Ethical Hacking – Ethical hacking is the science of securing your systems and networks by testing for security flaws and plugging them before bad individuals have a chance to exploit them.
For the sake of the professional security testing procedures discussed in this article, the term “ethical” has been defined as adhering to acknowledged professional norms of conduct. All of the tests described in this document require explicit authorization from the system’s owner(s).
Defining the term “hacker”
A hacker is a person who enjoys tinkering with electronic systems, software, or computers. Hackers enjoy studying and experimenting with new ways to get around a system. They are frequently zealous in their pursuit of novel ways to exploit flaws.
The term “hacker” has recently acquired a new definition: a person who maliciously breaches into a network or computer system for personal advantage. As a result, hackers are crooks or crackers with nefarious motives. They want to frustrate their targets by stealing vital information, modifying stored data, or deleting data and code.
Many hackers try to break into any system they believe is particularly vulnerable. Others seek well-protected computers since it improves their hacker reputation and status.
Ethical hacking safeguards against malicious hacking. Ethical hackers have the hacker’s mindset, skills, and tools, and they can be trusted. Ethical hackers enter into systems as a security check for the cyber-defense infrastructure that has been put in place. Penetration tests on a system are allowed, but they must be done with the authorization of the target.
Ethical hacking, often known as white-hat hacking, tries to find weaknesses that could be exploited by a black-hat hacker. The goal is to provide the best possible protection for a system by exploiting weaknesses from the perspective of a malevolent hacker. It’s a proactive risk management strategy that ensures your system’s security is improved on a regular basis. As a result, an ethical hacker must think like a bad guy hacker.
Why do you need to hack your systems?
With the rapid advancement of technology, practically every system will be compromised to some degree at some point. As a result, hacker skills are required to determine how susceptible and exposed your systems are. These abilities will also assist you in securing your system beyond recognised weaknesses.
Virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, and encryption can all give the impression of safety. These solutions simply defend against high-level weaknesses like traffic and viruses, and they have no impact on hacker activities. As a result, in order to provide additional security for your systems, you must self-hack in order to detect and eliminate flaws before back-hats exploit them and breach your system. This is the only approach to harden your security architecture that is certified.
You can’t secure your system from all threats unless you completely unplug it and keep it out of reach of others. However, it would be preferable if you tried to figure out how hackers get through security mechanisms and how to stop them. The rate at which ethical hackers expand their expertise should be directly proportional to the rate at which black-hat hackers extend their knowledge.
- As an ethical hacker, your overarching purpose should be as follows.
- Use hacking techniques that aren’t damaging.
- Determine and demonstrate the existence of vulnerabilities to the system owner.
- Close the gaps and improve the security of the system.
Understanding the threats to a system
Understanding the various dangers and attacks against your system is critical since it informs how to pen-test your network security. A weak SQL Server administrative password, a server on a wireless network, and a default Windows OS configuration, for example, may not represent serious security risks on their own. An effort to attack all three vulnerabilities at the same time, on the other hand, could result in catastrophic chaos. The following is a summary of some of the most well-known assaults that your system may face.
Because hackers can access network equipment remotely over the internet, they can attack it swiftly. Some of the network infrastructure assaults are listed here.
- Piggybacking onto a network using an unsecured 802.11b wireless setup.
- Multiple requests are sent to a network to cause a denial of service attack.
- Exploiting vulnerabilities in NetBIOS and TCP/IP, as well as any other network transport technology.
- To connect to a network, a rogue modem attached to a computer behind a firewall is used.
Within any network or computer architecture, the human aspect is the most significant vulnerability. It is quite easy to manipulate people. Humans are naturally trusting creatures, which hackers can take advantage of by luring the victim to obtain information for harmful intentions. A social-engineering exploit is the term for this type of attack or threat.
Physical attacks are another powerful method of attack. Hackers forcibly breaking into computer storerooms or secluded places containing sensitive and valuable information are among them.
