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On the defensive

education Updated: May 29, 2012 17:18 IST

The lowdown
Ethical hackers attempt to assess the vulnerability of computer systems or networks at the request of the system or network owners. By using the same methodology and resources available to criminal hackers, ethical hackers help identify the weak spots which can be exploited and then programmers are roped in to build up defences to protect the hardware or software. The information security industry is growing at a rate of 21% globally. Frost and Sullivan has estimated that there are 2.28 million information security skilled personnel around the world, which is expected to grow up to 4.2 million by 2015. Ethical hacking is also known as penetration testing, intrusion testing and red teaming

A typical day of an ethical hacker is like this
9am: Reach office
10am: Start work on a website which has been hacked recently 2pm: Lunch
3pm: Connect with the programmer and work out possible defence mechanisms against hack attacks
5.30pm: Wrap up and leave for home
7pm: Study the working of various networks, their loopholes and develop effective ways of safeguarding them.

An ethical hacker’s work is interesting in a way that s/he develops, tests and implements ways in which a network and its data can be protected. An ethical hacker is sometimes called a white hat, a term that comes from old Western movies, where the good guy wears a white hat and the bad guy wears a black hat

The payoff
A fresher after successful completion of an internship can start at Rs. 2.5 lakh per annum and with a year’s experience, s/he can move to the Rs. 4.5 lakh per annum bracket Professionals with work experience of five years or more can expect somewhere between Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh per annum

* Primarily the capability to inscribe programmes in several encoding languages akin to C, C++, Perl, Python, and Ruby are a requisite
* Being an ethical hacker definitely calls for one to be creative in their understanding of things and coming up with out-of-the-box solutions
* Comprehension of assembly language is also indispensable for those into evaluating disassembled binaries
* Acquaintance with an assortment of operating systems like Microsoft Windows, various versions of Linux, etc, is crucial
* Knowledge in diverse network devices, counting switches, routers and firewalls is absolutely required
* An ethical hacker should possess a fundamental understanding of TCP/IP protocol, for example, SMTP, ICMP and HTTP
* Besides technological dexterity, s/he also needs to have soft skills
* Possibly the most essential ability, on the other hand, is flexibility. This is so because while testing software and security systems, ethical hackers cannot expect threats that might crop up, so the ability to be ingenious is imperative

Getting there
After passing your Class 12 examinations in science (with physics, chemistry and maths), do a bachelor’s in computer science or computer engineering from a recognised university in the country. While pursuing your undergraduate programme, you may enrol in a certificate course in ethical hacking, which might train you in the various elements in the field. These days, ethical hacking competitions are a rage in engineering colleges. If you are interested in making a career as an ethical hacker, make sure that you participate in these events. You should also enjoy working on computers because a sound base in information technology is a must to excel in this field

Institutes and URLs
* IACM Smartlearn, Delhi
* Appin Security Group
* Kyrion digital Solutions
* K-Secure IT Security Services http://www.ksecure.net/ethical-hacking-training.htm

Pros and cons
* The industry is growing exponentially and offers a bright future to prospective professionals
* Starters may find it easy to get good jobs
* You can get a chance to work with high-profile clients
* The information security landscape is changing very fast, so you need to keep yourself updated with the latest trends
* The job offers good money
* Certain computer security professionals, such as Marcus J Ranum, have objected to the term ethical hacker, for its negative connotations. Some people may find it difficult to associate with a profession with such a designation

With the industry growing exponentially, the requirement for IT security personnel for safety acquiescence in India is unavoidable for all companies Ravinder Goel, director, IACM SmartLearn, Delhi