A Comprehensive Guide to Ethical Hacking: Meaning, Types, Benefits, and Training

by Micheal Olorunwumi

A famous saying goes thus, “It takes a thief to catch a thief,” so it is in hacking. Hackers prove that there are vulnerabilities in every computer, which isn’t a thing everyone can do.

Long before now, hackers were just a set of experts who dealt with increasing the fastness of a mainframe computer by re-developing systems for the benefit of multitasking. 

These days, hackers are programmers who use the weaknesses of a system and steal the information therein, either by mischief, malice, or making use of bugs. For example, a hacker invades network services, penetrates passwords, and creates algorithms for these causes.

However, there are several types of hackers, three majorly: white hat hackers, black hat hackers, and grey hat hackers. Not all hackers are malicious, white hat hackers are the only legal and authorized hackers, and they are involved in what is called “Ethical Hacking.”

Follow me as I take you through the meaning, types, and benefits of ethical hacking and the steps to becoming an ethical hacker as a beginner.

What is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking, also known as white hat hacking, is digging out weaknesses, differences, and gaps in computer systems to provide a solution for them. 

Ethical hacking is the practice of using hacking techniques to test a system or network for security vulnerabilities. Ethical hackers, also known as white hat hackers, work with organizations to identify and fix security weaknesses before malicious hackers can exploit them.

These same lapses, differences, and gaps are what malicious or black hat hackers see without the consent of the computer system inventor, to either sell or jeopardize them or use them for selfish interests.

In the early days of hacking, dating back to the 80s and 90s, hackers were known as ethical hackers today because all they did then was serve as guards to the data on a firm’s site. Only for it to have various types and intentions now; things changed as time passed. 

Ethical hacking is legal because companies, organizations, government parastatals, financial institutions, universities, and any business venture need experts to guard their databases, look for vulnerabilities, and secure their websites, mobile applications, and all information. That is why most agencies, particularly in Nigeria, employ ethical hackers to keep their online presence intact.

Of all the programming languages available, hackers use C++ most times because it allows them easy access to hardware on a low level, thereby, capable of carrying out stress-free operations.

To become an ethical hacker, you must possess basic programming, troubleshooting, communication, operating system sufficiency, advanced knowledge about search engines, computer hardware knowledge, and fundamental knowledge of computers.

Types Of Ethical Hacking

Firstly, there are no types of ethical hacking. Ethical hacking is one type of hacking. Nevertheless, three significant concepts exist in ethical hacking: scanning, enumeration, and exploitation. 

Hence, it is more about types of hacking than ethical hacking. This includes an analogy of “color” and “hat” attached to each set of hackers to symbolize their intentions and actions. Below are details on the types of hackers in existence:

  1. Black hat hackers

These are thieves, cyber crooks, criminals, and any other similar name you wish. Black hat hackers capitalize on the vulnerabilities of a system with bad intentions. They run their operations without permission from the user. Their moves are against ethical hackers.

  1. White hat hackers 

Like the black hat hackers, a white hat, alias ethical hacker, also looks out for weaknesses but with pure intentions of fixing them. 

They are called security experts hired by either government or private parastatals to secure their data and search for loopholes in their applications and other technology outfits. It sometimes happens that a black hat hacker turns white. However, white hackers are after cyber safety.

  1. Gray hat hackers

To explain who the gray hat hackers are, look closely at this scenario: there is this museum close to you with several artifacts, but in all is a special one that is privately secured because its worth is higher than Everest. 

Where it stays is a robust security structure that triggers an alarm at any slight robbery attempt. A gray hat hacker then sees some loopholes and possible ways of this unique artifact being stolen and sends a letter to the management at the museum for assistance.

He gets no response from them and decides to go to where the artifact is, but unlike the black hat hacker, he didn’t steal it, but just dropped a letter or message in a conspicuous place, so close to the artifacts. Mind you, he did this by bypassing all the alarm and security outfits.

The museum management saw it and knew someone had come so close. Saw the letter and decided to beef up the security without killing a pig. This is precisely how a grey hat hacker acts. They are like the sporty hackers in the game of hacking.

  1. Blue hat hackers

All they do is test-run new but unannounced products and look out for security issues. They are employed mainly by tech companies. There is the Blue Hat Convention, an annual event held by Google that you might pick interested in times to come.

  1. Red hat hackers

These use most of the techniques and protocols of black hat hackers, but they do not act like them. Instead, they act against them. They are hired or employed to aggressively block black hats from accessing systems. But, mostly, they are hired for mission sake by government agencies.

