What is Ethical Hacking?
Reviewed and fact-checked by Sayantoni Das

The term ‘Hacker’ was coined to describe experts who used their skills to re-develop mainframe systems, increasing their efficiency and allowing them to multi-task. Nowadays, the term routinely describes skilled programmers who gain unauthorized access into computer systems by exploiting weaknesses or using bugs, motivated either by malice or mischief. For example, a hacker can create algorithms to crack passwords, penetrate networks, or even disrupt network services.

The primary motive of malicious/unethical hacking involves stealing valuable information or financial gain. However, not all hacking is bad. This brings us to the second type of hacking: Ethical hacking. So what is ethical hacking, and why do we need it? And in this article, you will learn all about what is ethical hacking and more.

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What is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking is an authorized practice of detecting vulnerabilities in an application, system, or organization’s infrastructure and bypassing system security to identify potential data breaches and threats in a network. Ethical hackers aim to investigate the system or network for weak points that malicious hackers can exploit or destroy. They can improve the security footprint to withstand attacks better or divert them.

The company that owns the system or network allows Cyber Security engineers to perform such activities in order to test the system’s defenses. Thus, unlike malicious hacking, this process is planned, approved, and more importantly, legal.

Ethical hackers aim to investigate the system or network for weak points that malicious hackers can exploit or destroy. They collect and analyze the information to figure out ways to strengthen the security of the system/network/applications. By doing so,  they can improve the security footprint so that it can better withstand attacks or divert them.

Ethical hackers are hired by organizations to look into the vulnerabilities of their systems and networks and develop solutions to prevent data breaches. Consider it a high-tech permutation of the old saying “It takes a thief to catch a thief.”

They check for key vulnerabilities include but are not limited to:

  • Injection attacks
  • Changes in security settings
  • Exposure of sensitive data
  • Breach in authentication protocols
  • Components used in the system or network that may be used as access points

Now, as you have an idea of what is ethical hacking, it's time to learn the type of hackers.

What are the Different Types of Hackers?

The practice of ethical hacking is called “White Hat” hacking, and those who perform it are called White Hat hackers. In contrast to Ethical Hacking, “Black Hat” hacking describes practices involving security violations. The Black Hat hackers use illegal techniques to compromise the system or destroy information.

Unlike White Hat hackers, “Grey Hat” hackers don’t ask for permission before getting into your system. But Grey Hats are also different from Black Hats because they don’t perform hacking for any personal or third-party benefit. These hackers do not have any malicious intention and hack systems for fun or various other reasons, usually informing the owner about any threats they find. Grey Hat and Black Hat hacking are both illegal as they both constitute an unauthorized system breach, even though the intentions of both types of hackers differ.

White Hat Hacker vs Black Hat Hacker 

The best way to differentiate between White Hat and Black Hat hackers is by taking a look at their motives. Black Hat hackers are motivated by malicious intent, manifested by personal gains, profit, or harassment; whereas White Hat hackers seek out and remedy vulnerabilities, so as to prevent Black Hats from taking advantage.

The other ways to draw a distinction between White Hat and Black Hat hackers include:

  • Techniques Used

    White Hat hackers duplicate the techniques and methods followed by malicious hackers in order to find out the system discrepancies, replicating all the latter’s steps to find out how a system attack occurred or may occur. If they find a weak point in the system or network, they report it immediately and fix the flaw.
  • Legality

    Even though White Hat hacking follows the same techniques and methods as Black Hat hacking, only one is legally acceptable. Black Hat hackers break the law by penetrating systems without consent.
  • Ownership

    White Hat hackers are employed by organizations to penetrate their systems and detect security issues. Black hat hackers neither own the system nor work for someone who owns it.

After understanding what is ethical hacking, the types of ethical hackers, and knowing the difference between white-hat and black-hat hackers, let's have a look at the ethical hacker roles and responsibilities.

What are the Roles and Responsibilities of an Ethical Hacker?

