Top 10 Skills to Become an Ethical Hacker

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Last updated on
26th May, 2022
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05th May, 2020
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Top 10 Skills to Become an Ethical Hacker

With industries moving to cloud-based platforms to operate and store critical information, cybersecurity is a growing concern of all industries. A recent data-breach in Adobe Systems has resulted in a loss of personal data for nearly 3 million of its customers. As a preventive measure, top IT companies like IBM are investing crores to protect their information. This is where Ethical Hacking comes into the picture. The process of locating weaknesses and vulnerabilities of existing information systems or computers and thereby helping companies enhance their security systems is known as ethical hacking. Often, ethical hacking takes the same route as hackers/malicious actors by replicating their methodologies and tools. It is also known as penetration testing, intrusion testing, or red teaming. 

Who is an Ethical Hacker?

An ethical hacker or whitehat hacker is a security professional using hacking skills for defensive purposes to test the security status of organizations’ information systems. 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? 

The 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.  

So what does it take to become an ethical hacker? 

Top 10 Skills to Become an Ethical Hacker  

1. Excellent computer skills

This might seem like a basic skill, but it is very important to become an ethical hacker. One should be very prompt at handling basic skills related to operating a system and have a firm hold on the command line in Windows/operating software, edit the registry, and set their networking parameters. 

2. Programming skills

To gain access to the foundation of the software, one needs to have a proper understanding of different programming languages used to develop it. The most common languages are Python, SQL, C, C++, and Perl. 

3. Database management systems (DBMS)

DBMS is the crux of creating and managing all databases. Access to a database where all the information is stored can put the company in a huge threat, so ensuring that this software is hack-proof is important. An ethical hacker needs a good understanding of this, along with different database engines and data schemas to help the organization build a strong DBMS. 

4. Linux 

As most web servers run on Linux operating system, gaining access to this server to check for loopholes is another must-have skill for ethical hackers. Insights into operating systems like Redhat, Ubuntu, Fedora, their commands, and GUI (graphical user interface) will give you great leverage. 

5. Cryptography

Cryptography deals with converting a normal text/message to a non-readable form during the transmission to make it incomprehensible to hackers. An ethical hacker ensures that communication between different people within the organization does not leak. 

6. Social engineering

Hackers have a common tendency to use tricks such as social engineering, phishing, and trojans to access personal information. Social engineering is the psychological manipulation of users to perform actions or give away confidential/personal information that may threaten the business. Ethical hackers replicate these tricks to test the loopholes, which makes it a desirable skill in them. 

7. Web applications 

Web applications are the software that users access on the internet through their web browsers. As this has been a breeding ground for cyber-attacks, learning these web applications has become crucial for ethical hackers to protect an organization’s data. By learning software like HTML, JavaScript, and PHP, an ethical hacker can provide a database that protects them. 

8. Wireless technologies

Learning wireless technologies like WEP, WPA, WPA2, WPS, etc., will help ethical hackers protect systems from sending information via invisible waves. A protocol for connection, authentication, and restrictions on wireless technologies can be put in place by having a deep understanding of the same. 

9. Networking 

Understanding networks like DHCP, NAT, Subnetting and more will equip ethical hackers to explore the different interconnected computers in a network and the potential security threats that this may create, as well as how to handle them.  

10. Critical thinking & problem-solving

Apart from the technical skills pointed above, an ethical hacker also needs to be a critical thinker and proactive problem solver. They must be eager to learn new ways and ensure all security breaches are thoroughly checked. This requires a lot of testing and a creative penchant to device new ways of problem-solving.  

How to become an ethical hacker?

Professionals aspiring to become an ethical hacker can learn the skills themselves or develop them with the help of industry experts. A Certified Ethical Hacker certification is a commonly recognized certification managed by the EC-Council to train individuals on ethical hacking and give them skills and expertise to safeguard their interests. Along with this, proactive reading, researching, and learning about the latest industry trends and technologies will come a long way. 

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