When it comes to the world of information technology, cybersecurity is one of the most important aspects that companies need to focus on in order to protect their data. Among the many different types of cybersecurity professionals, I believe, ethical hackers are some of the most sought-after. Ethical hackers have the skills & deep knowledge necessary to penetrate a company's network and identify any potential vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them.
Let's explore the fundamental and core skills that are indispensable for success as an ethical hacker. I'll also delve into the journey of acquiring these skills through top-notch Ethical Hacking courses and certifications necessary for a rewarding career in ethical hacking. So let us get started with what skills does an ethical hacker need in the sections that follows.
What is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical hacking is the practice of using hacking techniques to test the security of a computer system or network. Ethical hackers like myself try to find ways to break into a system in order to find security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious hackers. This practice is also known as penetration testing, white hat hacking, or security testing. Unlike malicious hackers, we do not attempt to gain unauthorized access to systems or data. Instead, our mission is to focus on helping organizations improve their security by finding and fixing potential security risks.
Ethical hacking can be used to test the security of any computer system, from individual networks to large-scale enterprise systems. Ethical hacking professionals use a variety of tools and techniques to find security vulnerabilities, including port scanning, web application attacks, and database attacks. By finding and fixing these vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, ethical hackers can help organizations strengthen their defenses against malicious attacks.
Who is an Ethical Hacker?
Ethical hackers are information security experts who use their ethical hacking skills to protect computer networks and systems from cyber attacks. Unlike criminal hackers, we have permission to test systems for vulnerabilities and weaknesses. We do this by simulating real-world attacks, sometimes using the same methods and tools as criminal hackers.
Ethical hacking is an important part of keeping systems secure, as it helps to identify and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by malicious actors. Ethical hackers typically have a strong understanding of computer networking, cryptography, and programming. Many ethical hackers also hold certifications such as the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) credential.
CEH is a globally acclaimed certification that validates an individual's skills in ethical hacking. To earn the Certified Ethical Hacker credential, candidates must pass a rigorous exam that covers topics such as footprinting and reconnaissance, scanning and enumeration, social engineering, denial-of-service attacks, and session hijacking. The CEH exam is designed to test the ability of candidates to find and exploit vulnerabilities in real-world environments.
The ethical hacker primarily looks for the following information:
- What are the loopholes such as information, locations, or systems that an attacker can gain access to?
- What can an attacker see with this information?
- What can the attacker do with the available information?
- Is anyone already noticing or reacting to such attempts in the information systems?
Digital transformation and emerging technologies like blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) have multiplied the demand for ethical hackers. Payscale reports that the average salary of a Certified Ethical Hacker is $92,000 in the US and ₹483,875 in India.
Ethical Hacker Skills: Basic Skills for Ethical Hacking
There are many different skills needed to be an ethical hacker and to become successful in ethical hacking. Perhaps the most important and one of the required skills for ethical hacking is the ability to think like a hacker. This means being able to understand how hackers think and operate and being able to anticipate their next move.
Additionally, as an ethical hacker, you need to have a strong understanding of computer networks and systems. We are required to know how to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and how to exploit them. In addition, we need to be well-versed in programming languages and tools, in order to be able to create custom scripts and programs.
Finally, ethical hackers must be able to communicate effectively, both with clients and with other members of their team. We need to be able to clearly explain their findings, and make recommendations for how to fix any issues that they find.
By possessing all of these basic ethical hacking skills, an ethical hacker will be armed with everything they need to be successful.
Top 11 Core Tech Skills Required for Ethical Hacking
1. Excellent Computer Skills
Ethical hacking is a process of identifying weaknesses in computer systems and networks and then utilizing those same techniques to secure the systems. While it may sound simple, ethical hacking is actually a complex process that requires a deep understanding of both computer hardware and software. In order to be an effective ethical hacker, you must first have excellent computer skills. This means being able to quickly understand and utilize new technologies.
Moreover, you must be able to think creatively to identify potential vulnerabilities. Once you have identified a vulnerability, you must then be able to exploit it in order to gain access to the system. Finally, you must be able to properly document your work so that others can replicate your results. Without these ethical hacking core skills, it will be difficult to effectively perform ethical hacking.
2. Programming Skills
Ethical hacking requires a strong foundation in programming skills. After all, ethical hackers are essentially using their knowledge of code to find vulnerabilities in systems and then proposing solutions to fix those vulnerabilities. Without programming skills, it would be impossible to understand how systems work and how to find weaknesses in them. The most common programming languages used by ethical hackers are Python, Java, and PHP.