Ethical Hackers must follow certain guidelines to perform hacking legally. A good hacker knows his or her responsibility and adheres to all of the ethical guidelines. Here are the most important rules of Ethical Hacking:

  • An ethical hacker must seek authorization from the organization that owns the system. Hackers should obtain complete approval before performing any security assessment on the system or network.
  • Determine the scope of their assessment and make known their plan to the organization.
  • Report any security breaches and vulnerabilities found in the system or network.
  • Keep their discoveries confidential. As their purpose is to secure the system or network, ethical hackers should agree to and respect their non-disclosure agreement.
  • Erase all traces of the hack after checking the system for any vulnerability. It prevents malicious hackers from entering the system through the identified loopholes.

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Key Benefits of Ethical Hacking

Learning ethical hacking involves studying the mindset and techniques of black hat hackers and testers to learn how to identify and correct vulnerabilities within networks. Studying ethical hacking can be applied by security pros across industries and in a multitude of sectors. This sphere includes network defender, risk management, and quality assurance tester. 

However, the most obvious benefit of learning ethical hacking is its potential to inform and improve and defend corporate networks. The primary threat to any organization's security is a hacker: learning, understanding, and implementing how hackers operate can help network defenders prioritize potential risks and learn how to remediate them best. Additionally, getting ethical hacking training or certifications can benefit those who are seeking a new role in the security realm or those wanting to demonstrate skills and quality to their organization.

You understood what is ethical hacking, and the various roles and responsibilities of an ethical hacker, and you must be thinking about what skills you require to become an ethical hacker. So, let's have a look at some of the ethical hacker skills.

Skills Required to Become an Ethical Hacker

An ethical hacker should have in-depth knowledge about all the systems, networks, program codes, security measures, etc. to perform hacking efficiently. Some of these skills include:

  • Knowledge of programming - It is required for security professionals working in the field of application security and Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
  • Scripting knowledge - This is required for professionals dealing with network-based attacks and host-based attacks.
  • Networking skills - This skill is important because threats mostly originate from networks. You should know about all of the devices present in the network, how they are connected, and how to identify if they are compromised.
  • Understanding of databases - Attacks are mostly targeted at databases. Knowledge of database management systems such as SQL will help you to effectively inspect operations carried out in databases.
  • Knowledge of multiple platforms like Windows, Linux, Unix, etc.
  • The ability to work with different hacking tools available in the market.
  • Knowledge of search engines and servers.
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Ethical Hacking is a challenging area of study as it requires mastery of everything that makes up a system or network. This is why certifications have become popular among aspiring ethical hackers.  

This article has helped you understand what is ethical hacking, and the roles and responsibilities of an ethical hacker. Now, if you are planning to step into the world of cybersecurity, you can easily jump in with the relevant Advanced Executive Program in Cybersecurity certification, and you can advance your career in cybersecurity in the following ways:

  • Certified individuals know how to design, build, and maintain a secure business environment. If you can demonstrate your knowledge in these areas, you will be invaluable when it comes to analyzing threats and devising effective solutions.
  • Certified cybersecurity professionals have better salary prospects compared to their non-certified peers. According to Payscale, Certified Ethical Hackers earn an average salary of $90K in the U.S.  
  • Certification validates your skills in the field of IT security and makes you more noticeable while applying for challenging job roles.
  • With the growing incidents of security breaches, organizations are investing hugely in IT security and prefer certified candidates for their organization.  
  • Startups need highly skilled professionals experienced in repelling cyber threats. A certification can help you demonstrate your IT security skills to earn high-paying jobs at startups.

In today’s world, cybersecurity has become a trending topic of increasing interest among many businesses. With malicious hackers finding newer ways to breach the defenses of networks almost every day, the role of ethical hackers has become increasingly important across all sectors. It has created a plethora of opportunities for cybersecurity professionals and has inspired individuals to take up ethical hacking as their career. So, if you have ever considered the possibilities of getting into the cybersecurity domain, or even just upskilling, this is the perfect time to do so. And of course, the most efficient way of accomplishing this is by getting certified in ethical hacking, and the best way to do that is to let Simplilearn help you achieve it! Check out Simplilearn's Advanced Executive Program in Cybersecurity now, and join the fight for secure systems!

