Similar to a boxer who needs a real opponent to test his/her progress, ethical hacking as a sufficient means to enhance cybersecurity has gained immense popularity in the modern technologically savvy world. Traditional defense methods such as firewall and detection devices still have their place cemented, but ethical hacking remains the single path to follow if an organization is committed to pointing out unknown network vulnerabilities and dealing with them. Needless to go on further, studies by Palmer (2001), Caldwell (2011) and Saleem (2006) are enough to qualify that ethical hacking has created a niche for itself in the modern day advanced cybersecurity initiatives. Main conclusions made by the three scholars certify the prowess of ethical hacking in identifying loopholes that are uncovered by clients. Regardless of this strength, Palmer (2001) and Saleem (2006) show that ethical hacking can have negative consequences on the same organizations that it is supposed to help in the first place. By considering the fact that cybersecurity does not offer the real solutions but rather point out existing weak points, revelations that can be capitalized on by criminal hackers, it is safe to conceptualize that the risks associated with it disqualify ethical hacking as an efficient cybersecurity maneuver.
In a coverage presented by Palmer (2001) regarding the pros of ethical hacking, he goes ahead to appreciate the robustness of the mechanism in helping organizations to build stronger defenses. This similar perspective is also shared by Saleem (2006) when he analyzes the advantageous side of white-cap hacking. As opposed to activities perpetrated by criminal hackers, white-cap hackers are guided by the need to strengthen organizations that have most of their transactions via the internet. As acknowledged in the introduction, the mechanism used by these hackers is to stimulate the weak loopholes harbored by organizations, an aspect that helps the latter build strong defenses. Saleem (2006) and Caldwell (2011) show much appreciation for this type of positive hacking, thereby going ahead to recommend special education for ethical hackers and the necessary infrastructure that is required. While this may be the case that is linked to the bright side of white-cap hackers, it is central to point out that there are also downsides that are inevitable to avoid. Both ethical and unethical hackers share the same skills with the difference being narrowed down to the aspect of affiliation.
Within his study, Palmer (2001), who happens to cover some aspects that are also highlighted by Saleem (2006), indicates that several factors limit the premise of ethical hacking. The first aspect is that white-cap hackers are best known for exposing the problem and not providing the solutions. From a general perspective, this group of hackers can be acknowledged for their tasks, but when it comes down to fully closing the deal, ethical hackers are not the perfect solution makers for issues concerning cybersecurity. Besides this factor, ethical hacking is highly depended on individual reputation, an aspect that can be compromised at any time given the unstable nature of human beings. In characterizing white-cap hackers, Palmer (2001) indicates that they must be trustworthy people for them to execute their functions effectively. Trust is an aspect that thrives well when an ideal environment is created, and in any real line of duty, it is inevitable to craft such an environment. As such, ethical hackers who are supposed to be trustworthy can end exposing necessary information to the public. A good case study is a recent incident that happened in China. A certified ethical hacker belonging to a larger group was arrested on the claims that he exposed the vulnerabilities of several organizations on the internet. Shortly after doing that, the exposed companies were hacked (https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/07/30/founder-chinas-largest-ethical-hacking-community-arrested/). In a nutshell, it is rational to conclude that when trust of the hired or trained white-cap hacker is compromised, the main agenda of enhancing cybersecurity can end up being largely compromised. In addition to personal factors, the process of ethical hacking itself is not full proof. As acknowledged by Palmer (2001), the process used by white-hackers highly depends on perfect synchronization of various strategic undertakings, which is a hard to thing to accomplish when dealing with the internet. A criminal hacker can easily monitor the processes carried out by a white-cap geek, using the information to his/her advantage. This is simply because the activities of the ethical hacker during the transaction can mask the criminal, making it hard to spot such a person.
In conclusions, it significant to acknowledge that ethical hacking in the name of advancing cybersecurity still has its place in the modern internet-dependent globe. However, one aspect that needs to be put into perspective is the risks that are linked with vulnerabilities of white-cap hacking. An untrustworthy white-cap hacker may compromise an entitys status by putting sensitive information on the internet. A good example is a Chinese hacker who was mentioned in the discussion. Besides not giving the required solutions after identifying the problem, the process of ethical hacking can be compromised when criminals use it to their advantage. Conceding the weight of all these probable factors, it is safe to conclude that ethical hacking has a minimal role in enhancing cybersecurity for significant parties.
Caldwell, T. (2011). Ethical hackers: putting on the white hat. Network Security, 2011(7), 10-13. Doi: 10.1016/s1353-4858(11)70075-7
Palmer, C. C. (2001). Ethical hacking. IBM Systems Journal, 40(3), 769-780.
Saleem, S. A. (2006). Ethical hacking as a risk management technique. Proceedings of the 3rd annual conference on Information security curriculum development - InfoSecCD '06. Doi: 10.1145/1231047.1231089
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