Harnessing the Power of Ethical Hackers to Boost Business Security
Cybersecurity threats are a constant aspect of the increasingly digital landscape. Unfortunately, even small businesses are frequent targets of bad actors. Hackers steal information from the business they have targeted, but also their customers.
While there is no way to completely eliminate the threat of cybercrime, there are many steps small business owners can take to make themselves more secure. One of those methods? Use the hackers’ methods against them and have a disaster communication plan.
In this article, we talk about ethical hackers. What they are, how to become one, and what difference they can have on the cyber landscape.
What Are Ethical Hackers?
Ah, the beloved anti-hero of the digital world. While the words “ethical,” and “hackers,” may go together about as well as “McDonalds,” and “fine dining,” to many people, this profession actually has a long and well-established history of making a positive impact on digital safety.
Ethical hackers analyze system security by taking a look at it from the perspective of a bad actor. In other words, they try to break into a business’s digital network using the same tactics that a criminal would. If they can find points of weakness— and they will— they then offer a tailored solution that will help your business shore up vulnerabilities. They may also offer general recommendations and training that further improve your ability to conduct business safely online.
How to Become an Ethical Hacker
When it comes to getting jobs in tech, there are often many paths toward the same goal. While this holds true for ethical hacking, there are guidelines that you can follow to help you on your way. Below, we take a look at a few key steps that you can take to begin a career in ethical hacking.
- Familiarize yourself with computer language: While fluency can take time (months, or even years) having a serviceable familiarity with the most frequently used computer languages is a requisite component of ethical hacking. It’s also worth noting that the more languages and core concepts that you are familiar with, the more marketable you will be as an ethical hacker.
- Study cybersecurity: An obvious, though certainly necessary component to the process of becoming an ethical hacker. Unlike traditional hackers, your ultimate goal is to improve the networks you interact with. You can get a formal education in cybersecurity at most major universities. There are also online training options that may provide you with more succinct and affordable training in cyber security.
- Practice: It does make perfect, doesn’t it? While practicing your hacking may seem questionable, there are ethical and legal ways to go about doing it. For example, there are hacking platforms that allow you to practice your skills in a safe and controlled environment.
- Get certified: The certification is what will separate you from the criminals—at least in the eyes of your potential clients. Becoming a Certified Ethical Hacker significantly improves your resume and also helps you satisfy legal requirements that often surround the cyber security profession.
- Stay in the loop: Nothing changes faster than the world of cyberspace. New online threats are constantly emerging which means that you have to stay informed if you want to make sure that your skills are up to date and relevant.
- Work on your soft skills: Hackers aren’t often noted for their pleasant personalities. However, as an ethical hacker, you will most likely be working as an independent contractor. In other words, a small business owner. To work effectively in this space, you need to be able to interact with clients in a way that is satisfyingly professional.
Remember, becoming an ethical hacker is a continuous process of learning and adaptation. With determination and the right mindset, you can make a positive impact in the realm of cybersecurity while staying on the side of the law and ethics.
Staying Safe Online
Hiring an ethical hacker is one excellent way to stay safe online. However, as anyone who has been operating in the digital space for long enough will tell you, true safety is an ongoing effort. Below, we highlight a few more recommendations that all businesses should follow to keep themselves safe from online crime.
- Educate employees: Unfortunately, the number one source of vulnerability isn’t the network itself but the people who are using it. Educating yourself and your employees is a critical aspect of keeping your business safe. Many companies have improved their online security simply by regularly reminding their employees of simple but crucial safety practices. Strong passwords. Suspicious link avoidance. Phishing email awareness. Regular paid training can go a long way toward reminding your staff of the importance of online safety.
- Multifactored identification: Multi-tiered verification is tedious. No one likes to prove who they are by clicking a link in an email, or punching in a password sent to their cell phone. But while these requirements can be irritating, the extra 30 seconds you spend doing them can have a major impact on your online safety.
- Keep software and systems up to date: Regularly update operating systems, applications, and antivirus software to ensure vulnerabilities are patched. Cybercriminals often exploit outdated software to gain access.
- Regular backups: Back up critical data regularly and store it securely offline. In the event of a cyber incident like ransomware, having backups can prevent data loss and reduce the impact on business operations.
- Control access: Limit employee access to sensitive data to only what is necessary for their roles. This minimizes the potential damage if an account is compromised.
Depending on the scope of your business’s online operations, you may also need to consider the online practices of the vendors you use— particularly when they interact with your network. For example, Target suffered a breach several years back, during which the cybercriminal gained access by first hacking into the network of a contractor the multi-national retail chain had been using.