When most people think of hacking, they envision bad actors attempting to break into a network or computer with ill intent. These bad actors are colloquially known as “hackers.” Some of them may seek to steal sensitive or personal information. Others may seek to disrupt a business’s operations. While most forms of hacking are, in fact, malicious, others are not.

What Is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking is a form of authorized hacking that’s performed on business networks and computers to discover vulnerabilities. It still involves hackers. The hackers who carry out ethical hacking, however, aren’t interested in stealing sensitive or personal information, nor are they interested in disrupting businesses’ operations. Rather, they want to find vulnerabilities in the network or computer so that they can be fixed.

The Purpose of Ethical Hacking

The ultimate goal of ethical hacking is to strengthen a business’s defenses against cyber threats through the discovery of vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities and hacking go hand in hand. They are weaknesses that hackers can exploit to access an otherwise protected part of a network or system. After discovering a vulnerability, a hacker may take advantage of it, thus gaining access to sensitive or personal information.

Rather than waiting until their networks or computers have been hacked, some businesses take a proactive approach toward cybersecurity by partnering with an ethical hacker. Ethical hackers work for cybersecurity companies. With authorization from the business, ethical hackers will attempt to breach the business’s cybersecurity defenses. Ethical hackers will look for vulnerabilities, which they’ll use to access a network or computer operated by the business.

Ethical Hacking vs Malicious Hacking

There’s ethical hacking, and there’s malicious hacking. There are several differences between them, one of which lies in their intent. The intent of ethical hacking is to identify vulnerabilities so that businesses can remove or fix them. The intent of malicious hacking, on the other hand, is to cause harm. Malicious hacking may be done to steal information or disrupt a business’s operations.

Ethical hacking is also done with authorization from the business. Ethical hackers will only attempt to breach a business’s network or computer if the business has authorized them do so. Malicious hacking, in comparison, is done without authorization from the business. Malicious hackers will attempt to breach the business’s cybersecurity defenses without authorization.

Ethical hackers also follow rules. They typically won’t share the vulnerabilities they discover with the public, for instance; they will only share them with the business. Malicious hackers don’t follow these same rules. They will perform their malicious activities with complete disregard for the business which they targeted.