Another widespread form of physical assault is dumpster diving. Hackers go through dumpsters and trash cans looking for valuable information, network diagrams, intellectual property, and other such items.
Hackers target applications because they are a rich source of vulnerabilities. Web applications and e-mail server software have been one of the key attack surfaces in recent years.
- Hackers regularly target applications like Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol, which provide full internet access owing to poorly set firewalls.
- Spam or junk e-mails can contain malware and wreak havoc on your system’s storage space.
- Malicious software has the ability to jam networks and bring a system to a halt. Trojan horses, spyware, viruses, and worms are examples.
Ethical hacking aids in the discovery of weaknesses in your system as well as the detection of potential attacks.
Every computer has an operating system, making it an ideal platform for launching assaults. Because of various well-known vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited, hackers prefer to target operating systems. Operating systems like BSD UNIX and Novell NetWare have been known to be hacked due to out-of-the-box security flaws. Linux and Windows both have well-known flaws that are frequently exploited.
The following are some examples of operating system attacks.
- The security of a file system has been breached.
- Default authentication schemes are being attacked.
- Cracking password and encryption schemes
- Taking advantage of specific flaws in protocol implementation
Ethical Hacking Commandments
A few commandments must guide an ethical vulnerability hunt. Otherwise, unfavourable outcomes and repercussions may occur. I’ve personally witnessed several of these commands being disregarded during pen-tests, and I can guarantee you that the outcomes are always negative.
Allow confidentiality and respect to reign supreme during the execution of your test. From clear-text files to web-application log files, every information gathered for the test must be treated with the highest confidentiality. Do not use the credentials you received to gain access to private life or business administrative platforms. If access to certain accounts is required, it is preferable to share the information or obtain authorization from the account holder or management. Ethical hacking is a practise of “watching the watcher.” As a result, it involves relevant people in order to obtain trust and support as you carry out your hacking project.
Working in an ethical manner
With professionalism, hack. As ethical hackers, we must adhere to strict guidelines based on moral values. Ascertain that the tactics and technologies you employ are compliant with the company’s security policy. Your executions should be aboveboard and complement the given system’s security policies and goals, whether you’re doing a penetration test on a personal computer or on an organization’s system. No nefarious motives are permitted.
Trustworthiness is the most important component for a good hacker. This is what sets you apart from the blackhats. What type of hacker you are depends on how you handle sensitive information after gaining access to a computer system. A bad-guy hacker misuses crucial data and exploits system flaws, whereas a good-guy hacker works for the system’s benefit.
Your systems will not be crushed
The potential of accidently crushing the system is one of the most significant concerns most people confront when hacking their systems. Some hackers make this error as a result of a lack of strategy for how to carry out their tests. Prior to breaking into any system, careful planning is required. Planning should account for 90% of the process, while execution should account for only 10%. Allow plenty of time to go over the documentation. Know how to utilise and how powerful the security tools and approaches you plan to employ.
When running multiple tests at the same time, your system may experience a DoS condition. Many tests run at the same time can cause the system to lock up. This is a situation that I have intimate knowledge of. You can trust me when I say that locking yourself out of your system is a pain. Do not presume that a particular host or network can withstand the abuse that vulnerability scanners and network scanners can inflict. Be patient, know your target system’s capability, and don’t rush things.
Most security assessment solutions can control the amount of tests that are run on a system at the same time. This rule is especially important if you plan to run testing during business hours or on always-on production systems.
Process of Ethical Hacking
Ethical hacking, like any other IT or security project, should be well-planned before implementation. The process should have a solid foundation, with strategic and tactical issues outlined and agreed upon. For all levels of tests, planning is essential, and it should be incorporated into the hacking process. Prior to any implementation, it should be addressed. It’s required for any test, from a simple password-cracking exercise to a comprehensive web application pen test. Here’s a quick rundown of the five basic processes that make up ethical hacking.
