Businesses are doing more online than ever. Advertising, selling, data storage — you can do all of it right from a computer.
This is exceptionally convenient but also poses significant risks to any company. Hackers are also on the internet, looking for any sign of weakness in your defenses.
How can you learn about these vulnerabilities before a breach? Many companies are looking to ethical hackers to solve this problem. Here is why you should consider hiring one to protect yourself and your business.
What Is an ethical hacker?
The name itself sounds like an oxymoron. In what ways can hacking — a malicious act by definition — be ethical? However, the explanation is quite simple and explains why this career has high demand from small businesses to the Pentagon.
Ethical hacking means hiring a professional hacker to point out flaws in a security system. Many companies are offering their service as “white hat” hackers who act as a threat to detect possible breach points. Malware and phishing scams are on the rise, so it’s vital for business owners and IT professionals to know where their security needs fixing. This is where the ethical hacker steps in.
White hat hackers test all kinds of methods to protect security. They could leave a USB drive in an open space and see if someone tries to use it. Another could wear a disguise and see how easily they can access your data center. Others can send out scams over email without employee knowledge to gauge who might be susceptible to a hack. This could be one of the most essential tests, as a lack of knowledge is a huge cybersecurity threat for companies.
While traditional penetration testing concentrates on attacking specific (and known) hardware or software vulnerabilities, ethical hackers often take a more holistic view, testing your human defences as well as technology for potential gaps. Their greatest strength is their ability to discover ‘blind spots’ in your security – points of vulnerability you may not even have realised exist.
Businesses can utilise an ethical hacker’s services to identify where they can strengthen their security. They could find out if a few employees’ passwords are weak and the hacker could easily crack them. Then, they can educate workers on the importance of secure passwords. Companies also have the avenue to try out new forms of hacking to further teach the team about potential threats. Hiring a white hat hacker allows for ongoing learning opportunities.
Benefits of ethical hacking for businesses
These hackers provide many advantages for companies and IT teams looking to boost their security:
1. Finding hidden vulnerabilities
Those trained to think like hackers will be able to find unexpected cracks in your protective armour. They can attempt physical and digital breaches, truly putting your security to the test. Any successful experiment then becomes a learning experience for everyone involved. Ethical hackers know how to pursue these weaknesses. Being able to address them in real-time is one of the best ways to continually check your cybersecurity’s strengths. As threats adapt, security needs to do so as well.
2. Testing employee knowledge
Many employees might not know what to look for when determining if an email, text or phone call is malicious. Even trained employees may miss an intrusion attempt because hackers are constantly improving their hiding skills to convince you of their authenticity. Your white hat hacker can send out a phishing email or try to breach your data center and then teach you the best way to deal with this problem. Being able to do this without risking actual harm is a huge benefit.
3. Protecting businesses from losses
Hacking costs businesses considerably. IBM’s report on data breaches concluded that 2021 had the highest record of cost from hacking in its 17 years of conducting this research. Companies lost over $4 million due to data breaches, and compromised credentials were most often the culprit. Ethical hackers can help reduce this expense by assessing how cybercriminals find weaknesses. Companies and IT professionals can prevent these attacks from happening when they know where to boost their security before the worst happens.
4. Helping conduct crisis situations
Companies need to prepare in the event they do experience a hack. White hat hackers can help them address the steps they should take to lessen the impact. Having a plan for getting back up and running is essential because of the sizable losses businesses can face when breached. Ethical hackers can help by conducting a scheduled attack as practice, allowing companies and IT teams to test different solutions in a safe environment. Doing this repeatedly will make their rebound time even faster.
Tips for hiring an ethical hacker
Once you’ve seen the incredible assistance a white hat hacker can provide, you may be wondering how to hire one. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re getting the right person for the job.
Look for a professional
Look for someone willing to do more than provide you with a transactional service. You want to find someone who has your best interests at heart, just like the rest of your employees. They’ll probably be a good fit if they’re passionate, willing to educate and advise, and are dedicated people who want to help you.
Make sure they have the skills
Depending on your requirements, you might decide to go with a solo ethical hacker, or you may decide to hire a team or even a company that specialises in ethical hacking. Whichever you choose, make sure to ask about their credentials and skillsets. Hackers are humans, after all, and have different strengths and blindspots like anyone else. Ask them about their experience, any similar projects they’ve done, and their approach to ethical hacking.
Find a reputable ethical hacker
Finding a hacker from a random place might cause you more grief than relief. Hiring someone from a reputable company or a trusted job board will help you stay safe in this endeavor. Do a bit of research beforehand to find credible people with rates that fit your budget. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Some white hat hacking companies require their workers to have specific accreditations, so look for those if you’re making sure they’re training and certifying their employees. Obviously such companies may charge more, but it’s well-worth the peace of mind. Also, don’t get hung up on the title of ‘ethical hacker’. A lot of cybersecurity consultants and specialists use ethical hacking tactics without the label of ‘hacker’. So keep an open mind and focus on skills versus job titles.
Your hacker will still probably view a lot of sensitive information while providing you with increased security. You should consider asking them to sign a nondisclosure agreement before they start. Additionally, they should be transparent with you about how they’re performing their tests, how they treat your data and what they do with the findings. This is why an ethical, reliable hacker of repute is significant. You’ll face a lot less risk with the right person.
Fighting fire with fire
Technology is the dominant force in today's world. Businesses rely on the internet and digital data at a steadily increasing rate. However, technology brings a need to improve how secure these digital assets are. When defending your organisation against cybercriminals, it pays to have people who can think like them advising you on your own security. White hat hackers provide a way to prepare against attacks safely. They can inform businesses and IT teams of improvements and learning tools to implement for optimal security. Companies that are serious about strengthening their cybersecurity should definitely consider hiring an ethical hacker.