The online world is highly susceptible, and cyber threats have surged recently. According to an internet report, there has been a 300% surge in reported cybercrimes. These attacks are orchestrated by individuals known as hackers. These hackers possess the ability to breach digital security; however, engaging in such activities is considered unethical.
On the other hand, a group of ethical hackers operate in contrast to their unethical counterparts. These skilled cybersecurity professionals utilize their talents to spot vulnerabilities within the security systems of computer databases, safeguarding them from malicious hackers with harmful intentions.
This guide will help you begin your journey into ethical hacking, whether you're new to it or have some experience. Let's start!
What is a Hacker?
In simple terms, hackers are skilled people who are good at getting into computer systems without permission. They can access laptops, computers, phones, networks, or whole computer setups. Hackers find weak spots in security systems and use them.
Although people usually think of hackers as young individuals who change computer stuff, today's hackers are diverse. They have their reasons and aims.
What is the role and responsibilities of a Hacker?
The term "hacker" can encompass different meanings based on context. In the context of ethical hacking and cybersecurity, here are seven points outlining the roles and responsibilities of a hacker:
- Security Testing: Hackers, or ethical hackers or penetration testers, evaluate the security of computer systems, networks, and applications. They intentionally attempt to find vulnerabilities that malicious hackers could exploit.
- Vulnerability Detection: Hackers analyze software, hardware, and network configurations to identify weak points that could potentially be breached. This involves a meticulous examination to locate potential entry points for cyberattacks.
- Risk Assessment: Once vulnerabilities are discovered, hackers assess the potential risks and impact of exploiting these weaknesses. They determine the severity of each vulnerability and prioritise them based on possible consequences.
- Penetration Testing: Ethical hackers perform controlled and authorised attacks on systems to verify the effectiveness of security measures. This "pen testing" helps organisations understand their security posture and improve accordingly.
- Security Solutions Development: Hackers collaborate with cybersecurity experts to design and implement security solutions that mitigate identified vulnerabilities. They may develop patches, recommend configuration changes, or suggest additional security tools.
- Intrusion Response: In case of a security breach, ethical hackers assist in identifying the nature and extent of the violation. They help trace back the attack, identify compromised data, and implement measures to prevent future breaches.
- Continuous Learning and Research: Hackers stay updated with the latest hacking techniques, cybersecurity trends, and evolving threats. Constant learning is crucial as cybersecurity is dynamic, and hackers need to adapt to new attack vectors.
Qualification required to become a Hacker
Becoming a hacker, particularly in ethical hacking and cybersecurity, doesn't necessarily require traditional formal education, but having a solid educational foundation can significantly enhance your skills and credibility. Here are the academic qualifications and paths commonly pursued by individuals interested in becoming hackers:
Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science or Related Field:
Many ethical hackers start by earning a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field. This education provides a solid understanding of computer systems, programming languages, networking, and cybersecurity fundamentals.
Master's Degree (Optional):
While not always necessary, pursuing a master's degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or a related discipline can offer advanced knowledge and specialization. This is particularly beneficial if you aim for leadership roles or in-depth expertise.
Certifications are a valuable way to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in ethical hacking. Some of the most recognised certifications include:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): Offered by the EC-Council, this certification focuses on ethical hacking tools and techniques.
- CompTIA Security+: This certification covers cybersecurity fundamentals and is a good starting point.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): A more advanced certification demonstrating deep cybersecurity knowledge.
Online Courses and Training:
Numerous online platforms offer courses and training in ethical hacking, penetration testing, and cybersecurity. These can be a flexible and accessible way to gain practical skills.
Self-Study and Practical Experience:
Many hackers are self-taught, learning through hands-on experience, practice, and continuous learning. This path may involve experimenting with various tools, studying coding languages, and staying updated on the latest hacking techniques.
Participation in Hacking Communities:
Engaging with online hacking communities, attending cybersecurity conferences, and networking with professionals can supplement formal education and provide real-world insights.
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Process to become a Hacker
Acquire Relevant Education and Certification:
Many aspiring hacking professionals opt for a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science or related fields. Alternatively, obtaining professional certifications is a choice, with exams designed to certify ethical hackers. The CompTIA Security+ certification is a popular choice in hacking and cybersecurity. EC-Council's Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) credential is also esteemed by employers seeking ethical hackers.
