Five Security Vulnerabilities Ethical Hacking Can Uncover
While the term “ethical hacking” may sound like an oxymoron, ethical hackers are an incredibly valuable resource for organizations today. Whereas malicious hacking is harmful, ethical hacking is beneficial—when done right, it can protect a company’s digital assets and ensure the security of its network.
As a result, ethical hacking skills are in high demand today: A recent report projects that there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings by 2025 (Cybersecurity Ventures, 2021), and ethical hackers in the United States make an average of $102,400 per year (Salary.com, 2021). If you’re looking to develop your ethical hacking skills and become a Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH), now is the perfect time.
An ethical hacker’s job is to attempt to break into a company’s network, understand its security protections and precautions, and identify weaknesses (EC-Council, 2021c). After doing so, they present the company with a list of its security vulnerabilities as well as recommendations for improving security. Ethical hacking often goes hand in hand with other security measures, like penetration testing (EC-Council, 2021b).
In the course of their work, ethical hackers can find many types of network and security vulnerabilities. In this article, we’ll outline five major security vulnerabilities that ethical hacking can reveal.
1. Security Misconfigurations
Security misconfigurations happen when an organization improperly configures or fails to properly utilize all of a system’s security settings, enabling hackers to gain access to its network. A security misconfiguration is often a precursor to a powerful and aggressive attack on a network. Programs like the C|EH train ethical hackers to spot security misconfigurations and then provide recommendations for how a business can remedy them.
2. Injection Attacks
In an injection attack, a malicious actor injects a line of code into a program to gain remote access to an organization’s network (IBM, 2014). Injection attacks are often precursors to larger-scale cyberattacks on a database or website (IBM, 2014). However, appropriate security protocols can stop the malicious injection of code and, if enforced correctly, alert a network administrator. There are many types of injection attacks, with SQL injections among the most prevalent and damaging.
3. Vulnerable System Components
One of the fundamental challenges in network security is ensuring that all aspects of a network’s systems are secure and up to date—a network is only as secure as its individual components. Using components with known vulnerabilities can create serious network security problems. Ethical hackers can identify these vulnerabilities and determine how to fix them. These fixes may include making improvements to existing security programs and providing recommendations for better security software.
4. Social Engineering
Malicious actors use social engineering tactics to break into an organization’s network by inducing individuals to provide information that enables the hacker to gain illicit access to the organization’s systems (National Institute of Standards and Technology, n.d.). Social engineering attacks may involve, for example, a malicious actor posing as a network administrator and sending out a phishing email to an organization’s members. If users are tricked into giving out their usernames and passwords, the attacker can gain unlawful access to the company’s network.
Ensuring that employees are aware of social engineering and phishing techniques can lower the odds that such attacks will be successful (EC-Council, 2021a). A company is only as strong as its weakest link. Ethical hacking can help identify these weak links.
5. Authentication Vulnerabilities
How Can You Become an Ethical Hacker?
Cybersecurity Ventures. (2021, November 11). Cybersecurity jobs report: 3.5 million openings through 2025 [Press release]. EIN Presswire. https://www.einpresswire.com/article/556075599/cybersecurity-jobs-report-3-5-million-openings-through-2025
EC-Council. (2021a). Phishing prevention solutions. EC-Council Aware. https://aware.eccouncil.org/email-phishing.html
EC-Council. (2021b, October 25). What is penetration testing?https://www.eccouncil.org/what-is-penetration-testing/
EC-Council. (2021c, December 1). What is ethical hacking? https://www.eccouncil.org/ethical-hacking/
IBM. (2014). Injection attacks. In IBM security network intrusion prevention system (Version 4.6.2) [Technical documentation]. https://www.ibm.com/docs/en/snips/4.6.2?topic=categories-injection-attacks
National Institute of Standards and Technology. (n.d.). Social engineering. In Computer Security Resource Center glossary. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://csrc.nist.gov/glossary/term/social_engineering
Salary.com. (2021, December 27). Ethical hacker salary in the United States. https://www.salary.com/research/salary/posting/ethical-hacker-salary