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How Does Ethical Hacking Work?

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By: Prasanna Peshkar

September 14, 2021

It can be exhausting for infosec outsiders to know or understand a lot about ethical hacking: the exact meaning and how it works. This article will explain how ethical hacking works. Let us take a look.

What is Ethical Hacking?

Ethical hacking is known as the hacking of machines, systems, computer networks, or web applications by the hacking expert as support or co-operation to the firm; or a method to identify security vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker may be able to misuse.

In other words, it is an approved effort to obtain authorized access to a computer system, application, or data. Carrying out such a hack requires duplicating tactics and activities of malicious attackers. This method helps ethical hackers to recognize security vulnerabilities that need fixing before a malicious attacker has the chance to exploit them. Ethical hackers (also known as white hats) are security specialists that execute such approved hacks. The take-charge work they perform aids to improve a company's security condition. Ethical hackers receive permission from the company to carry out ethical hacking.

How Does Ethical Hacking Work?

As mentioned earlier, ethical hacking consists of penetrating systems for vulnerabilities and demonstrating the proof of theory attacks to confirm the vulnerabilities are indisputable. Proper ethical hacking perpetually ends with appropriate suggestions for addressing and fixing the issues found during the hacking. In other words, this process updates the security of the systems against possible attacks. The overall objective of ethical hacking is to fix security issues by employing a specific methodology, tools, and techniques as an attacker.

Ethical Hacking Methodology

Education and preparation are essential to gain success in ethical hacking. Like most parts, the whole process of ethical hacking can be divided into an order of phases. When combined, these phases form a perfect hacking methodology for conducting ethical hacking.

The accurate analysis of any breach revelations builds the doctrine that most hackers also plan when hitting a goal. The application of a designed strategy is necessary. The following are the step-by-step aspects of the hacking:


Reconnaissance is the most crucial stage of the hacking methodology. One can never accomplish a goal if the reconnaissance skill is not proper. The value of reconnaissance is to gather relevant data and details about the chosen target. This data can then be utilized, in the field, to reach the possible important target.

Each detail and every bit of data about the target machine are collected and stored in this process. The hacking world is full of various great cases when a reasonably small bit of data was collected in the reconnaissance stage and was responsible for successfully building an exploit and gaining access to the machine.

Reconnaissance, also called information gathering, is the first stage of ethical hacking. It is used for obtaining data about the target machine before executing the attack. The interaction with the target machine is concealed to avoid disclosure and indicate the target about the attack.


After reconnaissance, scanning is the next step. In this step, hackers use various scanning tools and scripts to learn how a target machine reacts to interruptions. After reconnaissance, scanning is the next step that hackers implement. Scanning is an important phase where hackers reach the machine and scan for important data.


Now, the next step is exploitation. It is the way of getting authorization over a machine. Yet, it is important to understand that not each exploit allows hackers to take over the system completely. An exploit is a way of bypassing a security vulnerability or detouring security controls. This process can take many several turns.

The final purpose is to gain administrative access to the machine. In other words, exploitation is an exercise to split-shift the victim machine into a servant who will follow the ethical hacker's directions. To be clear, exploitation is the process of firing an exploit. An exploit is an accomplishment. There are difficulties or vulnerabilities in the software app or a website that grant a hacker the capacity to commence or execute a payload against the malicious system. A payload is a method to transform the victim machine into a servant and drive it to obey the directions. Payloads can modify the fundamental working of the software and allow ethical hackers to administer any jobs such as installing new software, corrupt some services, add new users, and much more.

Post Exploitation and Maintaining Access

The next step is Post-exploitation or maintaining access. It is one of the most important steps of the ethical hacking methodology. Maintaining or keeping access to a compromised machine is a powerful activity that needs to be defined and explicitly revealed to the customer. Many firms are interested in conducting an ethical hack but are skeptical of giving the details or control of backdoors to ethical hackers. Most firms or people are worried or anxious that these backdoors will be discovered and employed by an unauthorized third party.

In general, post-exploitation is the next step of ethical hacking methodology that signifies that the hacker has successfully exposed the victims' machine. The state of the exposed machine is established by the benefit or efficiency of the actual data stored in it and how a hacker may obtain that data. The idea of post-exploitation has been built from this event only as to how people can manipulate the victim's data. This step truly requires collecting raw data, reporting it, and assembling other primary data like configuration, network details, and other information fields. These may be utilized to verify the defined path to the machine as per the hacker's specifications.


Reporting is the last and the most important step of hacking methodology. This is because, accurate or inaccurate, any hacker's standing as an ethical hacker will directly bond with the quality of the reports they present. Mastering to establish a well-drafted report is essential for making new clients and getting a good job.


Ethical hacking is approved and legal and is one of the highest-paid tasks. Firms and businesses hire ethical hackers only to improve their security posture. By giving their consent to the hacker, they efficiently improve their security by following the suggestions presented by an ethical hacker in the final report.

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