As Part of Celebrations for National Day of Ethical Hacking, Here’s a Guide to the Profession

On this National Day of Ethical Hacking, let’s take a look at the fundamental prerequisites for pursuing a career in this field – eight essential requisites that are crucially important.

Alright, let’s get started.

What motivates individuals to hack?

The act of hacking refers to the malevolent manipulation of a computer’s security system, with the aim of accessing its internal networks. In simpler terms, it’s the illegal and unauthorised exploitation of a computer’s security features to gain access to confidential network data.

To put it simply, what does ethical hacking mean?

The aim of ethical hacking is to locate and fix security weaknesses present in a company’s network or cloud infrastructure, in order to prevent cyberattacks. It involves a range of techniques and tools that are utilized to determine security vulnerabilities which cybercriminals can exploit, like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, ransomware, and malware. By identifying and mitigating security threats, ethical hacking significantly reduces the likelihood of data breaches and other cyber-related incidents for organizations.

What or who exactly is a hacker?

An IT expert who “hacks” a system employs unconventional methods to solve problems or achieve their objectives.

In the world of hacking, one can come across any of the following:

  • The Good Guys:

    An ethical hacker is an individual who applies their expertise to benefit others, rather than to commit crimes. Such hackers do not have a criminal mentality.
  • The Villainous:

    Someone with malicious intentions who employs hacking methods to gain entry to computer systems or networks belonging to others.
  • Grey Hat:

    In computer security, a grey hat is an individual who gains unauthorized access to a system and later discloses any security loopholes they come across to the organization.
  • Green Hat:

    Green hat hackers or script kiddies are individuals who lack expertise in the domain of computer security. They are notorious for exploiting pre-existing hacking tools to obtain unauthorized access to computers, networks, websites, and software applications.
  • Hacktivist:

    A hacker who aims to make an ideological statement.

What precisely constitutes a “good” hacker?

Through the application of various programming languages and techniques, ethical hackers endeavour to penetrate computer systems and networks. Following successful access, they offer suggestions on how the organization can improve its cloud and computer systems to minimize the possibility of future security breaches.

Ethical hackers, unlike their “black hat” counterparts, are committed to improving an organization’s network security. Instead of exploiting the company’s IT infrastructure, ethical hackers work to enhance its safeguards.

What is the role of an ethical hacker?

Companies may opt to engage ethical hackers as third-party contractors, internal administrators, or external consultants to enhance their corporate cybersecurity. Such experts possess a unique level of expertise and knowledge, assisting organizations in safeguarding their systems and data from malevolent entities.

In carrying out any of these roles, ethical hackers are expected to meet the following standards:

  • Penetrating Networks:

    Ethical hacking, also called penetration testing, requires a legally authorized individual to intentionally breach a company’s network to uncover any potential vulnerabilities. This type of hacker is employed to detect any potential issues in the system before malicious actors can exploit them. Ethical hackers can assist companies in protecting their networks and systems from potential threats.
  • Documenting Research:

    The foremost duty of ethical hackers is to meticulously document any security weaknesses and/or bugs they may detect during their analysis. They must provide a comprehensive report of their findings and associated risks to identify and address any possible security vulnerabilities.
  • Protecting Corporate Information:

    To preserve the confidentiality of their research, ethical hackers must comply with established procedures for safeguarding sensitive information. They should never agree to share their findings and results with any third party under any circumstances.
  • Remedying Security Weaknesses in IT Infrastructure:

    Ethical hackers also address any security vulnerabilities in the system based on their discoveries.

Could you describe the career path of an ethical hacker?

The initial step towards becoming a professional ethical hacker is to offer protective security services to a company’s IT department.

As your capabilities and productivity improve, so does your potential to assume more significant roles within the hacking industry. For instance, you could begin as a security specialist, advance to a security administrator role, and culminate as a security software developer. In each of these positions, you would have the opportunity to sharpen and enhance your hacking abilities.

Ethical hacking comprises various occupations, including but not limited to the following:

  • Information Security Analyst
  • Cyber Defence Specialist
  • Computer Security Engineer
  • Security Specialist
  • Safety and Assurance Architect
  • Intrusion Detection Specialist
  • Information Security Officer

Could you inform me about the standard remuneration for an ethical hacker?

