Information security is the need of the hour! It’s more important than ever to secure your digital assets. Is ethical hacking your solution? Your network servers, emails, websites and applications are vulnerable to a malicious attack from any corner of the world. There are many ways to improve the security of your digital assets. One such approach is to use ethical hacking methods to improve safety. This is different from malicious hacking which is done by a criminal hacker.
In this article, we will discuss using ethical hacking to improve IT security.
Why Should You Be Concerned About Hacking?
Hacking could lead to loss of sensitive information, costing you not just money but the trust of your customers too. All businesses, big or small, are prone to hacking at any time. Some of the worst hacking attacks have revealed the vulnerable state of digital assets.
- A gang of hackers infiltrated Adobe in October 2013, hacking 38 million account credentials and encrypted credit card numbers.
- In July 2013, Harbor Freight faced a malware attack that helped in stealing card data over 400 of its stores. The attack is one of the many instances of malware being utilized to exfiltrate the bulk of credit card data from online retailers.
- The Ponemon Institute issued a report sponsored by Symantec in May 2013. The report revealed that in the United States, data breaches cost companies approximately $188 per record. This linked to reports that breaches lead to more than 28,000 exposed records. Though attackers are making money, it costs businesses more to deal with the compromises.
- In 2013 at the peak of Christmas shopping, Target experienced one of the most massive breaches to date. Between 40,000 and 70,000 individuals were impacted by the losses. Target came ahead of the news reports to inform people about the breach as well as instilling confidence about how the company was responding to it.
Responding To Cyber Attacks Through Ethical Hacking
Ethical hacking is one way to respond to cyber attacks. It improves IT security by discovering and patching known vulnerabilities on applications retained by other parties.
As public and private organizations shift their essential functions to the internet, criminals have seized the opportunity and incentive to attain access to critical data. Therefore, to secure the systems from the nuisance of hacking (evolved by the hackers), there is a need for a similar approach to security.
The risk of hacking can be mitigated by encouraging individuals who will fight against the illegal attacks on your computer systems or cloud based servers. Ethical hacking is an evaluation to test and track an IT environment for potential vulnerabilities. It’s like hacking a network, but with good intention.
For a successful attack, a hacker needs to know the target. So it’s essential to collect information of DNS servers, IP ranges, and administrator contacts. Different tools can be used, such as vulnerability scanning tools and network mapping during the reconnaissance phase. If you want to generate network graphs, Cheops is a useful tool for that.
These tools can help you significantly during an attack phase or help to get an overview of the network. When doing an ethical hack, a network mapping tool is beneficial. An attacker should have a bulk of information about the target at the end of the reconnaissance phase. These pieces of information ensure the construction of a promising attack path.
2. Probe and Attack
The probe and attack phase is about diving in, getting closer and trying to understand the target. Next step is to try the possible vulnerabilities collected during the reconnaissance phase.
Tools which can be used during this period are many-sided as web exploits; when buffer overflows and brute-force may be needed as well. Even Trojans, for instance, NetBus can be used to capture keystrokes, take screenshots or begin applications and a host.
The probe and attack phase can be time taking, mainly if brute force attack methods are used or when individual pieces of software have to be analyzed or developed.
It is a blend of “Probe and Attack” and “Listening.” Listening to network traffic and application data can help to attack a system or to move deeper into a corporate network successfully.
Listening is particularly compelling as soon as one has control of an essential communication bottleneck. Sniffers are also used during the listening phase. Various sniffers, from very simple to complex, from console based to GUI- driven, are presented for all systems. There are multiple sniffers, such as “ettercap” that can even poison ARP tables that help to sniff in switched environments and open entirely new opportunities to listen to network traffic.
4. First Access
This phase is not about getting root access, it’s about getting any access to a system, be it a user or root account. Once this option is available, it’s time to go for higher access levels or new systems which are now reachable through the acquired system.
It deals with maintaining access and is a combination of Advancement and Stealth process. This phase is probably the most innovative and demanding stage, as seamless possibilities unlock.
Sniffing network traffic may open up specific passwords, required usernames or email traffic with meaningful data. Forwarding emails to administrators faking known users may help in achieving required information or even gain access to a new system. Usually one also has to alter configuration files to enable or disable services features or services.
Some systems are of high value, such as systems which act as firewalls or routers, and systems where a root account could be accessed. To access such systems in future, it is necessary to refine relevant log files.
Once there is root access, the system can be deemed to win. Right from there it becomes possible to install any tool, perform every action and begin every service on that particular machine. Based on the device, it is now possible to misuse trust relationships, develop new relationships or disable some security checks.
It could be guidelines in the final report on how to eliminate specific trojans, but most of the time the hacker performs this. Removing all traces as much as possible is an obligation for the hacking craft. An ethical hack poses specific risks if not done rightly.
A hacker could utilize the deployed tools or conceal his attacks from an ethical hack. He could even try to access the attacker’s system, thus gaining entry to the ethical hacker’s system and gather all data free of any charge, already sorted and prepared.
Making an ethical hack and maintaining a high-security level is a challenging task, which should only be performed by experts.
Danish Wadhwa is a strategic thinker and an IT Pro. With more than six years of experience in the digital marketing industry, he is more than a results-driven individual. He is well-versed in providing high-end technical support, optimizing sales and automating tools to stimulate productivity for businesses.