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Being an ethical hacker

In a world where Edward Snowden has created controversy by whistleblowing on the US government, ethical hackers, also known as pen pushers and white hat hackers, and their work accessing sensitive and protected data, are a hot topic.

As much as society is now calling for more clarity from large corporations, it’s also placing increasing pressure on businesses, in both the public and private sector, to protect the data in their possession.

An ethical hacker specialises in penetration testing to ensure that an organisation’s information systems are secure, and are hired to do so instead of hacking the system of their own accord.

An expert in computers and networking, the hacker seeks out vulnerabilities in a system that more malicious hackers would normally exploit in order to obtain sensitive information which they would then sell on.

Many large companies, for example IBM, now employ a team of ethical hackers, otherwise known as sneakers, red teams or tiger teams, as part of a set protocol in order to predict, combat and prevent data theft and fraud.

Despite its sometimes controversial nature, ethical hacking is now becoming a certified art form, with the EC-Council pioneering the globally recognised Certified Ethical Hacker – CEH – certification.

A candidate can embark on the qualification after relevant experience in the IT security field.

When eligible, you’ll learn the common methods of exploitation black hat hackers use, the vulnerabilities they search for and effective countermeasures.

The course covers:

  • trojan horses
  • backdoors
  • buffer overflow
  • viruses
  • session hijacking
  • system hacking
  • hijacking web servers
  • hijacking web applications
  • scanning and sniffing networks
  • cracking wireless encryption
  • evasion of IDSs and firewalls

Hacking also requires key soft skills such as communication, strong work ethics, problem solving and a motivated and dedicated personality.

A talent for manipulation is also useful in this career path, because at times you will need to persuade people to part with credentials, execute files, and even restart systems in order to help you reach your goal.

This career path is an engaging and lucrative area to enter into, with a secure working future, the chance of working from home, travelling, and working for global corporations on highly sensitive and often government funded projects. 

The average wage for uncertified individuals stands at £44,000, and this wage only increases to £55,000 a year once they have become certified.

Interested in bending the rules in an ethical way? Perhaps becoming an ethical hacker is the right career path for you.