Ethical Hacking: A Comprehensive Guide In 2020

Introduction to Ethical Hacking

The terms ‘hacking’ and ‘hacker’ were coined in the 1960s when a computer system security was breached for the first time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since then, the terms have evolved and expanded in their scope in the computing community. Hacking is basically breaking into a computer or computer system by finding its vulnerabilities, with malicious intent.  Hacking is illegal and the consequences of getting caught are severe. 

  1. What is Ethical Hacking? 
  2. Types
  3. Examples 
  4. Basics
  5. Difference between Ethical Hacking and Cyber Security 

1. What is Ethical Hacking? 

What is Ethical Hacking? Organizations these days are using hacking as a precautionary measure, to identify bugs and expose chinks in their computer systems, to best protect their computer systems from cyber-attacks. The question arises: Is ethical hacking legal? Using the process of hacking in a positive manner, with due permission of the companies to find glitches in their systems, so that they could be fixed, is called Ethical Hacking. Professionals that provide hacking services by legal approval in a legitimate manner without any malicious intent are called Ethical Hackers. 

Ethical Hacking is also known as penetration or pen testing and involves intruding practices and processes to discover any threats or cyber security weaknesses that can be exploited by a hacker. Ethical hackers find vulnerabilities in parts of computer systems like firewalls, websites, network passwords and come up with solutions that not only detect security threats and guard the reputation of a company but also help in inspiring customer confidence by protecting the client’s data and information. 

More about ethical hacking:  Ethical hacking also called ‘White Hat Hacking’ involves scanning, footprinting, and tackling all the secured information. Ethical means a philosophy with morality. Ethical hacking needs higher-level skills in comparison to penetration testing. Penetration testing is similar to ethical hacking but the hacker tests threats to security by using penetrating tools.  

2. Types of Ethical Hacking

The ethical hacking process involves an in-depth knowledge of all components of the computer system by ethical hacker. As there are various modules of the computer system that are vulnerable to hacking, there are various types of ethical hacking involved in securing a system’s data. Some of them are listed below: 

  • System hacking 
  • Web application hacking 
  • Web server hacking 
  • Hacking social engineering processes 
  • Wireless network hacking 
  • Social engineering hack 
  • War dialing  
  • Code review 

3. Examples to Ethical Hacking

Ethical hacking also known as white hat hacking is performed in multiple ways. It may include using widely circulated online information about the company to infiltrate its websites and security systems by simulating attacks that could attack the systems. Another traditional way is to test the company’s firewalls, switches, routers etc. for security breaches. White hat hackers also try to hack into the organization’s wireless network to check its sturdiness against attacks. 

The most common and relatable ethical hacking example is that it is used by makers of Operating Systems. Before launching their OS in the market, these organizations perform their own ethical hacks to their systems, to prevent possible attacks from real hackers later on. This can be seen as a quality control measure during the developmental phase of the OS, to make sure that all bugs, loopholes, and weaknesses are resolved before launching the final version for mass usage. 

4. Basics to Ethical Hacking

As already established, ethical hacking deals with identifying the bugs and vulnerabilities in a computer system or network and works towards strengthening the system against possible attacks. To have an in-depth understanding of the concept, understanding the basics of ethical hacking and hacking, in general, is essential. Hackers are generally sorted out according to their motives: 

  • White Hat Hackers: These are the ethical hackers who break into a system with prior permissions and their motive is to find weaknesses inside the system to protect it from attacks from hackers with malicious intents. 
  • Black Hat Hackers: These hackers hack into any system illegally, with the intent to steal sensitive information and harm the system. They are wary of being caught and tend to keep their identities secret. 
  • Grey Hat Hackers: These hackers are a blend of both white and black hat hackers. They break into systems for the fun of it illegally, with an intent to find bugs and earn bug bounty money in the process. 
  • Suicide Hacker: Suicide hackers work illegally with the motive of bringing down the infrastructures of big organizations. They are not scared of consequences and are rather boastful about their expertise in the field.  

Ethical hacking is divided into six phases, that act as guidelines for using various ethical hacking techniques in this discipline. These six phases are Reconnaissance, Scanning, Gaining Access, Maintaining Access, Clearing Tracks, and Reporting. 

5. Difference between Ethical Hacking and Cyber Security 

Ethical hacking and cybersecurity are penetration testing devices and work towards the same goal, but with different methods and objectives. Though both deal with strengthening a computer network or system, there is a clear-cut difference between ethical hacking and cybersecurity.   

Going by ethical hacking definition- it is the process of testing computer systems and networks against security breaches, to make sure that the system is fully secure and no hacker can bypass it. Cybersecurity on the other hand deals with securing the systems by mitigating the security risk involved by using appropriate security controls. Cybersecurity is an umbrella term that has ethical hacking as an important factor.

Cybersecurity deals with recognizing potential security issues, developing system protection, reporting violations, assessing security systems as a whole, performing regular audits around the systems, and keeping security updated by conducting regular system maintenance.  Ethical hacking deals with breaching security by hacking into the system, exploiting and exposing the company’s weaknesses, and conducting penetration testing to enhance security. 

So, both ethical hacking and cyber security work as two-pronged protection devices towards strengthening an organization’s security and protecting it against cyber-attacks. 


In today’s world, when new bugs, worms, malware, viruses and ransomware are multiplying at an alarming rate, the need for ethical hacking services is paramount to safeguard the interests of businesses and their clients. Ethical hacking not only protects data from being stolen and misused but also works towards preventing security breaches, defending national security by protecting data from terrorist organizations and gaining customer trust by ensuring the safety of their data.  

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.

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