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Ethical hacking explained for 12-year-olds

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Ethical hacking involves an authorised attempt to track unauthorised breaches to rectify them.

Hackers are of 3 types: Black hats, white hats and grey hats.

Sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief, or at least, a detective who thinks like a thief. A good example of this is an ethical hacker. Hacking involves gaining unauthorised access to a system, network, application, digital gadget or data. And ethical hacking involves an authorised attempt to track unauthorised breaches to rectify them. In short, an ethical hacker duplicates strategies and actions of malicious attackers, follows their path, closes the breach and tries to identify the hackers by following their digital trail. What’s more, ethical hackers can find out vulnerabilities in security systems before an attack can happen, and help in preventing them. 

How do ethical hackers work?    
Hackers are of 3 types: Black hats, white hats and grey hats. The black hats use unauthorised means, white hatters stick to what is authorised, while the grey ones try to use a middle path. Ethical hackers are white hat security experts who perform safety assessments or try to recover hacked data. They help in improving an organization’s security posture, tighten national security, and tighten personal data security. Ethical hackers always work with the approval of the data owner, and their mission is the opposite of the black hat hacker.  

How do ethical hackers remain ethical?  
Hacking is a word with a strong negative feel to it. But an ethical hacker is a ‘good guy’. To remain so, he or she must follow some protocol. Firstly, they have to stay legal. So they obtain proper approval before starting and stick to all the rules laid out by the owner of the data. Next, the ethical hacker does a clear assessment of what has happened and submits a full report. Then they point out the vulnerabilities they noticed in the process and suggest ways of rectifying these. Through the process, an ethical hacker respects data sensitivity. They start by signing a nondisclosure agreement and they stick to it throughout.  

How do ethical hackers serve society?  
Society reaps benefits from what an ethical hacker does. It is because they find out weak points in security systems from an attacker’s point of view, and help in fixing these, as well as implement stronger security. They assist in stopping terrorists from accessing national security systems, protect financial institutions and their clients, and define much of the data security operations we see around us.