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What is Ethical Hacking? How to Become an Ethical Hacker?

Last updated:
27th Oct, 2020
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What is Ethical Hacking? How to Become an Ethical Hacker?

Digitization is becoming increasingly popular. From IT infrastructures to the ‘Work from Home‘ culture, companies are trying new ways to use technology to boost their productivity. While relying on digital platforms and technologies has its benefits, it exposes them to the risk of hackers and malicious elements. 

To counter those evil elements, companies look for ethical hackers. In this article, you’ll find out what is ethical hacking, ethical hacking meaning, how you can become an ethical hacker, and much more. 

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What is Ethical Hacking? – Ethical Hacking Meaning

Ethical hacking is the authorized practice of breaking through a cybersecurity system to find potential breaches and dangers present in a network. The organization with the ownership of that network allows ethical hackers to breach its systems to test the same. 

While a malicious hacker performs these tasks illegally, ethical hacking does them legally. They have permission from the network owner to breach their security, which makes all the difference.

An ethical hacker is a person who performs these tasks. He or she would analyze and investigate the weak points present in a cyber-security system. He or she would then figure out how to strengthen the same to ensure any evil-intended hacker doesn’t exploit those weaknesses. 

This way, they can enhance an organization’s overall cyber-security system and mitigate the chances of a successful hacking attack. 

Ethical hacking has become increasingly popular because of its applications in various industries. As nearly every industry is focused on digitizing their practices, they all have to focus on securing their infrastructures. That’s why ethical hacking is an in-demand skill. 

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What are the Types of Hackers?

There are primarily three types of hackers:

White Hat

A white-hat hacker practices ethical hacking. They test the security levels of a company’s digital infrastructure and tools.

Black Hat

A black hat hacker uses illegal methods to breach a company’s digital infrastructure and tools. They are the malicious hackers from which an ethical hacker protects his organization. 

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Grey Hat

Grey Hat hackers breach the cyber-security system of a company without getting permission from it. However, they don’t do it with malicious intent. In most cases, they breach the system for fun and inform the company about the breaches. 

Both black hat and grey hat hacking are illegal. So even though the intents are different in these cases, 

In the previous section, we discussed two different kinds of hackers. The first was the one who breached the cyber-security of an enterprise after getting permission from the owner. On the other hand, the second one was the one who breached the system with vicious intent and without getting consent from its owner. 

They both are entirely different. The former was a white hat hacker (also known as an ethical hacker), and the latter was a black hat hacker. 

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Difference Between White Hat and Black Hat Hackers

As we pointed out earlier, there is a clear distinction between the intent of white hat hackers and black hat hackers. Apart from the difference in purpose, there are the following differences between these two:


Even though the techniques of black hat and white hat hackers are the same, only one of them is legal. Black hat hackers illegally breach a system while white hat hackers do it with proper authorization. This is the most vital difference between the two. 


Black hat hackers neither own the system they breach nor do they work for its owner. On the other hand, ethical hackers work for the organization whose systems they penetrate. 

Used Methods

Black hat hackers use various techniques to breach the security of an organization. Ethical hackers replicate those techniques to discover the weak points present in the same system. Because black hat hackers only need to succeed once, white hat hackers must try various methods to find all the possible threats. 

Now that you understand the difference between ethical hackers and others, let’s now discover the responsibilities of a white hat hacker:

What are the Responsibilities of an Ethical Hacker?

As you might’ve heard in Spider-man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Ethical hackers hold the power to break through an organization’s cyber-security solutions. That’s why this role comes with many responsibilities. To understand the ethical hacking meaning better, you must get acquainted with its obligations too. As an ethical hacker, you should follow these rules:

  • Before testing out the security system of any organization, you must get authorization from the owner. You should have proper consent from the organization before you implement any tests. 
  • You should report all security faults and breaches you discover while testing. 
  • Prepare a plan for your testing implementations and inform the organization about the same. 
  • If you find any breaches or faults in the security system, keep the information confidential. Any leaks of this information can put the organization in danger. Ethical hackers agree to and follow the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) they sign with their clients. 
  • Remember to remove all the traces of your hack after you have completed your tests. This way, any black hat hacker wouldn’t breach the system by using your discovered loopholes and flaws.

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Also Read: Career in Cyber Security

The Benefits of Ethical Hacking

There are many benefits to ethical hacking. That’s why the demand for cyber-security professionals and ethical hackers is continuously on the rise. Here are the most prominent benefits of ethical hacking:

Better Understanding of Malicious Hackers

An ethical hacker follows the same methods a malicious hacker follows. It allows an organization to understand the mindset of the latter. In the case of ethical hackers, they have to think like a black hat hacker to discover the flaws present in the organization’s system. 

