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Ethical Hacking – A Complete Guide

Technically speaking, ethical hacking is the science of evaluating your systems and networks for security flaws, as well as fixing the breaches you discover before anyone with evil intentions has a chance to attack them.

For the sake of the professional security testing procedures discussed in this article, the term “ethical” has been defined as adhering to generally accepted professional norms of conduct. All of the tests described in this article require written authorization from the owner(s) of the system before they can be performed.

Defining Hacker

Traditional definitions of a hacker include someone who enjoys tinkering with electronic systems, software, or computers. Hackers take pleasure in discovering and experimenting with new strategies for maneuvering through a system. They are frequently enthralled by the prospect of uncovering new weaknesses to exploit.

In recent years, the term “hacker” has acquired a new meaning: someone who maliciously gains access to a computer network or system to benefit from it personally. The majority of hackers are cybercriminals or crackers with nefarious motives, a result. These cybercriminals seek to steal vital information, manipulate stored data, or erase data and code to frustrate their intended targets.

Many hackers make it their mission to compromise any system that they believe to be particularly vulnerable. However, some hackers prefer to hack into well-protected systems since it raises their standing and status within the hacking community.

Ethical Hacking

Ethical hacking is a method of protecting oneself from hacker pranks. It is possible to trust ethical hackers because they have the same attitude, skills, and tools as regular hackers. Ethical hackers infiltrate networks to test the security of the newly installed cyber-defense architecture. Penetration tests carried out on a system are legal and must only be carried out with the authorization of the target system.

Known alternatively as white-hat hacking, ethical hacking is concerned with finding and exploiting weaknesses that a black-hat hacker would exploit. With this approach, the goal is to provide the highest level of protection for a system by exploiting flaws from the point of view of a malevolent hacker. It is a proactive risk management technique that ensures that your system’s security is constantly being improved over time. As a result, an ethical hacker MUST think in the same way that a bad-guy hacker does.

Why do you need to hack your systems?

Because of the rapid advancement of technology, there will come a point when practically every system will be hacked to some degree. Consequently, it is necessary to have hacking abilities to determine how susceptible and exposed your systems are. These abilities will also assist you in securing your system in ways that go beyond the recognized and prevalent weaknesses.

Virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, and encryption are all tools that might give the impression of increased security. These solutions only defend against high-level weaknesses like traffic and viruses, and they do not affect the action of hackers themselves. You must therefore self-hack to find and eliminate vulnerabilities before back-hats may exploit them to breach your system to provide additional security for your systems. This is the only method of hardening your security infrastructure that has been certified.

No amount of protection will be sufficient unless you completely disconnect your system and keep it out of the reach of others, which is not recommended. Nonetheless, it would be preferable if you made an effort to understand how hackers could circumvent security systems and how to counter their operations. Ethical hackers should advance in their knowledge at a rate that is directly proportional to the rate at which black-hat hackers advance in their knowledge.

  • As an ethical hacker, your ultimate goal should be the following in every situation.
  • Make use of nondestructive hacking techniques.
  • Determine whether or not vulnerabilities exist and demonstrate this to the system’s owner.
  • Close the flaws and improve the overall security of the system.
  • The importance of understanding the individual threats and attacks against a system It is critical to understand the specific threats and attacks against a system since this will guide you through the process of pen-testing your network’s security. If a weak SQL
  • Server administrative password, a server housed on a wireless network, and a default Windows operating system configuration are all considered separately, they may not constitute serious security risks in and of themselves. An attempt to exploit all three
  • vulnerabilities at the same time, on the other hand, could result in widespread devastation. The following is a brief list of some of the more well-known attacks that your system may be subjected to.

Understanding the threats to a system

Because hackers can access network infrastructure from anywhere in the world via the internet, they can launch a rapid attack on it. The following are examples of network infrastructure assaults.
The act of piggybacking into a network by exploiting an unsecured 802.11b wireless setup.
Denial of service attacks is carried out by flooding a network with requests.
NetBIOS and TCP/IP deficiencies, as well as any other network transport technology having vulnerabilities, are being exploited.
A rogue modem attached to a computer that is behind a firewall is used to connect to a network in this manner.
Attacks that are not technically based
The human component is the single most significant source of vulnerability in any network or information technology system. People are easily duped and manipulated. Human people, in general, place their faith in nature, which can be exploited by hackers who trick the target into providing information for malevolent objectives. A social-engineering exploit is a form of attack or threat that uses social engineering techniques.

Physical attacks are another powerful method of retaliation. Hackers who force their way into computer storerooms or isolated locations containing sensitive and valuable information are among those who fall into this category.

