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Why I Love Working in Internet Security – A Day in the Life of an Ethical Hacker

Almost everyone grows up with a dream occupation in mind. The dream is often outside of the realm of possibility, normally involving growing up to become wizards, princesses, superheroes, or something of that ilk. While most children grow out of imagining themselves heading off to wizarding school, some hang onto their dreams a little longer, and eventually fulfil them.

There superheroes in every industry. They could be firefighters, policemen, doctors… and even hackers?

Sticking with the superhero analogy, when you think of a hacker, the first thought that comes to mind might err more on the ‘super villain’ side of things. In part, that’s not far from the truth… but only in part.

Just as there is a bad side to hacking, there is a good side – the superheroes of online security. Of course, that’s not the official title but it does a good job of describing just what it means to be an ethical hacker.

So, why is ethical hacking a job that so many people love?

Superman does an ok job of summing it up, ‘I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn’t need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one.’ It is one part of the role of an ethical hacker to save the world one cyber-attack at a time, but an ethical hacker’s job doesn’t end there.

To get to the bottom of just why internet security is a job to be loved, you have to take a look a at a day in the life of an ethical hacker.

What Does It Mean to Hack for the Good Side?

An ethical hacker is a legal counterpart to the illegal practice of cybercrime – think batman vs the joker. Where a cyber-criminal tries to exploit the vulnerabilities in a system, an ethical hacker seeks to find them first and fix them.

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For the most part, this is a game of who can find a problem first. If it’s the good side, then a company carries on as normal, if it’s the bad side, then a few million in damages is an outcome that is likely. When you total it all up, companies are losing around $400 billion a year to hackers.

So, what exactly is an ethical hacker responsible for doing on a daily basis?

Put simply, most ethical hackers are hired to step into the shoes of a hacker and try and infiltrate a security system. This is what’s known as a penetration test, or pen test, which is performed by CREST approved testers. The hacking in these instances is incredibly controlled, with the main aim being to drag any vulnerabilities to the surface, and potentially even see how far they can be exploited.

A pen test may be undertaken to see how a system responds, to meet regulations, check the security of new changes, get an idea of data risk, or better manage risks. Whatever the reason, it’s down to the ethical hacker to act as a super villain whilst saving the day.

On any normal day, an ethical hacker might be requested to perform a number of duties, including pen tests, IT health checks, and any of the following:

  • Searching for sensitive information both through physical investigations and digital investigations.
  • Put existing business defences to the test.
  • Monitor what a company is doing to see where sensitive data can be unearthed.
  • View what employees are doing and typing, to see where there are possible ways to exploit data.

The Rewards of Saving the Day

Two Person Shaking Each Others Hands

The rewards of ethical hacking are in part, financial, but there is so much more to enjoy about the practice. There are the rewards of keeping a company protected, stopping hackers in their tracks, and constantly developing and improving.

Love of ethical hacking can be down to a number of reasons, but very often, it’s the pure thrill of the competition. Cybersecurity changes rapidly, as do the capabilities of the dark side of hacking. Working in internet security is a constant game of who can come out on top.

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There’s also no end to the problems that can arise. Using the wise words of Mr. Incredible ‘No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again.’ Every day as an ethical hacker is different, and you can guarantee that it’s going stay that way.

A superheroes work is never done, and when it comes to ethical hacking, it’s very much the same. In 2016 alone, 4,000 ransomware attacks occurred every single day. The first and last line of defence, are the ethical hackers out there trying to stay one step ahead.