However, any language that can be used to write code can be used for hacking purposes. The important thing is to have a strong understanding of how code works and how it can be used to create or solve problems. There are many resources available online for learning how to code, so there is no excuse for not having at least some basic coding skills before trying to ethical hack.
3. Database Skills
Ethical hacking requires a number of different skills to be successful. One of the most important ethical hacker skills is the ability to work with databases. Hackers need to be able to understand how databases are structured and how they work in order to be able to find security vulnerabilities. In addition, hackers need to be able to use database management tools in order to manipulate data and access restricted information. Without these skills, it would be very difficult for ethical hackers to do their job.
4. SQL Skills
Ethical hacking is an increasingly popular profession that calls for a very specific set of skills. Perhaps one of the essential ethical hacking skills required for an ethical hacker is the ability to write and understand SQL queries. SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a programming language specifically designed for working with databases.
To find vulnerable information in a database, an ethical hacker needs to be able to craft SQL queries that can extract the desired data. This requires a deep understanding of how databases are structured and how SQL can be used to manipulate them. Without this essential skill, it would be impossible to engage in ethical hacking.
5. Linux Skills
As anyone in the IT field knows, Linux is a powerful operating system that provides users with a wide range of tools and features. For ethical hackers, Linux skills are essential, as they allow you to access the inner workings of a system and identify potential vulnerabilities. In addition, Linux skills provide you with the ability to create custom scripts and programs that can be used to automate various tasks.
While there are many different ways to learn Linux skills, the most effective way is to get hands-on experience by working with a variety of different distributions. By doing so, you'll gain a better understanding of how Linux works, and you'll be able to customize your tools and techniques to meet your specific needs.
As anyone in the cybersecurity field knows, ethical hacking is a critical tool for keeping information safe. By identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in systems, ethical hackers can help to prevent data breaches and other malicious activity. However, ethical hacking is not simply a matter of poking around until you find a weakness. Rather, it requires a careful and methodical approach. One of the core ethical hacker skills required for ethical hacking is cryptography.
Cryptography is the practice of encrypting and decrypting information. Ethical hackers use cryptography to protect data from being accessed by unauthorized individuals. They also use it to create "backdoors" into systems, allowing them to access sensitive information without raising alarms. As such, cryptography is an essential tool for any ethical hacker.
7. Social Engineering Skills
Ethical hacking requires a mix of technical and social skills. On the technical side, ethical hackers need to be well-versed in cybersecurity tools and techniques. They must also have a strong understanding of how computer systems work. However, technical skills alone are not enough to be an effective ethical hacker.
Ethical hackers also need well-developed social engineering skills. This includes being able to gather information about targets through conversation, research, and observation. Ethical hackers use this information to exploit weaknesses in security systems. Moreover, you must also look to pursue Cyber Security training courses online for the development of enhanced ethical hacker skills.
8. Web Applications
A key skill for ethical hackers is the ability to find and exploit vulnerabilities in web applications. Hackers can use a variety of techniques to find these vulnerabilities, including code review, network analysis, and black box testing.
Once a vulnerability has been found, the hacker can then exploit it to gain access to sensitive data or take control of the application. To be successful, ethical hackers must have a deep understanding of how web applications work and how to find and exploit their vulnerabilities.
9. Wireless Technologies
Understanding wireless technologies is one of the key competencies required for ethical hacking. In today's world, almost all businesses and organizations rely on wireless networks to communicate and conduct transactions. Hackers who can access these networks can potentially wreak havoc on a company's operations.
As a result, ethical hackers must be familiar with the inner workings of wireless technologies in order to identify and exploit vulnerabilities. With this knowledge, they can help organizations to shore up their defenses and protect against malicious attacks.
10. Networking Skills
In order to ethical hack, you need a strong understanding of networking concepts. This includes things like IP addresses, DNS servers, and routing protocols. Ethical hackers need to be able to understand how networks are put together in order to find ways to exploit them. Many ethical hacking tools and techniques involve working with network traffic, so it is essential to have a good understanding of networking before trying to hack.
11. Critical Thinking & Problem-solving
Ethical hacking is a process of identifying weaknesses in computer systems and networks and then finding ways to fix them. In order to be an effective ethical hacker, you need to have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You must be able to see the big picture and understand how all the pieces fit together.
Once you have identified a potential security vulnerability, you need to be able to come up with creative solutions for fixing it. You also need to have excellent communication skills so that you can explain your findings to those who may not be as technically savvy. Ethical hacking is a challenging field, but those who are up for the challenge can find it immensely rewarding.