Creating a strategy
Make sure decision-makers are aware of your plans. Inform them of your plans so that they can assist you in acquiring funding for the project. Approval is crucial for ethical hacking, and you’ll need someone to back you up if something goes wrong. Otherwise, there could be serious legal consequences.
You need a thorough strategy, not a long list of tests. Your strategy should be well-thought-out and specific. A typical strategy can include:
- What systems will be put to the test?
- Risks that are expected
- The tests will be scheduled.
- Every assignment requires a different methodology.
- Before you run the tests, assess your level of understanding of the systems.
- a strategy for dealing with the vulnerabilities that have been identified
- Specific deliverables, such as reports containing countermeasures to be implemented for the identified vulnerabilities
- Always start your tests with the most vulnerable systems, in my opinion. For example, before diving into more complex systems, you may start with social engineering assaults or testing computer passwords.
Remember to have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. What if you take a web application offline while evaluating it? This can result in a service denial and, as a result, decreased staff productivity or system performance. In severe cases, a mistake could result in data loss, data integrity loss, poor publicity, or even the system’s complete failure.
Without the appropriate instruments, completing any endeavour is practically impossible. However, having all of the necessary tools does not guarantee that you will identify all of the flaws. Discover your technical and human constraints, as certain security assessment tools may identify vulnerabilities wrongly. Some instruments may provide false positives, while others may overlook flaws. When conducting a physical-security or social-engineering assessment, for example, flaws are frequently missed.
Always make sure you’re using the correct tool for the job.
- You can use John the Ripper, pwdump, or LC4 for simple tests like the cracking-password test.
- A more sophisticated online application evaluation tool, such as WebInspect, will be better appropriate for more advanced analysis, such as web application tests.
Hackers frequently misjudge the capabilities and usefulness of hacking tools, resulting in disastrous outcomes. As a result, familiarise yourself with these difficult tools before beginning to use them. This can be accomplished by doing the following:
- Reading online can assist you with your tool.
- Examining the user’s manual for the commercial tool you’ve chosen.
- The provider of the security tool will provide formal classroom training.
Putting the strategy into action
For a successful ethical hacking operation, time and patience are essential. While hacking your system, be extremely cautious because bad-guy hackers are always on the lookout for information about what’s going on in their cyber niche or space.
It is hard and impractical to confirm that your system is completely free of hackers before you begin your activity. As a result, it is your responsibility to maintain as much silence and privacy as possible. If the incorrect individual gets access to your test findings while you’re storing or transferring them, it might wreak disaster. Password-protect and encrypt such sensitive information to keep it safe.
The execution of a plan is more akin to a reconnaissance operation. It would be ideal if you tried to collect as much data as possible. Begin with a broad view and then narrow your emphasis to your business or system.
- Begin by gathering sufficient background information about your firm, as well as the names of your network systems and IP addresses.
- Reduce the scope of your project. Determine the systems you want to target.
- Focus more narrowly, concentrate on a single test, and do scans and other precise tests.
- Perform attacks if you are convinced enough following the pre-survey.
Examine your findings for a more in-depth understanding of what you discovered. This is where you can put your cybersecurity knowledge to the test. Analyzing the findings and linking the specific vulnerabilities found is a skill that improves with practise. If done correctly, you will have a complete grasp of your system, better than most hackers and on par with any skilled IT expert.
Share your findings with the appropriate parties to reassure them that their time and money were well spent.
Taking the next step
Following the receipt of your results, execute the required countermeasures mechanisms advised by the findings.
New security flaws emerge on a regular basis. Technological progress is getting increasingly diversified and sophisticated. Every day, new security flaws and hacker exploits are discovered. You’ll constantly come upon fresh ones!
Security tests should be viewed as a snapshot of the security posture of your system. It should specify the level of security you have at the time. This is because the security environment can alter at any time, particularly if you add a computer system to your network, upgrade your software, or apply a patch. Make the pen-testing procedure proactive. Allow it to be a part of your security policy in order to protect yourself against costly cyberattacks.