Everything you need to know about Ethical Hacking as a Career [Updated 2019] | Infosec Resources (2023)

When you hear the term “online hacker,” you might think about someone who likes a good puzzle and goes about trying to break into computer systems, learning how to sneak their way in and out to get the information they want or need. There are many people who are hackers, and they are paid by companies to determine exactly how a criminal might break into a business’ computer system, according to Ben Miller of Parameter Security. These are called “ethical hackers,” and they can determine exactly how a real criminal hacker might break into your business’ computer system. It is a growing field for those with an interest in computers, and while you do not necessarily need a degree or diploma, any sort of post-secondary education would definitely be an asset to the person looking to get into ethical hacking.

Computer Hope defines ethical hacking as hacking done by a company or individual to determine where potential security threats might be in a business’ computer network. The information that the ethical hacker discovers can then be used to address the perceived security threats and tighten up the computer network as required.

There are a few elements that need to be in place, however, before hacking is considered as “ethical”:

  1. You have to have expressed or written permission to probe the network and identify any security risks;
  2. You respect individual or company privacy;
  3. You close out any work that you were doing so as not to expose yourself to potential security risks; and
  4. You let the software developer or hardware manufacturer know of any security risks that you discover unless your company already knew about said risks.

If all of these elements are in place, then you are in good shape and can ethically hack a company’s network to determine security risks. If any of these elements are missing, you are simply a hacker and not an ethical one.

Penetration testing and ethical hacking are terms that are frequently used interchangeably, yet there are slight differences between the two. According to Tutorials Point, penetration testing is when a company is trying to discover exactly what the vulnerabilities, risks, and target environment are and to secure and take over the system. In other words, penetration testing looks at and targets an organization’s defense systems, and that comprises all of the computer infrastructure and systems.

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Ethical hacking runs the gamut of all hacking techniques and all potential attacks that could occur on a computer system and its infrastructure. Unlike penetration testing, though, ethical hacking looks at how to safeguard the system for use in the future. Penetration testing merely looks to see how a system could be attacked.

To be sure, to admit you hack for a living might get you some strange looks as people envision you engaging in exploits that you may not have honestly anticipated. You might be working your way through a school board’s database, trying to determine the exact security measures that need to be enacted in order to ensure optimal safety of the information in the database, or you might be trying to protect valuable information in a particular branch of the military. Generally speaking, hacking is viewed with a bit of a raised eyebrow; people are used to hacking being a part of the underbelly of certain societies rather than seeing it as a valid career choice.

However, it is a career like no other, but that means there is a lot of prep work before you can even consider having a career as an ethical hacker. You need a significant understanding of computer security, and while a certificate, diploma or degree in computer sciences wouldn’t hurt, it’s not always required. First and foremost, you need to have an understanding of how computers work and communicate with each other. Yes, the work looks glamorous on the big screen in flicks like Sneakers; what’s not shown there, however, is the sheer volume of both knowledge and experience you need before entering the career.

With that being said, and provided you gain the experience you need on your own equipment rather than trying to hack someone else’s organizational security, ethical hacking can be one of the most uniquely challenging career paths you might undertake. Freelancing, of course, is a good way to gain some experience once you’ve gotten a great deal of practice trying to hack your own equipment. The problem with freelancing is, as you might expect, it is not a stable position, so there are some occasions where it’s hard to afford your favorite brand of coffee from your favorite store. It is a great way to garner both experience and revenue, though, so if you’re trying to build your rep and resume by working through some freelancing jobs, that’s not a bad first place to start.

Once you’ve gotten that all-important experience, however, applying to tech companies to see if they are looking to hire ethical hackers is a great next step. Your inclination might very well be to apply to all the big firms, but you might be shooting yourself in the foot a bit, as smaller tech firms might have the pay scale you’ve been looking for. Keep your options open, and you might find that entering the field as an ethical hacker might actually be a great career choice.

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Strictly speaking, an oxymoron is when two apparently contradictory terms appear next to each other. However, when it comes to ethical hacking, nothing could be further from the truth. According to Cybrary, ethical or “white hat” hackers use the same sorts of techniques as those who hack for their own nefarious purposes, but with nobler goals.

Ethical hacking means that while you might be hacking into a business or organization’s computer systems and infrastructure, you are documenting evidence of these security issues rather than exploiting them for your own gain. Cybrary says that the field of ethical hacking is growing quickly, although it has been around since the 1970s at the very least; being able to hack websites and report to an organization what, exactly the issues might be as far as security goes would offer those looking for a career challenge they might be looking for.

However, it is important to recognize exactly what an ethical hacker does during their day to day responsibilities. According to Ben Miller, ethical hackers spend a lot of time just doing paperwork; it would seem that is the biggest commonality with ethical hacking and any other business – the paperwork that needs to happen in order to ensure that everything gets done when it should get done – to the extent that Miller himself has said that you spend a lot more time filling out paperwork than you might have otherwise expected.

