Why You Should Hack Your Own Systems - dummies

Why You Should Hack Your Own Systems

By Kevin Beaver

To catch a thief, you must think like a thief. That’s the basis for ethical hacking and the need to hack your own systems. Knowing your enemy is absolutely critical.

The law of averages works against security. With the increased number of hackers and their expanding knowledge, and the growing number of system vulnerabilities and other unknowns, eventually, all computer systems and applications will be hacked or compromised in some way. Protecting your systems from the bad guys is absolutely critical. When you know hacker tricks, you find out how vulnerable your systems really are.

Hacking preys on weak security practices and undisclosed vulnerabilities. Firewalls, encryption, and passwords can create a false feeling of safety. These security systems often focus on high-level vulnerabilities, such as basic access control, without affecting how the bad guys work.

Attacking your own systems to discover vulnerabilities helps make them more secure. Ethical hacking is a proven method of greatly hardening your systems from attack. If you don’t identify weaknesses, it’s only a matter of time before the vulnerabilities are exploited.

As hackers expand their knowledge, so should you. You must think like them and work like them to protect your systems from them. As the ethical hacker, you must know the activities that hackers carry out and how to stop their efforts. Knowing what to look for and how to use that information helps you to thwart hackers’ efforts.

You don’t have to protect your systems from everything. You can’t. The only protection against everything is to unplug your computer systems and lock them away so no one can touch them. But doing so is not the best approach, and it’s certainly not good for business. What’s important is to protect your systems from known vulnerabilities and common attacks, which are some of the most overlooked weaknesses in organizations.

Anticipating all the possible vulnerabilities you’ll have in your systems and business processes is impossible. You certainly can’t plan for all possible attacks — especially the unknown ones. However, the more combinations you try and the more you test whole systems instead of individual units, the better your chances are of discovering vulnerabilities that affect your information systems in their entirety.

Don’t take ethical hacking too far, though; hardening your systems from unlikely attacks makes little sense. For instance, if you don’t have a lot of foot traffic in your office and no internal web server running, you might not have as much to worry about as an Internet- hosting provider might have.

Your overall goals as an ethical hacker are to

  • Prioritize your systems so you can focus your efforts on what matters.

  • Hack your systems in a nondestructive fashion.

  • Enumerate vulnerabilities and, if necessary, prove to management that vulnerabilities exist and can be exploited.

  • Apply results to remove the vulnerabilities and better secure your systems.