Hacking, in our times, is a term generally related to negativity and criminal activity. Nowadays, we regularly hear about ethical hacking— which leaves us questioning, how can hacking be ethical? In fact, how can a practice consider so malicious even be used for good?
All around the world, governments, organizations, companies, and individuals alike use computer systems for efficient management and functioning. On these systems and the web, all these users store a tremendous amount of personal and private information. The term 'hacker', for most of us, refers to someone who illegally gains access, without permission, to this information through malpractice.
It is no longer a rare happening for us, to discover that a system has been 'hacked', its sensitive information stolen, and often used for unlawful activity. Not only is this a violation of many institutions, but it also risks the exposure of information to people who may use it for dangerous purposes. These acts pose a threat not only to information such as addresses and phone numbers— but also to national security and classified data. As our usage of information technology and networks grows, threats to them such as malware, viruses, ransomware, and worms do too.
Institutions can choose to contact cyber cells and track these hackers down, but in case of such critical information, quick action is of the essence. That is where the role of ethical hackers comes into play. Institutions employ these hackers, to find vulnerabilities in their systems for themselves so that they can improve on them and secure their data better.
Ethical hackers, or White Hat hackers, are in a constant race with sinister hackers, or Black Hat hackers, to find faults and vulnerabilities in a system. Once they do so, they can inform the body they work for about them, and can quickly find a remedy for these faults. Gray Hat hackers fall in between these two categories— they apply the procedures used by Black Hat hackers to find and report vulnerabilities, though they do it without ill-disposed intent.
Since White Hat hackers work under legal procedures and for the right reasons, they too have certain obligations. These include complete permission — or authorization— from the organization that owns the system, transparency of their actions to their employers, confidentiality of their work, and erasure of the traces of their hack after they have finished their check. It is their moral responsibility, and following of legal procedures, that sets apart an ethical hacker from an unethical one.
In present-day society, providing the skills and knowledge to hack to the right people has become quintessential. Viewing a system from a Black Hat hacker's perspective helps improve and encrypt systems better and better. The existence of individuals who have the power to combat malicious hackers has become fundamental for the protection and safety of the masses.
By: Yashasvini Verma
School: Amity International School, Noida
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