The ethical hacking sector offers immense earning potential. If you have the necessary qualifications, you may receive a six-figure salary.

According to Glassdoor, the median salary for an ethical hacker is around $114,648 per year. Moreover, experienced ethical hackers may earn generous compensation of over $700,000 annually for enhancing an organisation’s cybersecurity measures.

The salary offered to an ethical hacker depends on factors such as their experience, skills, educational background, projects executed, location, and negotiation abilities.

What kind of training is required to become an ethical hacker?

In order to excel in the realm of ethical hacking, one needs to have a combination of technical expertise and interpersonal skills. Ethical hackers must possess the ability to think creatively and solve intricate problems. Good communication skills are also imperative in this line of work.

Some people possess the talent of social engineering, which involves persuading individuals to disclose confidential information rather than attempting to breach a computer system. This tactic is frequently employed to gain access to data that would otherwise be unattainable.

The majority of ethical hackers hold a degree in computer science, while others may have studied electrical engineering or information security. In addition, many individuals who identify as “ethical hackers” have extensive experience in the Information Technology (IT) sector, either as security specialists or developers.

While it is possible for some people to acquire knowledge of hacking techniques through self-study and practice, organisations tend to prefer candidates who have completed formal training and obtained certifications in ethical hacking.

Requirements for Becoming an Ethical Hacker

The two primary certifications for ethical hackers include the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP).

Ethical hacking is a unique discipline in the field of network security, and the CEH certification represents this specialisation.

The Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) exam assesses the candidate’s ability to demonstrate their mastery in probing computer networks, identifying security vulnerabilities, and launching cyberattacks. The test is designed to mimic a real-life network environment, with target computers running various operating systems and configurations. To pass the exam, the candidate must showcase their proficiency in recognising and exploiting security weaknesses to gain entry into the network.

While there are several other credentials available, the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) are the most widely recognised ones.

8 Simple Steps to Ethical Hacking

Mastery of LINUX/UNIX as the First Step

For aspiring ethical hackers, mastery of Linux is highly recommended since it is one of the most commonly utilised operating systems for hacking.

Kali Linux, a security-oriented version of the Linux operating system designed specifically for ethical hacking, is the leading system in this category. Other Linux distributions like Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu, BackTrack, among others, are also highly recommended alternatives for those seeking to explore the capabilities of the open-source platform.

Secondary, Master the Most Prevalent Programming Languages

C is considered a foundational language and is highly regarded as one of the earliest programming languages. It serves as a standard starting point for UNIX/LINUX training, which is why mastering C is critical to maximising the benefits of Linux operating systems. It is often referred to as “the mother of all programming languages”.

In addition, ethical hackers usually have a comprehensive understanding of numerous programming languages, including, but not restricted to, the following:

  • Python:

    Frequently employed in the realm of exploit development
  • SQL:

    Ideal for infiltrating voluminous datasets
  • PHP:

    A security-oriented language capable of guarding against malicious attacks and preventing them
  • JavaScript:

    Compatible with hacking web applications

Thirdly, Practice Remaining Covert

The capacity to conceal your genuine identity is an essential requirement for any ethical hacker.

To safeguard against malevolent hackers, ethical hackers must have the ability to remain anonymous. This is because once a malicious hacker becomes aware of the presence of another user on a network, they may initiate an attack. Therefore, it is crucial for ethical hackers to stay undetected.

Anonsurf, Proxychains, and MacChanger are some of the top methods for masking your online identity.

The Fourth Step: Learn Basic Networking Principles

Comprehending the essentials of networking and network architecture is essential for ethical hackers.

Exploiting security vulnerabilities necessitates a thorough understanding of numerous network protocols. Ethical hackers possessing a sound knowledge of networking technologies, such as Nmap, Wireshark, and comparable programmes, are in high demand on account of their extremely valuable skills.

The ethical hacker must possess a solid understanding of the following networking concepts:

  • Subnetting
  • TCP/IP Protocol
  • Differences Between Network Masks and CIDR
  • Controller Area Network (CAN) Connections in Vehicles
  • IP Address Resolution Protocol (ARP)
  • Radio Frequency (RF) Networks
  • Bluetooth Systems in Mobile Phones
  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
  • Server Message Block (SMB)
  • The Functioning of Domain Name System (DNS)
  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Networks (Modbus Protocol)

Additionally, explore the dark and deep web to enhance your understanding.

