice. For example, today hackers create crack passwords and algorithms for penetrating networks and to disrupt some kind of network services.
A Common Phenomenon
Today, hacking is one of the most common phenomenons, and this has boosted by the increased popularity of E-commerce and the internet. To understand this, unethical and malicious hacking attacks are performed for stealing financial gain and valuable information. There is something called ethical hacking which is performed with some good motive. Ethical hackers are trained and hired by organizations for solving the vulnerabilities in their systems and networks. This job involves developing solutions for preventing data breaches. This is something like using a thief to catch a thief. In fact being an ethical hacker can lead to a very lucrative career. Many companies that heavily utilize technology have entire teams dedicated to this type of work. Large corporations and small startups alike use ethical hackers to identify and fix vulnerabilities in their operations, systems, and products. Some hold large ethical hacking contests with bounty rewards. For example, there is a bounty contest in which the top adult dating and sex apps, such as the one found here, offer rewards for identifying bugs and vulnerabilities thus allowing their users to skip the games and find casual sex without having to worry about unscrupulous people trying to exploit there technology. Since the publicized Ashley Madison hack this has become a much more visible issue in this space.
What is Ethical Hacking?
So, unlike unethical hacking, ethical hacking is completely authorized practice. Here the hacker bypasses the system security for identifying potential data breaches. He also performs tasks for finding threats in the system and in-network. The owner of the network gives permission to these cybersecurity experts for performing all kinds of activities and allow them to test his system. Unlike malicious or unethical hacking, ethical hacking is approved, planned, legal, and important.
Ethical hackers are experts who mainly aim to investigate the entire system and the network for weak points. These are the points that can be attacked by malicious hackers for destroying or exploiting the system. They also help the organization in collecting and analyzing all the required information to figure out the best ways to strengthen the security of the system. They help in strengthening applications and networks as well. With all these, they help the organization in improving the security footprint so that it withstands all kinds of attacks.
List of key vulnerabilities check by ethical hackers are:
- Components in the system which are used as access points
- Breach present in authentication protocols
- Exposure of data that is sensitive
- Changes made in security settings
- Injection attacks
White Hat Hacking
White hat is the word used for the practice of ethical hacking. The experts who perform ethical hacking are referred to as white hat hackers. In contrast, they refer to the word black hat for practices that involve security violations and illegal hackers are known as black hat hackers.
White hat hackers always perform their job with permission whereas grey hat hackers don’t. Grey hat hackers never dig up systems for third-party or personal benefit. There will not be any malicious intention behind their attacks. The majority of the time, they do it for fun and for other reasons as well. But, both black and great hat hackers are considered illegal. Their act comes under an unauthorized system breach even though the intentions are different.
White Hat vs. Black Hat Hacking
The motives are a very important consideration for differentiating between these two types of hackers. If the motive is good then you can consider the hacker as ethical. Black hat hackers always come with malicious intent and they will have motives like harassment, profit, and personal gains. But white hat hackers do their job for seeking out some kind of vulnerabilities and remedies and they also help in preventing attacks from black hat hackers.
Along with motives, you can also consider other points like techniques used for differentiating these two types. White hat hackers try to duplicate the methods and techniques which are followed by malicious hackers. Through this, they easily find out the replications and discrepancies. By all these either they will find out the attack occurred or expected attacks. In case if they find some weak points, then they will immediately report it and correct it.
Another thing you can consider is legality. Even though all the white hackers follow the methods and techniques which are similar to that of black hat hackers, these are legally accepted. But, black hat hackers perform the same techniques by breaking the law and they penetrate the system without consent.
Ownership is another aspect you can consider here. White hat hackers are employed by companies or offered bounties (Apple’s can be found here) and they are insisted to penetrate the company’s system. But black hat hackers are neither the owner of the system or they have permission to penetrate.
Even though ethical hackers are hired intentionally by the organization, they should follow certain guidelines before performing the hacking legally. Hence a good, white-hat hacker should know his roles and responsibilities.