When you hear the word “hacker,” you may imagine a shady figure typing away in a dark room. Not all hackers are like this, though, and not all are even criminals. Even though it sounds like an oxymoron, there’s an entire field of cybersecurity called ethical hacking.
Cybersecurity is a growing threat these days, and it can affect any company, no matter its size. More than 40% of data breaches target small businesses, and these can cost millions of dollars. If you run a business, you need to install some cybersecurity measures, but how can you tell if they work?
Ethical hacking can tell you just that.
What Is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical hacking, sometimes called “penetration testing,” is trying to hack into a business’s systems to reveal any weaknesses. Think of it as a practice cyber attack. These hackers simulate an attack on your systems so you can know what your shortcomings are before a criminal takes advantage of them.
These contractors aren’t cybercriminals trying to make some money on the side. They’re experienced cybersecurity professionals who know the ins and outs of the latest hacking techniques. By thinking and acting like a cybercriminal, they can show where actual criminals can get access to your systems.
There are automated hacking tools out there, but ethical hackers are better-rounded. That’s because they don’t just focus on the digital side of things, but physical and social weaknesses too. Some penetration testings include trying to enter your building physically or tricking employees into making some lapses in security practices.
Benefits of Ethical Hacking
Of the small and medium-sized businesses that have to pause operations after a breach, roughly 60% go out of business. You have to be sure you have enough protection, and ethical hacking can show you if you do.
You likely have a lot of other responsibilities outside of cybersecurity. When you’re busy, you may not notice small cracks in your security solutions. Ethical hacking can find these weak points so you can fix them before they lead to disaster.
Ethical hacking lets you learn from your mistakes before they cost you millions of dollars. Every business has unique challenges when it comes to security, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Without penetration testing, you wouldn’t know if you need to take any additional steps to protect your data.
How Does It Work?
When you hire an ethical hacker, they’ll start by asking some questions about your business. After learning about your needs and concerns, they’ll offer a few different kinds of tests they can perform. Then they’ll typically give you a timeframe and start trying different ways into your system in that time.
Ethical hackers don’t just throw a bunch of different attacks at you at once. They investigate your business and systems to look for possible weaknesses, just like a cybercriminal would. If they do thorough enough research, they’ll usually find exploits without much trouble.
After they’ve done a thorough test, ethical hackers will give you a report about their findings. A lot of the time, they can also suggest steps to take to fix any vulnerabilities you have. With this information at hand, you can work to make your systems more secure.
Be Proactive With Your Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is a complicated and continually evolving science. You can’t be sure that you’re safe unless you test your systems and do so regularly. Ethical hacking provides the expert help and information you need.
Waiting around for a cyber attack to see how your cybersecurity stands up is a risky move. You need to be proactive with your security, and ethical hackers can help you with that. Knowing the threats you face is essential to well-rounded security, and no one knows a hacker like a hacker does.
Jenna Tsui is a tech blogger who co-owns The Byte Beat blog and writes for sites like Triple Pundit, MakeTechEasier, and Technology Networks. Check out her work on TBB or follow her on Twitter @jenna_tsui