Table of Contents

What is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking is also called intrusion testing, penetration testing, and also red teaming. In simple words, it is the controversial technique of finding out vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a system simply by imitating the actions and intent of the malicious hackers. An ethical hacker is a person or security professional who uses his skills for the purpose of various defensive measures on part of the administrators of an information system. An ethical hacker is also known as a white hat or white-hat hacker. By conducting various tests, an ethical hacker tries to find out the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the locations, systems, or information can the attacker gain access to?
  • What will the attacker see before setting his target?
  • What will the attacker do with the information which is available in the system?
  • Is anyone able to notice the various attempts made by the attacker to gain access?
What is Ethical Hacking?
What is Ethical Hacking?

The ethical hacker who has been given the job of penetration testing operates on the permission along with the knowledge of that organization for which he has been assigned the job of defense. There are various cases in which an organization will not be informing the security information team about all the activities which is going to be carried out by the ethical hacker just for testing the effectiveness and concise of the security information team. This whole thing is also known as a double-blind environment. For the purpose of effective and legal operation, the organization needs to inform an ethical hacker about all those assets and information which are meant to be protected, the potential sources of threats, and the limit to which the organization will be supporting the efforts of the ethical hacker.

Process of ethical hacking

All ethical hackers follow a strict process in order to get the best usable and to-the-point legal results. Let’s have a look at the processes which are followed by ethical hackers.

Planning

No matter what kind of project it is, for every successful project planning is of utmost importance. It provides ethical hackers with the opportunity of thinking about what are the things that need to be done, setting the goals which are to be reached, and also for the assessments of risks for evaluating how to carry out a complete project. There are various factors that are considered by ethical hackers before carrying out a project of ethical hacking. The list of factors includes culture, policies of security, laws, regulations,
requirements of the industry, and best practices. All of these factors play an important role in the process of decision-making when it comes to the initiation of ethical hacking. The phase of planning in ethical hacking will be having an overall influence on how the process of hacking is being performed, the information which is collected and shared, and will also be directly influencing the integration and delivery of the results into the program of security. The planning phase is the very first step and will be describing most of the details about the controlled attack of hacking. It will also be answering all forms of questions regarding hacking such as how the process of ethical hacking is going to be controlled and supported, what are the basic actions which need to be performed, and for how long will the process go on.

Analysis of vulnerability

For the purpose of effectively analyzing all the data, and ethical hacker needs to employ a pragmatic approach that is logical in nature as well. In the phase of vulnerability analysis, all the information which has been collected is compared with all the known forms of vulnerabilities in the practical process. Any form of information is useful in the process, no matter where it originates or what the source is. A small pinch of information can also help in finding out some new sort of vulnerability in the system and might also lead to several other discoveries of vulnerabilities that have not been found yet. The known form of vulnerabilities, service packs, incidents, updates along with various hacker tools helps in properly identifying the point of attack. The internet provides ethical hackers with a huge amount of information that can be associated very easily with the system the architecture along with weak and strong points in a system.

Exploitation

A considerable amount of time is spent for the purpose of evaluating and planning an ethical hack. It is very obvious that all of this planning will lead to some sort of attack. The level of exploitation of a system can be as simple as running a very small tool in the system or as tough as a collection of many complex steps which need to be executed in a proper way for gaining access to the system. The process of exploitation can be broken into a
collection of subtasks which can be either one single step or a collection of various steps. As each and every step is performed, a process of evaluation takes place which ensures that the outcome which has been expected is met.
Any form of divergence from the plan of attack can be graded into two parts:

Expectation:

Are the expected results of exploitation met or the results are conflicting with the assumptions of the organization?

Technical:

Is the target system behaving in a manner that is not at all expected, which is actually having an impact on the systematic exploitation and the system engagement in total?

Final analysis

Although the phase of exploitation comes with a huge number of validations and checks for ensuring the success of the hack, one last final analysis is needed for categorizing the system vulnerabilities in accordance with the exposure level and also for assisting in the drawing up of a plan for mitigation. The phase of final analysis links up the exploitation phase and the deliverable creation. A comprehensive image of the complete attack is needed for the construction of a bigger size picture of the current posture of the security environment of an organization and also for expressing the vulnerabilities clearly.

Deliverables

Deliverable communicates with the test results in a variety of ways. Some of the deliverables are concise and short in nature which only provides the vulnerabilities list along with the ways in which it can be mended whereas, the other form of deliverables can be detailed and long which will provide a list of the probable vulnerabilities in a system that comes with the description regarding how the vulnerabilities were found, how they can be exploited, the results of having such vulnerabilities within the system and how to fix the situation. This phase is actually used by an ethical hacker in conveying his hack results to the organization. It can also be the case if the deliverables do not actually frighten the administrators, the test is considered a fail.

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