In the movies, you’ve probably seen hackers frantically typing code to crack into a system, always with a dramatic soundtrack. Their whole job is usually done in two to three minutes. And although it takes longer than three minutes to hack into a network, it is a real problem many companies and governments face.
There are more hackers in today’s tech-fueled society than ever before. But along with the hacking you see in the movies, there has also been a rise in ethical hacking. Ethical hackers help a company or government prevent future attacks. But how do you learn ethical hacking?
What Is Ethical Hacking?
Ethical hacking, or white hat hacking, is a very valuable form of cyber security. A certified ethical hacker helps companies discover the weak points in their system and resolve them so malicious hackers can’t use malware or password attacks to steal money or information. Ethical hacking is entirely legal and usually well paid.
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The Best Code to Learn for Ethical Hacking
Before you get a job as an ethical hacker, you will need to know about networking, databases, operating systems like Windows, Mac, and Linux, and programming. You will need to think like a hacker while learning about web and system hacking before you can begin a career in information security.
Also, be aware that you will need to do a polygraph test if you interview for an ethical hacking job in government to prove that you have not committed any crimes.
What Is Ethical Hacking Used For?
Before discussing the possible uses of ethical hacking, let’s look at the effect a non-ethical hacker can have on a company. If an organization does not have a cyber security plan to defend against malware and cyberattacks, a hacker can enter the system and do one of three things:
- Unauthorized Modification: A hacker can modify systems, allowing them to steal information, cause devices to crash, disrupt services and apps, and stop essential software updates.
- Unauthorized Deletion: This is when a hacker removes data files that could be of great importance.
- Unauthorized Access: Gaining access to unauthorized data is the main reason for hacking. The goal is to acquire valuable information, like banking details, that can be sold illegally.
Now that we know what a hacker does, we can better understand what an ethical hacker does. An ethical hacker is hired to stop other hackers from accessing a company’s private data. The process behind ethical hacking is:
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- Identify malware or threat
- Analyze and evaluate
- Solve the issue
Types of Hacking
Because there are many types of hackers, different colors are used to describe the morality of their work. Below are the three main types of hackers and what they each do.
White Hat Hackers
White hats are ethical hackers. They do not have any malicious intent. Instead, they aim to root out the weaknesses in a computer system or network with penetration testing.
Black Hat Hackers
Black hat hackers do have malicious intent. They aim to steal corporate data, violate privacy regulations, damage computer systems, and block network communication.
Gray Hat Hackers
As the color suggests, these hackers are in a moral gray area. They engage in a mixture of the activities described in the two categories above.
They do not have malicious intent, but they highlight security weaknesses within a system. They then contact the owners of the system to demand payment for having identified the weakness in the network.
There are also several subcategories of hackers, such as hacktivists. A hacktivist will compromise a system to draw attention to a social, religious, ideological, or political message.
Learning Ethical Hacking
There are two main avenues to becoming an ethical hacker. First, there is the traditional route of getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology from a four-year university. A degree in electrical engineering, computer engineering, or computer science would also allow you to pursue an ethical hacking career.
The other route is to take coding classes and obtain other certifications relevant to ethical hacking. You can attend a coding bootcamp or online course to learn the programming languages used in hacking. This can be a more challenging route, but it is also much cheaper than college.
Ethical Hacking: How Long Does It Take to Learn?
This depends on the individual and their ability to learn programming and other related skills. It can take anywhere from 18 months to six years to learn.
If you are starting with no relevant hacking or coding skills, it will likely take six years. However, if you already know how to code, you can complete a certified ethical hacker (CEH) course and test in as little as five days.
How to Learn Ethical Hacking: Step-by-Step
Are you unsure of how to begin your ethical hacking journey? Allow us to break it down for you in a step-by-step guide.
- Kali Linux: The first step is to learn Linux programming, commands, and scripting. Employers prefer Kali Linux, and there are plenty of great courses you can take to learn Linux properly. See the best ethical hacking courses below for details.
- Security Fundamentals: Learning the fundamentals of security and how to secure systems is a significant step. Along with programming languages, you must understand these protocols and procedures.
- Network: Networking is vital in cybersecurity and IT in general, as everything runs on a network. Learning how to navigate and protect a network is critical background knowledge for hacking.
- Ethical Hacking Certification: The next step is to take the CEH course and exam. This is the entry-level certification for an ethical hacker. You can also complete a “penetration tester” course like CompTIA Pentest+ to gain a similar accreditation.
- Offensive Security Certified Professional: This is a more high-level certification for advanced students that involves a grueling exam. The OSCP exam takes 24 hours without breaks, but the certificate is highly regarded.
