Hacking: it’s an unambiguous term that needs no introduction. Indeed, within the collective minds of the general public, it often invokes a very specific image, interchangeable with that of a criminal or thief, perhaps. However, within the ever-changing complexities of today’s digital environment, there has evolved a certain type of hacker who capitalizes on hacking business systems in an entirely different way: legally, that is.
The concept is not so far fetched when examined further. After all, the best way to stop hackers is by beating them at their own game, which is what ethical hackers seek to accomplish, effectively safeguarding their employers against their more nefarious counterparts, the so called ‘Black Hat’ hackers.
Specifically, there are a variety of reasons for employing an ethical hacker to break into one’s own network, but two main reasons stand out:
The most common reason is to perform ‘security tests’ by hacking into the digital systems owned by the organization’s themselves, from which the ethical hacker will have full permission to do so. Through imitating a break-in of the system, defensive strategies can be proposed and implemented. The goal here is to identify if there are any vulnerabilities in a system. The best way to do this is by ‘roleplaying’ the part of any future hackers seeking to maliciously gain access into the network. In this case, the ethical hacker can then act on the intentions and strategies of such future attempts at a hack through replicating how and where the individual would strike. If the ethical hacker successfully breaks into the system, then the means by which the employed hacker penetrated the system (or the vulnerabilities) will be explained to their employers, so as to fix these vulnerabilities.
Another reason is to limit liability. Companies which handle sensitive personal data, will undoubtedly be under pressure by certain entities to ensure the protection of said data. For example, such companies will be under certain universally applied regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, which enforces laws pertaining to data protection. Failure to comply with these laws could result in a heavy fine of around €20 Million. Because a malicious cyber attack could potentially result in the leakage of large amounts of sensitive data, such companies will be liable under the aforementioned new data laws. It is because of this that employing an ethical hacker could appease any liabilities in the case of such an attack, as companies will be able to prove their dedication to data protection issues, and in the event of a worst case scenario, the credibility of the organization will be protected against these relatively new regulations.