Dumpster diving is another sort of physical attack that is frequently encountered. Essentially, it entails hackers combing through dumpsters and trash cans in search of valuable information such as network schematics, intellectual property, and so on.

Ethical Hacking Commandments

Applications include a plethora of vulnerabilities and are therefore a popular target for hackers. The use of web-based apps and email server software has been one of the most common attack vectors during the last few years.

Hackers typically target applications like as the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which are accessible from the internet owing to improperly set firewalls and so provide complete access.
Junk e-mails and spam may contain viruses, which can wreak havoc on your computer’s storage capacity.
Malicious malware can cause network congestion and can even bring a system to a halt. Trojan horses, spyware, viruses, and worms are examples of malicious software.
Ethical hacking aids in the discovery of weaknesses in your system as well as the identification of potential assaults against your system.

Attacks on the operating system
Every computer contains an operating system, which makes it a potential platform from which to conduct assaults on a network. Hackers choose to target operating systems because they have several well-known vulnerabilities that may be exploited relatively easily. Operating systems such as BSD UNIX or Novell NetWare have been known to be compromised in the past due to security vulnerabilities that existed out of the box. Linux and Windows both have well-known security flaws that are frequently exploited by hackers.

Among the attacks against operating systems are the following:

  • Getting around the file-security system’s
  • Attempting to compromise default authentication systems
  • Cracking encryption and password systems is a popular hobby.
  • Specific flaws in protocol implementation are being taken advantage of.
  • The Ten Commandments of Ethical Hacking
  • A few rules must be followed to conduct an ethical vulnerability hunt. Unwanted outcomes and repercussions may happen if this is not done. I have watched several of these commands being disregarded throughout pen-testing, and
  • I can guarantee you that the consequences are never positive.

Maintaining Confidentiality
During running your test, make sure that confidentiality and respect are observed. All information gathered for the test, from clear-text files to web-application log files, must be treated with the utmost care to ensure its confidentiality. Do not use the credentials you have got to gain access to other people’s private lives or the administrative platforms of businesses. If there is a requirement to gain access to certain accounts, it is preferable to disclose the necessary information or obtain authorization from the account holder or manager. Ethical hacking is a procedure in which one must “watch the watched.” As a result, it entails the involvement of important individuals to create trust and garner support as you carry out your hacking operation.

Working in an ethical manner
Hack with a high level of professionalism. As ethical hackers, we must adhere to a set of unwavering ideas that are founded on upright moral values. Make certain that the tactics and technologies you employ are following the company’s security policy and procedures. Whether you’re doing a penetration test on a personal computer or a networked system, your executions should be above board and follow the security policies and goals of the system under consideration. There are no permissible harmful intentions.

The ultimate principle of a good-guy hacker is that he or she must be trustworthy. This is what distinguishes you from the thugs who wear black caps. How you handle sensitive information after gaining access to a computer system determines which category of hacker you belong to. In contrast to bad-guy hackers, who misuse crucial data and exploit discovered weaknesses within the system, good-guy hackers operate for the benefit of the system and its users.

We’re not going to crush your systems.
One of the most significant difficulties that most people encounter when hacking computer systems is the possibility of accidentally destroying the system. Some hackers make this mistake as a result of a lack of forethought in terms of how they would run their tests. Before invading into any system, it is necessary to conduct thorough planning. Planning should account for 90 percent of the process, while execution should account for only 10 percent of the process. Allow plenty of time to go over the documentation with you. Be familiar with the functionality and potential strength of the security tools and approaches you intend to employ.

When you run several tests at the same time, your system may experience a denial of service condition. System lockups can occur when a large number of tests are run at the same time. This is a situation that I have personal experience with. Believe me when I say that locking yourself out of your system is extremely frustrating. You should never assume that a specific host or network is capable of withstanding the abuse that vulnerability tools and network scanners are capable of dishing. Be patient, understand the capabilities of your target system, and avoid rushing things.

The majority of security assessment tools are capable of regulating the number of tests that can be performed on a system at the same time. Particularly important is compliance with this regulation if you intend to conduct tests during working hours or on production systems that are always in operation.

The Process of Ethical Hacking

Just like any other IT or security project, the ethical hacking process should be meticulously planned before it is put into action. There should be a solid foundation for the process, with all strategic and tactical issues clearly defined and agreed upon at the start. Planning is essential for all levels of tests, and it should be incorporated into the hacking process at every stage. It should be completed before any implementation can begin. For any test, from a simple password-cracking test to a sophisticated pen test on a web application, it is essential to have a working computer. The following is a brief overview of the five major steps that make up ethical hacking in its entirety.
1. Putting together a game plan
Inform those in charge of making decisions about your actions. Inform them of your plans because doing so may aid you in obtaining sponsorship for your endeavor. Approval for ethical hacking is critical, and you’ll need someone to fall back on if something goes wrong. If this does not happen, there could be serious legal ramifications.