What is Ethical Hacking - Infographic


1. What is Ethical Hacking and what is it used for?

A permitted attempt to acquire unauthorized access to a computer system, application, or data is referred to as ethical hacking. Duplicating the techniques and behaviors of malicious attackers is part of carrying out an ethical hack.

2. Is Ethical Hacking a good career?

Yes, it is an excellent career if you are interested in ethical hacking and cybersecurity, but it takes a thorough understanding of the entire IT field.

3. Who is best suited for a career in Ethical Hacking?

To become an ethical hacker, a candidate must comprehend both wired and wireless networks. They must be familiar with operating systems, particularly Windows and Linux. They must be familiar with firewalls and file systems.

4. What are common career paths for someone in Ethical Hacking?

Penetration Tester, Vulnerability Assessor, Information Security Analyst, Security Analyst, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Ethical Hacker, Security Consultant, Security Engineer/Architect, and Information Security Manager are common job titles in the field of ethical hacking.

5. Is Ethical Hacking legal?

Yes, It is lawful as long as it is done with the permission of the owner to uncover flaws in the system and provide ways to fix it. It also safeguards the system from additional damage performed by the hacker.

6. What are the different types of hackers?

There are three sorts of hackers: white hat hackers, gray hat hackers, and black hat hackers. Each hacker type hacks for a specific reason, a cause, or both.

7. What skills do Ethical Hackers need to know?

Information security and ethical hacking, reconnaissance techniques, system hacking phases and attack techniques, network and perimeter hacking, web application hacking, wireless network hacking, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), and operational technology (OT) hacking, cloud computing, and cryptography are some of the key skills that ethical hackers must possess.

8. Why do hackers use Linux?

There are two primary causes for this. To begin, because Linux is an open source operating system, its source code is publicly available. This means that Linux can be easily modified or customized. Second, there are numerous Linux security distros that can also be used as Linux hacking software.

9. Can I learn about Ethical Hacking online?

Yes, you can learn ethical hacking online. You can start with Simplilearn’s free Ethical Hacking for Beginners course.

10. What qualifications do you need to pursue the Ethical Hacking course?

After high school, aspirants can pursue a Bachelor's or Master's degree in computer science, information technology, or data security to become an ethical hacker. Online platforms also provide a variety of ethical hacking credentials and certification courses.

11. Is an Ethical Hacking Course worth it?

Learning ethical hacking is useful at any moment. Make certain that you fully comprehend the principles and apply them appropriately. It has a wide range of job opportunities and pays well. There is no doubt that you will be saddled with a lot of duty, but such a solution is well worth it.

12. How much money does an ethical hacker make?

In India, the wage of an ethical hacker starts at INR 1.77 lakh per year and can reach INR 40 lakh per year. The bonus for this function ranges from INR 5,000 to INR 2 lakh, with a maximum of INR 5.11 lakh in split profits.

13. What is the difference between ethical hacking and cyber security?

Ethical hacking is performed by 'ethical' hackers who are legitimate or legal hackers, and their goal is to do hacking with the owner's consent and submit a report on the hack. Cyber Security, on the other hand, is controlled by Cyber Security professionals whose primary purpose is to protect the system from hostile actions.

14. How can I become an ethical hacker?

To become an ethical hacker, you must first master at least one programming language and have a working knowledge of other common languages such as Python, SQL, C++, and C. Ethical hackers must have good problem-solving abilities as well as the capacity to think critically in order to develop and test novel security solutions.

About the Author

Baivab Kumar JenaBaivab Kumar Jena

Baivab Kumar Jena is a computer science engineering graduate, he is well versed in multiple coding languages such as C/C++, Java, and Python.

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