No system is perfect, and black hat hackers know this. So they gather information, acquire tools, and use their resources to breach an organization’s network. 

An ethical hacker replicates these steps and helps an organization understand how a malicious hacker can breach its system. 

Securing Customer Data and Privacy

Customer data leak is a huge problem for organizations all across the globe. Last year, Canva lost the user data of more than 137 million user accounts. Similarly, Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging app, had lost the data of more than 538 million accounts in March this year. Source

Ethical hackers help companies in preventing such data leaks. The issue of user privacy and data security has become a severe concern for major organizations everywhere. With skilled, ethical hackers, they can mitigate these occurrences and save their customers’ data. 

Safer Use of Cloud Technology

As cloud technology is becoming increasingly popular, companies are migrating their data to these platforms. However, cloud platforms require effective security measures to keep their users’ data secure as well. A data breach in a cloud system would put all of its clients at risk. Data leaks can happen during the migration of data into a cloud system as well. 

Ethical hackers can help organizations follow the safest methods of migrating data to avoid any data leaks. They can test their current cloud platform and migration tools to ensure that they don’t have any faults. 

Following Precautions

Apart from testing out the systems present in a system, ethical hackers can help an organization in following the necessary precautions. They can teach the staff members about the things they should do and shouldn’t.

Protection Against Terrorists

Government agencies require the expertise of ethical hackers to identify any faults in their cyber-security systems. Any breaches in their security can result in national threats. Terrorists and hostile nations are continually trying to breach these systems. Ethical hackers help government agencies in combating terrorists and any digital risks associated with them as well. 

Read: Cybersecurity Salary in India

How to Become an Ethical Hacker

As you must’ve noticed, the role of an ethical hacker is quite powerful and important. They help companies, government agencies, and many others in identifying potential threats in their cyber-security systems. 

To become an ethical hacker, you must have a certification in cybersecurity. Getting the necessary certification will ensure that you know all the tools and techniques required for hacking into a system. Apart from that, you’d also be familiar with the best practices of this field so you can avoid any amateur errors. A proper course will allow you to test your skills in real systems under the supervision of experts.

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Check out: Cyber Security Salary in India: For Freshers & Experienced

Learn More About Cyber Security

Cybersecurity is a relatively new industry and has a lot of potentials. As companies are becoming more and more digitized, the demand for cyber-security professionals is rising accordingly. 

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If you want to become a cyber-security professional, we recommend taking a cyber-security course. At upGrad, we offer a detailed course in partnership with IIIT-B, which teaches you about the industry’s latest tools and techniques. For example, you get to learn about data secrecy, network security, cryptography, and many other skills. 

We hope you found our guide on What is ethical hacking and ethical hacking meaning helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions on this topic, please let us know through the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you. 

If you want to pursue this profession, upGrad and IIIT-B can help you with a Advanced Certificate Programme in Cyber Security . The course offers specialization in application security, cryptography, data secrecy, and network security.


Rohan Vats

Blog Author
Software Engineering Manager @ upGrad. Passionate about building large scale web apps with delightful experiences. In pursuit of transforming engineers into leaders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1 Is ethical hacking legal?

Think about this, you are giving your time to a company, penetrating right through their network, and scanning their vulnerabilities and security flaws, is there any reason for the company to object to your activities? The growth of malicious hackers has given rise to ethical hackers. Today’s world is data-driven, and every company is working on data. The sensitive information that organizations have been subject to a data breach. This is where ethical hackers and their hacking skills come to the rescue. This is reason enough why ethical hacking is legal. Brilliant minds who are exceptionally talented can use their mind in tech to solve problems and secure strong systems.

2Who is a penetration tester?

Hacking is a desire, and many can’t pursue it due to their misunderstanding of the concept. Therefore, if you aspire to become a hacker, but the intent is to be inside the borderline and maintain the limits, becoming a penetration tester is your shot at it. As a pen tester, you will drill computer networks, breach various systems, and inject cyberattacks similar to what a malicious hacker would do. As a pen tester, you will have to set out the vulnerabilities you found in the process. Moreover, you will also outline the problems the cooperation is likely to face if they don’t mitigate the issues.

3 How to master the art of being anonymous?

As an ethical hacker, this is a skill one must master. Hiding your identity and staying off the radar is the most important step for a hacker to maintain anonymity. If you leave any trace as a hacker, it will be very easy to backtrack your location. Usually, an ethical hacker is not aware of the other hackers residing within the system, and if a black hat hacker identifies someone in the system, it will be child’s play to hack their network. This is why staying anonymous even if you are an ethical hacker is crucial. Once you safeguard your identity, every network you penetrate into is safe too.