The dark web is a significant part of the internet that cannot be accessed through traditional search engines. To enter the deep and dark web, specialized software or authorization is necessary. One such common software is the Tor browser.

Although the dark web is often associated with illegal activities, it has legitimate purposes. As a result, ethical hackers must have a thorough understanding of both the positive and negative aspects of the deep and dark web in order to perform their duties efficiently.

Moreover, learn about encryption techniques and methodologies.

Encryption is a crucial aspect of information security, used for a range of purposes – including, but not limited to, authentication, data integrity, and confidentiality. Therefore, sound knowledge and practical application of cryptography is an essential prerequisite for any proficient hacker.

Additionally, gain a deeper understanding of hacking and its mechanisms.

Once you have a solid understanding of fundamental hacking tools and techniques, you can progress to more complex subjects such as Structured Query Language (SQL) injection, penetration testing, and vulnerability research. These practices will enable you to obtain further insight into the fascinating field of hacking and security.

Remaining aware of the latest hacking tools, techniques, and system security changes is crucial to stay ahead in the field. Joining relevant discussion groups and reading weblogs focused entirely on this topic can help with this. By doing so, one can stay informed and prepared in case of any security breaches.

The following are some of the most frequently visited blogs and online communities related to hacking:

  • Computer System Safety Expert with In-depth Knowledge
  • Security Update for the Week
  • Tripwire’s Internet Safety Report
  • Technology News Specially Curated for Hackers
  • Research on Security by Bruce Schneier
  • Journal on Information Security
  • Centre for Digital Security Operations
  • Troy Hunt

Identifying Weaknesses

The presence of vulnerabilities in a system makes it susceptible to exploitation by malicious actors. Therefore, it is essential to understand the process of vulnerability scanning as a means of protecting against such threats. Vulnerability scanning involves assessing system security by identifying probable vulnerabilities like outdated software, misconfigured services or open ports. Kali Linux operating system serves as a popular platform for performing vulnerability scans and comprises utilities like Nmap, Nessus, and OpenVAS that enable identification, classification, and prioritization of security risks.

  • Identifying Web Application Issues using Nessus Vulnerability Scanner:

  • Nikto Vulnerability Scanner:

    Detecting Hosting Issues with Websites
  • OpenVAS Vulnerability Scanner:

    Identifying and Reporting Network Device Issues
  • Wapiti for Vulnerability Detection:

    Pinpointing Weaknesses in Online Applications like Cross-site Scripting and SQL Injection
  • Overview of Nmap Vulnerability Scanner:

    Simultaneously Identifying Issues in Various Systems

It’s important to acquaint yourself with numerous vulnerable testing utilities such as OpenVAS, Nessus, and Metasploit.

Ways to Gain Practical Experience in Ethical Hacking

  • Practice using vulnerable computers from Hack The Box and Vulnhub.
  • Participating in bug bounty sites can provide training for real-world scenarios.
  • Hackers may target actual live websites, but caution must be exercised to prevent any harm.


Individuals with a passion for programming, computation, analysis, and logical thinking might find ethical hacking to be a demanding yet highly gratifying career path.

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  1. Is becoming an ethical hacker possible for me?

    Absolutely, anyone can become an ethical hacker by dedicating the appropriate amount of time and effort to gain the necessary knowledge and experience.
  2. What qualifications are necessary to pursue a career in ethical hacking?

    Formal education in computer science, a two-year IT degree program, or a certificate in the field are commonly required for a job as an ethical hacker. Learn more in our Minimum Viable Product Development Guide.
  3. What is the duration of training necessary to become an “ethical hacker”?

    The length of time required to become an ethical hacker is dependent on the individual’s expertise, previous knowledge, and certifications. It may take just a few weeks to master the basics, but it could take many years to become a skilled ethical hacker. Acquisition of certifications is also typically a time-consuming process that must be considered when determining how long your path to becoming an ethical hacker will take.

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