What Is Ethical Hacking?

An ethical hacker

Legal hacker, white hat hacker and penetration tester are all names that refer to the same specialty: ethical hackers who apply their skills to test networks and applications, identify vulnerabilities and strengthen cybersecurity. Essentially, it is a career that gives tech enthusiasts all the thrills of black hat hacking, but without the unethical activities or legal consequences. If you find you have an interest in this field, our Bachelor of Science in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity includes a course in Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking to prepare students to tackle real world challenges.

Why Ethical Hackers are Needed

PC World magazine reports that between 2009 and 2010 alone, IT spending increased by 5.9%. This results to a total of $2.7 trillion, and spending on cybersecurity shows no signs of slowing down. All companies—from international conglomerates to boutique e-stores—recognize that breaches in data security are among the biggest threats facing them in today’s digital era. That understanding goes hand-in-hand with the realization that traditional methods of improving cybersecurity are not necessarily enough to protect their sensitive information. Ethical hackers are in high demand because they are able to think like a black hat hacker, which in turn, enables them to guard against unethical hacking.

How to Become an Ethical Hacker

Before you can start earning an enviable salary, you will need the credentials to get started. Earning your B.S. in Information Technology and selecting cybersecurity as your specialization or minor is a step in the right direction. Then, you can start racking up certifications, such as the following:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) offered by the EC-Council
  • Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) offered by the SANS Institute
  • GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) offered by the SANS Institute
  • Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) offered by Offensive Security

Additionally, it would not hurt to have more basic certifications to demonstrate your broad range of skills and knowledge. Consider earning these certifications:

  • Network+
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
  • Security+
  • TruSecure ICSA Computer Security Associate (TICSA)

What You Should Know About Security Clearances

It is common for ethical hackers to be required to submit a thorough background check before securing a job. Since many of these jobs are with government agencies, including military offices, you may need to obtain a security clearance. The process of getting a security clearance generally requires fingerprinting, citizenship verification and possibly a polygraph. Be cautious of job recruiting firms that offer preapprovals for security clearances for a fee—these are most likely scams. A real security clearance might take up to two years to obtain, and only your current or prospective employer can initiate the process.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology invites prospective students to join us in working towards a career in the competitive field of STEM. Visit our website or click on the Request More Information button on this page to start shaping your future with our premiere educational experience.


  • “How to Become an Ethical Hacker.” PC World. Retrieved from pcworld.com/article/250045/how_to_become_an_ethical_hacker.html

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.


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