Hackers are a huge threat to organizations, so ethically practiced hacking is often the best way to protect them from these attacks.
The nature of the attacks on computer security continues to evolve. Unless the systems could be also developed to counteract these threats, they will remain an easy target. While conventional security measures are necessary, it is important to keep in perspective the people or organizations that could potentially attack our systems. Different organizations have allowed a category of hackers, known as ethical hackers or white-hat hackers, to identify possible system vulnerabilities and provide suggestions for fixing them. With the express consent of the leaders of the organizations, the ethical hackers penetrate in a holistic way in the systems to implement various security measures that allow systems to continue operating normally against the threats of attacks from other hackers.
Is white hat hacking really necessary?
According to experts from the International Institute of Cyber Security, it is not really obligatory for an organization to hire the services of a hacker, but basic computer security systems have shown repeated failures in providing accurate protection against a rival who shows increasing growth and variety of resources. With the proliferation of intelligent devices connected to the network, the systems are under constant threat. In fact, currently hacking has been shown as a possibility of lucrative business, practiced at the expense of attacked organizations.
As Bruce Schneier, author of the book “Protect Your Macintosh,” mentions, “it’s easy to protect your hardware, just put it under lock, chain it to your desk, or buy another one. Taking care of information is more complicated. It can be in more than one place; it can be carried from one side of the world to the other just in seconds and be stolen without your knowledge”. Unless you have great resources, your information technology department will be inferior to the onslaught of hackers, and valuable information can be stolen before you know it. That is why it is pertinent to add an area to the Information Technology Department of your organization, hiring white hat hackers who know how to act as malicious hackers. Otherwise, your organization will run the risk of leaving tickets to your systems.
Knowing Hacker’s Methods
To prevent hacking it is important to understand how hackers think. The conventional security programs stop working as soon as the hacker makes his entry, it is obvious that hackers have all different ways of acting, so that systems are exceeded, which makes necessary the emergence of an ethical hacker who can enter the system the way a black hat hacker would do it, but trying to find security deficiencies.
It is used to find the vulnerabilities of the system that could be attacked by a hacker. There are various methods to apply a penetration test that organizations use according to their needs.
- Targeted tests involve people in the organization and the hacker. The staff of the Organization knows all about the attack that will take place.
- External testing penetrates all externally exposed systems, such as Web servers and DNS.
- Internal tests discover open vulnerabilities for internal users with access privileges.
- Blind tests simulate real hacker attacks.
The testing organization receives limited information about the target, requiring them to perform a reconnaissance prior to the attack. Penetrating tests is the most common case for hiring ethical hackers.
No system is completely immune to attacks. Organizations need to provide protection at different levels. Ethical hacking represents an opportunity to cover these levels. A good example is the case study of a large organization in the manufacturing sector. The organization knew its limitations in terms of information security, but could not do much for itself. Then, they hired ethical hackers to evaluate their security system and provide his findings and recommendations. The report included the following components: Recommendations for improving computer security of the system, such as the implementation of an incident response system, complete implementation of a vulnerability management program and more comprehensive strengthening guidelines.
Preparing for an attack
Attacks are inevitable no matter how strong a system is. In the end, an attacker will find vulnerability or two. This article has already established that cyber attacks are inevitable. That does not mean that organizations should stop reinforcing their security system, but quite the opposite. Cyber attacks have evolved and the only way to prevent or minimize damage is a good preparation. One way to prepare anti-attack systems is to allow ethical hackers to identify vulnerabilities in advance.
There are many examples of this and it is pertinent to look at the example of the Department of Homeland Security of the United States. DHS uses an extremely large and complex system that stores and processes large volumes of sensitive data.
Data violation is a serious threat, and like threatening national security. DHS realized that making ethical hackers enter their system before hackers did it was an intelligent way to raise the level of preparation for an attack. Therefore, the DHS Hack Act was passed, which would allow select ethical hackers to enter the DHS system.
This Act establishes in detail how the initiative would work. A group of ethical hackers would be hired to enter the DHS system and identify vulnerabilities, if any. For any new vulnerabilities identified, ethical hackers would be financially rewarded. Ethical hackers would not be subject to any legal action because of their actions, although they would have to work under certain restrictions and guidelines. The Act also made it obligatory for all the ethical hackers involved in the program to go through a background check.
Like DHS, reputable organizations have hired ethical hackers to raise the level of system security preparation for a long time.
Both ethical hacking and conventional information security must work together to protect organizations. However, companies must develop their strategy towards ethical hacking. They can probably take the example of DHS into this practice. The role and scope of ethical hackers must be clearly defined; it is important for the company to maintain checks and balances so that the hacker does not exceed the scope of the work or cause any damage to the system. The company also needs to give ethical hackers the assurance that no legal action will be taken in the case of a violation as defined in their contract.
Information security specialist, currently working as risk infrastructure specialist & investigator.
15 years of experience in risk and control process, security audit support, business continuity design and support, workgroup management and information security standards.