- Work in Information Security: Technically, you can choose to do this step earlier while you study. Just remember that gaining work experience is a crucial way to test your knowledge and use your problem-solving skills.
The Best Ethical Hacking Courses and Training
There are many ways to learn ethical hacking, including in-person classes, online courses, and free courses. Browse our list below to discover the best ethical hacking courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students.
In-Person Ethical Hacking Classes
Below are a few in-person courses and programs students may want to pursue. Due to the pandemic, fewer courses are offering this type of learning experience. However, there are still a few options for those of you who prefer classroom education.
- Prerequisites: Varies
- Price: Varies
General Assembly provides many immersive full-time and part-time programs in many tech skills. Students can learn individual programming languages online or can attend a special course for ethical hacking in Dallas, Texas.
- Cybersecurity Professional Certificate: Ethical Hacking Program – Washington, DC
- Prerequisites: Introductory course and intermediate programming knowledge
- Price: $13,000
American University’s ethical hacking program includes hands-on exercises and immersive cyber labs. These activities will prepare students for the CEH and OSCP exams.
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TrainACE – Academy of Computer Education
- CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker Training and Certification – Greenbelt, MD
- Prerequisites: Knowledge of programming, security, and networking fundamentals
- Price: $2,995
This five-day CEH training course teaches information technology professionals the fundamentals of ethical hacking. Students will learn about information security threats and attack vectors, hacking concepts, information security controls, penetration testing concepts, and information security laws.
Online Ethical Hacking Courses
Online ethical hacking courses are currently the most popular route to become an ethical hacker. Below are some great online study options to learn ethical hacking.
EC – Council
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Varies
The EC Council offers brilliant professional online training for most cybersecurity career paths. Students can choose from among their CEH courses to become a certified ethical hacker.
- Time: Varies
- Prerequisites: Vary
- Price: $226 – $899
Beginners who want to become ethical hackers should start with these courses. Students should take the classes in Linux, security, and network before attempting the PenTest course. These professional certificates are the perfect first step to get into ethical hacking.
Free Ethical Hacking Courses
Below are a few free ethical hacking courses if you want to try out ethical hacking or gain some background knowledge without investing. These are great for beginners and intermediate-level hackers.
- Become an Ethical Hacker
- Prerequisites: Vary
- Price: First month free
This 27-hour LinkedIn course is free for the first month, which is plenty of time to complete this introductory course. This will give you a guide to ethical hacking basics, free of charge. It comes with a certificate of completion to help boost your resume.
- Hacking and Patching
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Free
In this 14-hour Coursera class, students will learn how to hack web apps with command injection vulnerabilities. Students will also learn Linux systems with LAMP services, and how to deposit and hide Trojans.
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Free
Students can explore vulnerabilities, exploits, payloads, and Metasploit History in this quick, 13-minute Skillshare video tutorial.
Ethical Hacking Books
Another way to build your hacking knowledge is with books, e-books, and audiobooks. These are a great way to flesh out your studies. Below are Career Karma’s top ethical hacking book picks.
This book discusses current step-by-step techniques for attacking and defending the range of ever-evolving web applications. Learn all about frameworks, HTML5, cross-domain integration techniques, UI redress, frame busting, HTTP parameter pollution, and hybrid file attacks.
Computer Programming & Cyber Security for Beginners, Zach Codings
This is a beginner’s guide to Python programming for machine learning and deep learning. Students will learn about data analysis, algorithms, data science with Scikit Learn, web hacking, Kali Linux, and the role of an ethical hacker.
This book, the second in a series of three, is an easy-to-read guide that explores many of the roadblocks people face during penetration testing. These include attacking different networks, pivoting through security controls, privilege escalation, and evading antivirus software.
Online Ethical Hacking Resources
The Internet is a valuable learning tool. Here are some examples of websites that will teach you new skills and allow you to practice penetration testing.
Learn how to code, become a full-stack developer, and more with these free courses and video tutorials.
Is there anything that YouTube content creators have not made more accessible and fun to learn? Check out the experiences of professional, ethical hackers, or watch hacking tutorials for free.
Hack The Box is an online platform that allows you to try out your penetration testing skills and exchange ideas with thousands of others in the security field. To try it out, log onto the website and get started on one of their live machines.
Should You Study Ethical Hacking?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an information security analyst earns $99,730 per year. If you are fascinated by evolving technology, protecting businesses and organizations from hackers, and enjoy consistently learning while you work, this could be the perfect role for you.
We hope this article has prepared you to go out there and get your foot in the door as an ethical hacker.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.