There’s no way that you can start an ethical hacking process without first planning your security testing. There needs to be a clear agreement on the tactical and strategic issues involved in the hacking process.
In order to ensure that your efforts are successful, take the necessary time to plan for your test, whether it is a simple operating system password- cracking test or an extensive evaluation of the vulnerability of a web environment.
Finding your target
Believe it or not, but there is a lot of research that goes into finding the perfect hacking victim. Hackers don’t just jump on the first target they come across. There must be some strategic research of the potential target, analysis of their habits, and finally choosing the best techniques for the attack.
A hacker can choose to go after one person or even a number of targets at the same time. However, the best way to pick a target is to focus on a specific niche. There are hackers who tend to primarily target financial institutions in order to gain access to deposits, while others usually go after personal information stored on servers.
There are also hackers who are intent on causing damage to websites by defacing landing pages or showing off their ability to beat a site’s security. A hacker may decide to hack an account so that they can gain free access to a service that other members are paying money to use.
Different hackers have different motives for doing what they do, but the common thread is that a hacker will only attack if they know that the system is vulnerable and there is something to be gained from the action. This is why it is very important to avoid sharing personal sensitive information publicly online. If you have to do so, always make sure that you are dealing with a legitimate user who is going to protect their data and yours.
Formulating a hacking plan
It is important to first get the required approval for security testing. Ensure that the people responsible for giving authorization know what you are doing and keep them in the loop. Once your project has obtained sponsorship, you will have to sit down and define your testing objectives. Sponsorship simply refers to finding someone to back you up and sign off on the plan, for example, a client or maybe even yourself in case you are testing your own system.
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This step is important because there have been cases where a hacker is given the task of testing a system only for it to be cancelled unexpectedly. Even a third party, such as a cloud or web hosting service, can claim it never gave authorization for such testing to take place. The end result could be the loss of a job or filing of criminal charges. Written authorization can include an internal memo from your boss if you are performing the tests on your company. If it’s for a client, get a contract signed by the client.
It is possible that the system could crash during testing, so a detailed plan is necessary. It doesn’t have to be very complicated, but it must have a scope that is clearly defined. The following information should be part of your plan:
- Determine the most critical and vulnerable systems that will need to be tested first. These can include server passwords or email phishing. Once the core areas have been tested, you can then cascade down to all the other systems.
- Assess the risks involved. It is important to always have a contingency plan in case the hacking process goes wrong. Determine how people and systems will be affected beforehand.
- Determine your testing schedule. It could be during normal business hours, early mornings, or maybe late at night. The key thing is to make sure the people affected are on board. One factor you will also have to consider is the fact that black hat hackers don’t restrict themselves to specific times of attack. This means that the best way to test the system would be to launch any type of test at any time of day. The only exceptions would normally be full DoS attacks, physical security, and social engineering tests.
- Have a basic understanding of the system being tested. If you are hacking your own system, then this will be straightforward. However, you may need to get more details in case you are testing a client’s systems.
- Define the actions to be taken in case major vulnerabilities are found. There’s always a weakness somewhere, so the excuse that you can’t find any simply won’t cut it. If you discover a couple of security weaknesses, let the key players know about is ASAP so that they can be plugged immediately. Keep testing the system until you find it impenetrable.
- Determine what the deliverables are. These include detailed scanning reports containing information about vulnerabilities and recommendations on how to fix them.
- Determine the specific set of tools that you will need for your task. Always ensure that you are using the appropriate tool for the right task. If you don’t have much experience with some tools, don’t be afraid to ask colleagues for advice.
Establishing your objectives
Now that you have created a testing plan, you need to establish some solid goals. Ethical hacking is meant to discover all vulnerabilities in a system in order to prevent criminal hackers from penetrating it. This means that you will have to adopt the mindset of a black hat hacker.
So what are the objectives that you will need for your hacking plan?
- Define and align your goals – Set specific goals that are aligned with those of your client. Ensure that you have in mind the exact results that you and the client want to achieve. Make sure that you also establish the performance criteria that will b used to judge the testing.
- Set a definite test schedule — you overall hacking plan must include the dates and times of launching your tests. are also specific questions that can help you come up with goals for your hacking Will your tests align with the mission of your client’s business?
- What are the business goals that ethical hacking will meet? For example, attaining international security standards, meeting federal regulations, or boosting the company’s image. In what ways will these tests enhance IT and security?
- What kind of data is being protected? For example, intellectual property, personal employee information, or personal client data. How much money, energy, and time are you and the client ready to spend on assessing the system’s security
- What are the deliverables of the testing? These could be test results, technic reports, or even the passwords that you uncovered.
- What outcomes are required? The client may want to justify an increase in the security budget or outsourcing the security personnel. Once the goals of the hacking plan have been defined, it is important to note down the steps that you will take to achieve them.
Establishing the objectives of your hacking plan may seem cumbersome and time-consuming, but it is definitely worth it. These goals are supposed to guide your every move during the process, so keep going back to them to ensure that you are on track.