What is hacking?

The phrase ‘hacking’ conjures up images of devious cybercriminals. However, in the pure sense, a hacker is anybody who uses their knowledge and expertise in computer software or hardware to break down security measures on computers, networks or in applications.

A hacker can be designated unethical, illegal or even morally based solely on whether the hacker has permission to enter a system or not. Hackers who work on behalf of businesses can use their expertise and skill to find the holes that can be exploited by their malicious counterparts. 

What is ethical hacking?

For the past few weeks, this blog has covered the way that hackers can use their unique skills to help instead of hurt business owners. An example is penetration testing, which is when ethical hackers undertake a controlled invasion of your security system with your permission, to see how vulnerable your system is. 

What kinds of hacking are there? 

Black hat hackers are those who use their skills for either their financial gain, who use hacking for espionage or as a form of protest. Common hacking activities include spreading malware or stealing data or details. 

White hat hackers are hackers that use, as we’ve mentioned above, their powers for good instead of evil. They are also known as ethical hackers. They use their skills and expertise to find security holes or vulnerabilities for clients. Pen testing is part of the arsenal of white hat hackers, helping them to simulate the techniques that could be used by black hat hackers. Without white hat hackers, we wouldn’t have the vast arsenal of tools and defences against hostile forces that we do. You can identify a white hat hacker because they have established formal consent before entering a business’ system. 

Grey hat hackers have a motivation that is neither all good nor all bad. Grey hat hackers are people that make their way into a system without the owner’s permission or knowledge. If there are vulnerabilities or issues present, the hacker will present them to the owner and offer to fix the problem for money. Grey hat hackers aren’t necessarily looking to hack people’s system to exploit them, but more so get remuneration for something that they weren’t tasked to do. Still illegal, but less malicious than traditional hacking practices which are for clear financial violation. 

What is the difference between ethical hacking and penetration testing?

Penetration testing is simply a process which identifies the existence of flaws, risks or ‘unreliable environments’ in your system’s security. It emulates the behaviour of a malicious hacker and gives an accurate picture of how the system could be violated. Organisations hire penetration testers and conduct penetration tests (also called pen tests) to educate their IT team on what parts of the system are vulnerable and need strengthening.

Penetration testing is often carried out on one aspect of part of a system, whereas ethical hackers take into account the hacking risk of every part of the system. Ethical hackers require broader and more general access to systems than penetration testers,  to understand how the system works as a whole. Ethical hackers take on the responsibility of an entire system and also use other security-related techniques and defences. 

Click here to learn more about penetration testing or contact us to discuss what we can do for you.