Additional Skills Required to Become an Ethical Hacker
To become an ethical hacker, it is not only important to have the technical skills required to find and exploit weaknesses in systems, but also the ability to think like a malicious hacker. This includes having a good understanding of how malware works and how it can be used to gain access to systems and data.
Furthermore, ethical hackers need to be able to identify the goals of a malicious hacker and have a clear understanding of the potential impact of their actions. Without these kinds of ethical hacker skills, it would be very difficult to effectively find and fix security vulnerabilities.
2. Computer Forensics
Ethical hacking is a field that is always evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends and techniques. As a result, many ethical hackers choose to specialize in a particular area, such as computer forensics. Forensics specialists are trained to identify and analyze digital evidence, making them essential members of any ethical hacking team.
To become a forensic specialist, you will need to have strong analytical and problem-solving skills. You will also need to be familiar with the latest forensic tools and techniques. With the right ethical hacker skills and training, you can become an indispensable member of any ethical hacking team.
3. Hardware Knowledge
To turn into an ethical hacker, you will require some PC hardware abilities. You should know how to utilize an assortment of PCs and working frameworks: Linux, Windows, and macOS, for example—and have the option to work with various types of PCs, including work area PCs, servers, portable workstations, and cell phones. You should likewise have the option to utilize an assortment of system gear and conventions, including switches, firewalls, web servers, and email servers.
Moreover, you should have the option to utilize at least one scripting or programming language - Python, Perl, PHP, Ruby on Rails—to automate regular tasks or create new tools. Ideally, you will also have some knowledge of digital forensics and networking security. With these skills in hand, you will be well on your way to becoming an ethical hacker.
4. Knowledge of Reverse Engineering
Reverse engineering is the process of taking something apart and understanding how it works in order to figure out how to break it. This skill set is essential for ethical hacking because it allows you to take apart programs and devices in order to find ways to exploit them. Without reverse engineering ethical hacking skills, it would be very difficult to find vulnerabilities in systems because you would not know how they work or what they are supposed to do.
What Certifications Should an Ethical Hacker Obtain?
Ethical hacking is a growing field as companies increasingly look to outside help to test the security of their systems. But what certifications should an ethical hacker have? The most important certification for any ethical hacker is the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) from the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council).
This certification validates a candidate's ethical hacking skills and ability to find and exploit vulnerabilities in systems, as well as provides training on how to conduct penetration tests and write reports. In addition, many employers also prefer candidates who have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field.
While the CEH certification is the most important one for ethical hackers, there are other certifications that can be helpful, including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and the Certified Secure Computer User (CSCU).
These certifications demonstrate a candidate's knowledge of security best practices and can make them more attractive to potential employers. So if you're looking to break into the ethical hacking field, be sure to obtain the CEH certification and consider pursuing KnowledgeHut’s Ethical Hacking course and additional certifications as well.
How to Improve your Ethical Hacking Skills?
Improving your ethical hacking skills goes beyond certifications and formal education. Actively engage in hands-on experiences by setting up your own lab environment to practice various hacking techniques. Experiment with different operating systems, networks, and security tools to gain practical insights into real-world scenarios.
Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity trends and vulnerabilities by regularly reading blogs, attending conferences, and participating in online forums. Networking with other ethical hackers can provide valuable insights and foster a collaborative learning environment.
Continuous learning is crucial in this rapidly evolving field, so explore advanced topics like reverse engineering, cryptography, and malware analysis. Online platforms offer a plethora of courses and challenges, allowing you to sharpen your skills at your own pace.
Ethical hackers often encounter diverse systems and technologies, so developing a versatile skill set is key. Familiarize yourself with various programming languages, scripting, and exploit development to broaden your capabilities.
Lastly, ethical hacking is not just about technical prowess but also effective communication. Hone your report-writing skills to articulate vulnerabilities clearly and provide actionable recommendations. Regularly participate in bug bounty programs to gain practical experience and potentially earn rewards while contributing to the security community. Remember, ethical hacking is a continuous journey of learning and adapting to the dynamic landscape of cybersecurity.
Unlock Your Potential with the Latest ITIL Certification. Elevate Your Career in IT Service Management and Stay Ahead of the Curve. Learn More Today!
As you can see, there are many different areas of ethical hacking that you need to be proficient in. While some ethical hacking skills are more basic and essential than others, having a strong foundation is key to becoming a successful hacker. Do you have experience in all of these areas? Are there any particular skills that you would like to focus on improving? Let us know in the comments below.