Grasp Networking Concepts:
A fundamental skill for hackers is understanding networking. Consider starting with an entry-level network support role, which exposes you to tasks like network creation, security system installation and monitoring, and vulnerability assessment.
Excel in Programming Languages:
Proficiency in critical programming languages, notably C Programming, is pivotal. Mastery of C Programming provides insights into UNIX/LINUX operating systems, enhancing your capability to create programs and security systems with a distinct approach. Mastering 2-3 programming languages allows you to innovate your programming style.
Familiarise with Linux Usage:
Most leading hacking operating systems are Linux-based. UNIX/LINUX, being open-source, enhances system security. Proficiency in Linux augments your skillset as a professional hacker, whether freelancing or working within an organization, as many experts use UNIX/LINUX systems.
Mastery of Cryptography:
Successful hackers must grasp cryptography, encompassing encryption and decryption techniques. Encryption bolsters network and system security, ensuring data confidentiality and integrity. Proficiency in both encryption and decryption equips you to decode data when required.
Engage in Hacking Communities:
Join legitimate and formal hacking communities comprising professional, ethical hackers. These communities offer beginners a foothold in the hacking arena. Participate in discussion forums featuring global participants, and engage in hacking contests and competitions to sharpen your skills and coding abilities.
Salary of Hacker
Upon completing their professional degrees or obtaining valid certifications, hackers can explore an array of job profiles and career prospects. Here are several positions that ethical hackers can consider applying for
Salary (Per annum)
Information Security Analyst
Cyber Security Analyst
Information Security Manager
Security Consultant (Computer, Networking, Information Technology)
Advantages and disadvantages of becoming a Hacker
Benefits of Becoming a Hacker:
- High Demand: With the increasing reliance on technology, a growing demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals, including ethical hackers.
- Lucrative Career: Ethical hackers often enjoy competitive salaries and benefits due to their specialised skills and the critical nature of their work.
- Constant Learning: The ever-evolving nature of cybersecurity ensures that hackers continually learn and adapt to new challenges and technologies.
- Contribution to Security: Ethical hackers play a vital role in strengthening digital security and protecting individuals, organisations, and nations from cyber threats.
- Job Variety: The cybersecurity field offers a wide range of job roles, from penetration testers to security analysts, allowing hackers to choose the area that aligns with their interests.
Disadvantages of Becoming a Hacker:
- Legal and Ethical Concerns: Engaging in unethical or illegal hacking can have serious legal consequences and damage personal reputation.
- Moral Dilemmas: Ethical hackers must navigate moral dilemmas as they explore vulnerabilities and potentially disrupt systems, even to improve security.
- Stress and Responsibility: The pressure of safeguarding sensitive information and preventing cyber threats can lead to high-stress levels and emotional strain.
- Continuous Learning: While an advantage, constant learning can also be challenging, requiring hackers to stay updated with rapidly evolving technologies.
- Misunderstanding and Stereotyping: The term "hacker" is often associated with illegal activities, leading to misconceptions and stereotypes that can impact public perception.
- Extended Hours: Responding to cyber incidents and staying ahead of cybercriminals may entail long and unpredictable working hours.
- Potential Burnout: The intense nature of the work, coupled with the weight of responsibility, can lead to burnout if not managed effectively.
1. What is a hacker?
A hacker is skilled in using computer systems and networks to gain unauthorised access, often focusing on identifying vulnerabilities for ethical or malicious purposes.
2. Can I become a hacker legally?
Yes, you can legally become an ethical hacker or a white hat hacker by following ethical practices and using your skills to improve cybersecurity. Engaging in malicious or black hat hacking is illegal and can lead to severe consequences.
3. What is ethical hacking?
Ethical hacking involves using hacking techniques to identify vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, and software to improve security. Ethical hackers work to protect systems from cyber threats.
4. Do I need a degree to become a hacker?
While a formal degree can be beneficial, it's only sometimes necessary. Practical skills, certifications, and experience are often equally valuable in hacking.
5. What certifications are recommended for hackers?
Certifications like Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and Certified Penetration Tester (CPT) are widely recognised in the cybersecurity and ethical hacking community.
6. What skills do I need to become a hacker?
Strong skills in programming languages (such as Python, C, or Java), networking, system administration, problem-solving, and an understanding of cybersecurity concepts are essential.