  1. Green hat hacker

The green hat hackers are newbies just learning the fundamentals and everything around hacking. They could become an ethical hacker, gray hat, blue, red, but not black hat.

Ethical Hacking and Cybersecurity

Ethical hacking is a valuable security tool that can help organizations protect themselves from cyberattacks. By working with ethical hackers, organizations can identify and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, which can help to prevent data breaches, financial losses, and other damage.

Cybersecurity is the collection of methods, tools, and processes to protect a computer system’s integrity, confidentiality, and availability from cyber attacks. Cybersecurity experts don’t have to hack into the system. Instead, they aim to protect the system by taking all possible protective measures.

While ethical hacking is done by ‘ethical’ hackers, who are legitimate hackers that hack with the owner’s permission and provide a report about the hack, Cybersecurity, on the other hand, is managed by cybersecurity experts whose primary goal is to defend the system from malicious activity.

Mind you, the bridging system varies from country to country, although Nigeria may posess some similarities with other countries. 

Ethical hacking and Cybersecurity in Nigeria and globally typically involve the following steps:

  1. Planning

The ethical hacker will first need to gather information about the system or network they will test. This information can include the system’s architecture, the types of data it stores, and the security measures it has in place.

  1. Enumeration

The ethical hacker will then use tools and techniques to enumerate the system or network. This involves identifying the system’s assets, such as computers, servers, and devices. The ethical hacker will also try to identify the system’s vulnerabilities.

  1. Exploitation

Then, the ethical hacker will attempt to exploit the system’s vulnerabilities. This may involve trying to gain access to the system, steal data, or disrupt the system’s operation.

  1. Reporting

Once the ethical hacker has finished testing the system, they will report their findings to the organisation. The report will typically include a list of the vulnerabilities found, as well as recommendations for how to fix them.

Benefits of Ethical Hacking

There are many benefits of ethical hacking, which include:

  1. Increased security

Ethical hacking can help organisations identify and fix security vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can exploit them. This can help to prevent data breaches, financial losses, and other damage.

  1. Compliance

Many organisations are required to comply with security regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Ethical hacking can help organisations demonstrate that they are taking steps to comply with these regulations.

  1. Reduced risk

Ethical hacking can help organisations reduce the risk of cyberattacks. Organisations can make it more difficult for attackers to access their systems by identifying and fixing vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.

  1. Improved security posture

Ethical hacking can help organisations improve their overall security posture. In addition, organisations can learn about the latest security threats and how to defend against them by working with ethical hackers.

Read also: A comprehensive guide to information security and its importance to Nigerians.

Ethical Hacking Tools

There are several tools that ethical hackers can use to test systems and networks for security vulnerabilities. Some of the most popular tools include:

  • Nmap: Nmap is a network scanner that can be used to identify hosts on a network and discover open ports.
  • Nessus: Nessus is a vulnerability scanner that can identify known vulnerabilities in systems and networks.
  • Metasploit: Metasploit is a framework that can exploit vulnerabilities in systems and networks.
  • Wireshark: Wireshark is a network sniffer that can capture and analyze traffic.
  • Burp Suite: Burp Suite is a suite of tools that can audit web applications for security vulnerabilities.

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Ethical Hacking Courses and Certifications

There are many ethical hacking certifications that can help individuals demonstrate their skills and knowledge in this area. Some of the most popular certifications include:

  1. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

The CEH certification is a vendor-neutral certification designed to assess ethical hackers’ skills and knowledge.

  1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP certification is a vendor-neutral certification designed to assess information security professionals’ skills and knowledge.

  1. Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

The OSCP certification is a hands-on certification designed to assess penetration testers’ skills and knowledge.

Read also: Top 7 new technologies you should learn in 2023.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, ethical hacking or white-hat hacking is an essential tool that sees to the safety of the data and the effectiveness of the workforce of any organization from malicious attacks from external forces. A strong tech team should be the first priority of any firm aiming beyond the stars.

If you are a tech-enthusiast, beginner, or even a professional, this skill is needed in Nigeria and beyond, and there are several places where you can register for courses online with little or no fee.

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About Author

Avatar of Micheal Olorunwumi
Micheal Olorunwumi
Michael Olorunwumi, is a final year student at the University of Ibadan, studying English language and Education. He is an SEO content writer, spoken word artiste, poet, Kampala textile designer, and rapper.

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