Essentially, a black box ethical hacker is someone who knows nothing about the organization that they are attacking. Attackers might use whatever means at their disposal to attack, rather than finessing any sort of particular attack. A black box ethical attack, therefore, is one in which there does not seem to be any particular focus on the attack, as the attacker does not know anything about the organization.

There are two considerations when it comes to white box ethical hacking: time and money. Going into this sort of situation, a white box ethical attack is one in which everything is known about the organization. It would effectively be a sort of attack that one might suspect of a learned insider or someone who knows everything about the computer systems to execute an effective hacking attack.

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Upper management, Human Resources and Legal, and Technical Support Management are generally the teams that work closely with the hacking teams to facilitate the white box ethical hacking test.

A gray box ethical hacking test combines the best of both worlds: the white box attack and the black box attack. Essentially, something is known about the organization which is being attacked, but that might change from attack to attack. The drawback that the ethical hacker might experience is similar to the drawback they might experience using the white box attack. By being aware of the vulnerabilities, other vulnerabilities might be overlooked.

While some might look at an ethical hacker with a raised eyebrow, thanks in large part to the image hackers has gotten from film and television shows; ethical hacking is actually an ethically sound career which could prove quite beneficial to businesses and other organizations. Ethical hacking could potentially offer those computer students the challenges of hacking but with the benefits of working for a greater purpose – enhancing security. What could be better?

Check out more articles about Ethical Hacking:

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Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Job Outlook

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Who is No 1 ethical hacker in world? ›

Kevin Mitnick
Other namesThe Condor, The Darkside Hacker
OccupationInformation technology consultant Author
Organization(s)Mitnick Security Consulting Chief Hacking Officer at KnowBe4, Inc
Board member ofKnowBe4
7 more rows

What are the 10 rules that ethical hackers follow? ›

1) Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people: 2) Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work: 3) Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's files: 4) Thou shalt not use a computer to steal: 5) Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness: 6) Thou shalt not use or copy software for ...

What are the 7 types of hacking? ›

  • 1) White Hat Hackers.
  • 2) Black Hat Hackers.
  • 3) Gray Hat Hackers.
  • 4) Script Kiddies.
  • 5) Green Hat Hackers.
  • 6) Blue Hat Hackers.
  • 7) Red Hat Hackers.
  • 8) State/Nation Sponsored Hackers.
26 Aug 2022

Can I become hacker in 2 years? ›

It will certainly take some time but with dedication and hard work, you can break into this field. It's never too late to get started and it might take a while, but if you take one step every day, you can become a hacker in a year.

How do hackers get passwords? ›

Keylogger programs enable hackers to spy on you, as the malware captures everything you type. Once inside, the malware can explore your computer and record keystrokes to steal passwords. When they get enough information, hackers can access your accounts, including your email, social media, and online banking.

How many hack attempts a day? ›

There isn't concise data on how many people get hacked a year. However, considering there are around 2,200 cyberattacks per day, that could equate to more than 800,000 people being hacked per year.

What is ethical hacker salary? ›

According to Payscale, those with a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credential earn a median base pay of $82,966—more than $3,000 more than the average for all ethical hackers [3].

Do ethical hackers use coding? ›

Ethical hackers need a deep knowledge of programming languages because they must be able to analyze code and make modifications. Programming languages can also automate time-consuming tasks and identify errors in applications.

Which hacker type is best? ›

White Hat Hacker

White hat hackers are the good guys of the hacker world. These people use the same technique used by the black hat hackers. They also hack the system, but they can only hack the system that they have permission to hack in order to test the security of the system.

What is GREY hacking? ›

Gray hat hackers enact a blend of both black hat and white hat activities. Gray hat hackers often look for vulnerabilities in a system without the owner's permission or knowledge. If issues are found, they report them to the owner, sometimes requesting a small fee to fix the problem.

What course do hackers study? ›

If you want to become a white hat hacker you will need to earn a degree in the field, such as a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer and Information Science with a Major in Cyber and Network Security - Cybersecurity Track.

Can a hacker be self taught? ›

These self-taught hackers have qualities like curiosity and the ability to learn quickly. It differentiates them from hackers who are learning in college or through certification courses because their main goal is generally to get the certificate and not hone the skills to absolute perfection.

Can I teach myself to become a hacker? ›

The short answer: almost anyone can learn to hack. The longer answer is that it's a good fit for people with specific backgrounds and personality types. People who have some knowledge of computer programming and a baseline vocabulary to draw on would thrive in these learning environments.

How do hackers get accounts? ›

By downloading the malware to their computer, people increase the likelihood of having a keylogger installed that can then capture their passwords and send it to a hacker. Or, people might download ransomware that allows hackers to extort you for money or information in order to get your data back.

