From Villain to Hero: Who are Ethical Hackers?

From Villain to Hero: Who are Ethical Hackers?

Hacking has been there since day one of Computing. And the post-pandemic interconnected world is at risk more than ever. This threat has given rise to a new kind of infosec expert that thinks like the bad guys and turns the nefarious practices of the hackers against them.

But the question is, who are these ethical hackers? What do they do exactly? Can you buy one for yourself? These are some of the questions I shall be dealing with in this article. Stick around to know more about it. 

What Does an Ethical Hacker Do?

In general parlance, hacking denotes any attempt to gain access to a system by exploiting the vulnerabilities of the system. Conventional hackers, also known as black hat hackers, do this without permission and for mere personal gains. Various tools are used by hackers to probe a system’s defenses for weaknesses that allow entry. When the hackers successfully break into the system, it lets them steal valuable data like business records, business secrets, medical records, banking details, etc. 

Ethical hackers do have the same overarching goals. They also seek ways to enter the system via unconventional means. However, there is a key difference, that is, they do the same job with the system administrator’s or owner’s permission. 

Rather than practice data theft, ethical or white hat hackers thoroughly put on record or document the entire process they used to gain entry. The vulnerabilities are reported to their employer, and they also offer guidance on the ways and methods of patching up. 

Ethical hackers, in a sense, have a great and vital role in promoting cyber security awareness. On the one hand, the vast experience of ethical hackers is used to help companies in the implementation of better defenses. On the other hand, they also help to demonstrate how easy it can be to compromise lax cybersecurity. It may serve as a wake-up call to higher-ups who might not take it seriously. 

How Does Ethical Hacking Work?

One of the important aspects and a part of a successful white hat is to be able to think and act like a malicious hacker. There are certain boundaries that need not be crossed. For example, physically threatening employees to obtain security information. It has to be kept in mind that ethical thinking requires considerable operational freedom and independence; only then it can yield the best results. 

Some companies are more conscientious with their cybersecurity as compared to others. One of the trusted methods to do this is to secure the networks through a VPN and generate all logins through a password manager. Ethical hackers will test the efficacy of these tools.

Ethical hackers develop mock scenarios and employ creative ways of bypassing security as well. They can attach the system directly, sniffing out open ports and discovering backdoors in the company’s network in the process. Everything from an unsanctioned endpoint to flaws in the company’s update and patching policies is fair game for security. 

Human error is among the leading cybersecurity risks. Ethical hackers test that approach as well. It is not uncommon for them to devise phishing scams to lure employees into giving out their credentials. They may also test for weak and repeating passwords or even conduct physical inspections to make sure credentials or sensitive data is not out in the open.  

What Skills Must Ethical Hackers Have?

A successful hacker must have a knowledge of many things. He needs to be a jack of many trades. He must have an extensive familiarity with networks, and knowledge of network security is a must. This includes wireless networking, which is becoming standard for a growing number of companies. In-depth knowledge of the hardware and software side of the computer systems used to access such networks is also crucial.    

Black hats carry most cyberattacks out via malicious code like ransomware, Trojans, and countless viruses. Ethical hackers must be able to understand and be able to replicate such threats. In such a case, Advanced programming knowledge is of great importance. The more language the White hat knows, the better. SQL skills are particularly important since many attacks directly target databases.

Communication between a system’s parts presents an opportunity for unauthorized entry. Unethical hackers need a solid understanding of cryptography to breach or encrypt such communication.

When it comes to personality, the ideal ethical hacker is as skilled at problem-solving as they are at social engineering. Since hacking methods are constantly evolving, it is therefore essential to keep pace with the changing nature of the hacking system. He must even have in the back of his mind an idea, a solution that doesn’t exist yet. 

You can gain the trust of others only if you have a charismatic and socially adept personality.  It will allow you to expose security vulnerabilities related to employees’ behavior. It will help you to be more adept at presenting the findings in a way non-technical management types can understand and appreciate. 

How Does One Become an Ethical Hacker?

There is no hard and fast rule for starting a career as an ethical hacker. Ethical hacking falls under information security, so having an infosec or adjacent degree is a strong foundation and will help you go in the long run. It will also help you to get accredited certification in the field. Organizations like CompTIA, the EC-Council, or ISACA offer courses and certificates for different aspects of the profession.


There are a few examples of fighting fire with fire as impactful as ethical hacking is. It is a line of work that requires expertise in varying and different fields and a sharp mind that can stay ahead of the crooks. The salary is tempting; projections peg it as a profession with exceptional future demand. More importantly, ethical hacking is a worthwhile pursuit with tangible benefits to society. 

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