#CyberFLASH: The ‘white hats’ are around

Local Input~ FOR NATIONAL POST USE ONLY - NO POSTMEDIA - Hacker using laptop. Lots of digits on the computer screen. Credit fotolia.The hacking of Canada-based website AshleyMadison.com has left the private and personal information of its 37 million users at the mercy of hackers. But it has also prompted prominent questions in the cybersecurity debate and brought ethical hacking in the spotlight.

Hacking and ‘ethical hacking’ might sound like two terms coming out of the same stable, but there is a major difference between them.

The former is done by cyber criminals, where they attempt to capitalise on a computer network’s vulnerabilities and penetrate it using malicious content. The Sony Pictures incident is a recent example of how serious hacking can prove to be. A Fortune magazine story described it as a “cyber-invasion” that “brought Sony Pictures to its knees and terrified corporate America.”

Ethical hacking, on the other hand, is done to find and fix lapses in a system. EC-Council, a professional certification body, describes the ethical hacker as an individual who is employed with the organisation and who can be trusted to undertake an attempt to penetrate networks and computer systems using the same techniques as a hacker.

A group of hackers, who call themselves the Impact Team, were behind the attack on the dating website, AshleyMadison. It was a frightening specimen of how hacking has evolved over the years – cracking e-mail and social media accounts is now the stuff of yore.

“Over the years, the level of awareness about cybersecurity has increased but so has the level of expertise of hackers. We are seeing more and more sophisticated attacks now – hacking of smartphones, ATM machines, cloning of cards and so on. It is becoming a bigger problem,” says computer security expert and ethical hacker Ankit Fadia.

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