What is the first thing you do when you get hacked? ›

Step 1: Change your passwords

This is important because hackers are looking for any point of entry into a larger network, and may gain access through a weak password. On accounts or devices that contain sensitive information, make sure your password is strong, unique—and not easily guessable.

What password do most hackers use? ›

“123456” is #1 on the Hacker's List for a reason – this password is THE most popular one worldwide (0.62% of 9.3M passwords analyzed). It also holds the: #1 spot for . edu, Germany, Italy, and Spain users.

How long does it take hackers to crack a password? ›

The findings suggest that even an eight-character password — with a healthy mix of numbers, uppercase letters, lowercase letters and symbols — can be cracked within eight hours by the average hacker.

What is the largest hack in history? ›

In 2013, a hack compromised three billion Yahoo accounts, including names, security questions, passwords and contact details. To make matters worse, the hack repeated itself in 2014, with another 500 million accounts hacked. Yahoo has won the title of the largest single entity to be hacked in internet history.

How long does it learn to hack? ›

How long it takes to learn hacking depends on the individual and their ability to learn programming and other related skills. It can take anywhere between 18 months to six years to fully develop your ethical hacking skills. If you are starting with no relevant hacking or coding skills, it will likely take you longer.

What is the highest paid hacker? ›

Highest Paying Companies for Ethical Hackers
  • Tesla h3. As per Glassdoor, Tesla pays an average salary of around $167,552 per annum to ethical hackers, which is 39% higher compared to the average yearly salary of the ethical hackers working in the US.
  • Lenovo. ...
  • Bank of America. ...
  • Google. ...
  • IBM. ...
  • HackerRank. ...
  • Little Caesars. ...
  • Test.
4 Aug 2022

What is a minimum salary of ethical hacker in Google? ›

Pay for this field starts from INR 2.47 lakh per annum and goes up to INR 10 lakh per annum.

Does Google hire ethical hackers? ›

If you are good at ethical hacking, Google has a huge reward waiting for you!

What language do hackers use to hack? ›

Web Hacking: Currently, JavaScript is one of the best programming languages for hacking web applications. Understanding JavaScript allows hackers to discover vulnerabilities and carry web exploitation since most of the applications on the web use JavaScript or its libraries.

What tools do most hackers use? ›

Some of the most famous hacking tools in the market are Nmap (Network Mapper), Nessus, Nikto, Kismet, NetStumbler, Acunetix, Netsparker, and Intruder, Nmap, Metasploit, Aircrack-Ng, etc.

How do hackers pick their targets? ›

Using search queries through such resources as Google and job sites, the hacker creates an initial map of the target's vulnerabilities. For example, job sites can offer a wealth of information such as hardware and software platform usage, including specific versions and its use within the enterprise.

Do hackers use C++? ›

C and C++ – Hacker's Go-To Languages:

C is a low-level fast programming language. It helps in gaining low-level access to memory and system processes after compromising a system. Many security professionals use C to simulate the library hijacking attack. C++ allows hackers to write fast and efficient hacking programs.

Do hackers use Python? ›

Besides the given reasons, Python is the most loved programming language used by hackers since it's an open-source language which means that hackers can use the stuff that other hackers have previously made.

How does hackers learn to hack? ›

An individual planning to become a hacker will need to learn about programming, which is considered to be a vital step. A variety of software programs are now available that make hacking easier, however, if you want to know how it is done, you will definitely need to have basic knowledge about programming.

Who is the most feared hacker? ›

In this article, I will introduce you to the ten most dangerous hackers of all time, their actions, and how they earned their reputations.
  • Kevin Mitnick. ...
  • Albert Gonzalez. ...
  • Jonathan James. ...
  • Anonymous. ...
  • ASTRA. ...
  • Adrian Lamo. ...
  • Michael Calce. ...
  • Kevin Poulsen.
15 Sept 2022

Who is the most talented hacker? ›

Top of the world-famous hacker list is Kevin Mitnick. The US Department of Justice called him the "most wanted computer criminal in US history." Kevin Mitnick's story is so wild that it was even the basis for a featured film called Track Down. It is often argued that he was the world's best hacker of all time.

What do professional hackers use? ›

Learn UNIX/Linux

Well, a professional hacker would always prefer a Linux operating system for the purpose of hacking as all the operating systems are based on the Linux kernel. To provide better security to computer systems, UNIX/Linux-based operating systems are used.

What are the 3 types of hacking? ›

Hackers fall into three general categories: black hat hackers, white hat hackers, and gray hat hackers. Although hackers are often associated with exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to computers, systems, or networks, not all hacking is malicious or illegal.

What are the 4 types of hacking? ›

Here's a profile of four different types of hackers.
  • Script Kiddies. When it comes to skill level, Script Kiddies are at the bottom of the totem pole and often use scripts or other automated tools they did not write themselves - hence the name. ...
  • Hacktivist. ...
  • Cyber Criminals. ...
  • Insiders.