You require a comprehensive strategy rather than a slew of testing procedures. Your strategy should be well-thought-out and precise. A typical strategy might include the following elements:

What systems will be put through their paces?

Risks that are anticipated
Timetable for the examinations
Every task should be completed using a specific methodology.
Before conducting the tests, determine your level of familiarity with the systems.
Plan for responding to vulnerabilities that have been identified
Specific deliverables, such as reports outlining countermeasures to be implemented for the specific vulnerabilities that have been identified
I recommend that you always start your tests with the systems that are the most vulnerable. Start with social engineering attacks or computer password testing before moving on to more complex systems, for instance.

Also, keep in mind that you should have a backup plan in case something goes wrong. What happens if you accidentally take down a web application while attempting to evaluate it? Because of this, employees’ productivity and system performance may be reduced as a result of the denial of the service incident. If a mistake is made in a severe situation, it can result in data loss, data integrity loss, negative publicity, or even the collapse of the entire system.

2. Making a selection of tools
It is nearly impossible to complete any task without the proper tools in place to aid in the process. However, even if you have all of the necessary tools, there is no guarantee that you will find all of the vulnerabilities. Determine your technical and personal limitations, as several security assessment tools may identify vulnerabilities that are not vulnerabilities. Some tools can generate false positives, while others may miss vulnerabilities altogether. When conducting a physical-security assessment or a social-engineering assessment, for example, weaknesses are frequently overlooked.

Always make certain that you are using the appropriate tool for the appropriate task.

John the Ripper, pwdump, or LC4 are all good options for performing a simple test, such as the cracking-password test.
A more sophisticated web application assessment tool, such as WebInspect, will be more appropriate for more advanced analysis, such as web application tests.
The capability and functionality of certain hacking tools are frequently misunderstood by hackers, which results in negative outcomes. As a result, familiarise yourself with these complex tools before you begin to use them to avoid making mistakes. You can accomplish this by doing the following:

Use your tool while reading online help.
Examining the user’s manual for the particular commercial tool that you have is recommended.
Formal classroom training provided by the vendor of the security tool
3. Putting the plan into action
For an ethical hacking operation to be successful, time and patience are essential components. When hacking your system, exercise extreme caution because bad-guy hackers are constantly on the lookout for information about what’s going on in their particular cyber niche or space.

To begin your activity, it is impossible and impractical to ensure that all hackers have been eliminated from your system. It is therefore your responsibility to maintain as much silence and privacy as you possibly can during this process. If the wrong person gains access to your test results while they are being stored or transmitted, it could spell disaster. You must protect such sensitive information by encrypting it and password-protecting it.

Plan execution is more of a reconnaissance mission than a tactical mission. It would be best if you concentrated your efforts on gathering as much information as you possibly could. Consider your organization or system from a broad perspective first, and then narrow down your attention to it.

To begin, gather sufficient background information about your organization, including the names of your network systems and their IP addresses.
Reduce the size of your target audience. Make a list of the specific systems you intend to target.
Narrow your focus even further, concentrate on a specific test and run scans and other detailed tests as part of your routine.
Attacks should only be carried out if you are sufficiently convinced following the preliminary survey.
4. Analyzing and evaluating results
Examine your findings to gain a more in-depth understanding of what you discovered. This is the place where you can put your cybersecurity knowledge to the test. Analyzing the results and making connections between the specific vulnerabilities discovered is a skill that improves with practice. If everything is done correctly, you will have a complete understanding of your system, far superior to the average hacker and on par with any other competent IT professional.

Communicate your findings to the appropriate stakeholders to reassure them that their time and money have been well spent.

5. Moving on with your life
Following the receipt of your results, proceed to the implementation of appropriate countermeasures mechanisms that were recommended by the research findings.

New security flaws are discovered consistently. The range and complexity of technological advancements are increasing. Every day, new security vulnerabilities and hacker exploits are discovered. New ones will continue to be discovered by you indefinitely!

Your system’s security posture should be treated as if it were a snapshot taken during a security test. It should specify the level of security you have at the time of the incident. The reason for this is that the security landscape can change at any time, and this is particularly true after adding a computer system to your network, performing a software upgrade, or applying a patch. Make the pen-testing process a proactive one. Consider including it in your security policy as a way to protect yourself against potentially costly cyberattacks.