How do hackers cover their tracks? ›

Using common channels and protocols. Like trusted platforms and brands, encrypted channels, ports, and protocols used by legitimate applications provide another way for attackers to mask their footsteps.

What is a blue hacker? ›

In Microsoft's world, blue hats acts much like white hats: They are employed by the company to find vulnerabilities in unreleased products. Microsoft's invite-only BlueHat conference was established to facilitate communications between hackers and company engineers.

What is Red hat hacker? ›

Red hats are the same. They target cybercriminals and damage whatever they can to disable criminal activities, permanently. Red hats are hackers no one wants to mess with, not even a black hat. Other hackers usually attack Microsoft Windows computers but these hackers, they hack Linux computers.

What is yellow hat hacking? ›

Yellow hat hackers focus on social media. They often have malicious intent and attempt to hack or steal Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts. These actions are illegal. Yellow hat hackers are usually motivated by gaining access to personal data or getting revenge on a person or organization.

› different-types-of-... ›

In the past, we've talked a lot about our security services and how thoroughly we can test your business for cyber weaknesses. One of the terms we used in t...
The term “hacker” is popularly associated with cybercriminals harboring malicious intentions, when in reality, it's a lot more. A hacker can be anyone who u...
Key takeaway: Hacking is an umbrella term for a range of activities that aim to compromise computers and networks by exploiting their security vulnerabilities. ...

Who is India's No 1 ethical hacker? ›

1. Ankit Fadia. Ankit Fadia is one of the self-proclaimed ethical hackers who has been making head turns for a long time. He was interested in ethical hacking from a very young age.

Who is the No 4 hacker in world? ›

Adrian Lamo. Also known as the “Homeless Hacker,” Lamo broke into the networks of The New York Times, Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft before his 2003 arrest.

Who Hacked NASA? ›

Jonathan James
BornJonathan Joseph JamesDecember 12, 1983
DiedMay 18, 2008 (aged 24) Pinecrest, Florida, U.S.
1 more row

Which country is best for hackers? ›

Even though the United States is ranked number one overall, China continues to build on its cyber strengths. In several cyber power categories, it now leads the world. And in at least one instance, Russia also tops the United States.

Which country is famous for hackers? ›

Top Ten Hacking Countries
1.China41 percent (of the world's attack traffic)
2.U.S.10 percent
3.Turkey4.7 percent
4.Russia4.3 percent
5.Taiwan3.7 percent
5 more rows
23 Apr 2013

Who is the youngest ethical hacker in the world? ›

At the age of five, Hassel exposed security lapses in the Microsoft Live Xbox system, prompting wide media coverage, with some journalists highlighting the dropping age of hackers and their technology mastery.
Kristoffer von Hassel
Known forBeing the world's youngest hacker
Parent(s)Robert Davies and Jill Nyahay
3 more rows

What 444 is hacker or not? ›

WHITE444 is Not Hacker Proved !

What are good hackers called? ›

White hat hackers – sometimes also called “ethical hackers” or “good hackers” – are the antithesis of black hats. They exploit computer systems or networks to identify their security flaws so they can make recommendations for improvement.

Did white 444 is hacker? ›


What language do hackers use? ›

Web Hacking: Currently, JavaScript is one of the best programming languages for hacking web applications. Understanding JavaScript allows hackers to discover vulnerabilities and carry web exploitation since most of the applications on the web use JavaScript or its libraries.

Can a hacker go to jail? ›

If you hacked a computer for financial gain, or to commit another crime, or to obtain information valued over $5,000, you will face felony charges. If convicted of a felony offense, you are facing up to ten years in a federal prison, and a fine up to $10,000.

Who is the world's biggest hack? ›

  1. The Citibank Hack (1995) ...
  2. The Melissa Virus (1999) ...
  3. The Mafiaboy Attacks (2000) ...
  4. The American Military Hack (2001 – 2002) ...
  5. The American Businesses Hacks (2005 – 2012) ...
  6. The Iceman Hacks (2006) ...
  7. The Heartland Payment Systems Hack (2008) ...
  8. The Conficker worm (2008 – Present)

What is the most powerful hacker? ›

Kevin Mitnick likely holds the title as the world's best hacker ever. Kevin Mitnick started hacking at an early age. He broke into the realm of public attention in the 1980s after he hacked into the North American Defense Command (NORAD).

How much do hackers earn? ›

According to Payscale, those with a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credential earn a median base pay of $82,966—more than $3,000 more than the average for all ethical hackers [3].

What are the 3 types of hackers? ›

Hackers fall into three general categories: black hat hackers, white hat hackers, and gray hat hackers. Although hackers are often associated with exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to computers, systems, or networks, not all hacking is malicious or illegal.


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