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Ethical hacking: A great career option
A survey done by the International Data Corp (IDC) says that the worldwide demand for information security professionals stands at 60,000 and companies such as Wipro, Infosys, IBM, Airtel and Reliance are always looking for good ethical hackers
SECURITY IS a major concern these days, not only in physical space but also in the cyber space. As netizens, our lives stand exposed to the innumerable opportunities of the cyber world: electronic commerce, easy access to vast stores of reference material, collaborative computing, e-mail and new avenues for advertising and information distribution, to name a few.

With every good thing comes bad. In this case the comfort of technology is accompanied with ‘criminal hackers.’ Governments, companies and private citizens around the world are anxious to be a part of this revolution, but they are afraid that some hacker will break into their web server and replace their logo with pornography, read their e-mail, steal their credit card number from an on-line shopping site, or implant software that will secretly transmit their organisation’s secrets to the open Internet.

Within a few minutes, a single computer intrusion is capable of causing losses amounting to millions of dollars. Most users continue to remain oblivious to the threat posed by computer criminals, espionage, identity theft, privacy invasion, and illegal information exchange and cyber terrorism.

In the recent years, there has been an alarming increase in the number of email fraud cyber crime cases on the Internet. Hacking email accounts, stealing sensitive data, copying the address book, intercepting data, virus infections, password attacks, spoofed messages, abusive emails, Trojan attacks and espionage are only some of the many concerns that have started affecting email users worldwide. Emails are also commonly being exploited by computer criminals to execute privacy and identity attacks on unsuspecting victims. The terrorists involved in the recent Ahmedabad and Delhi blasts in 2008 had hacked into wi-fi systems of individuals to send terror mails. Such occurrences underline the need for ethical hackers who can safeguard the internet.

Even though ‘hacker’ is a word we have learnt to fear in the world of internet, an ethical hacker should be identified as a friend. As opposed to them, ‘crackers’ are the bad guys who indulge in cyber crime. Also known as a ‘white hat’, an ethical hacker is someone who hacks with legal permission to strengthen systems and makes them penetration-proof. They step into the minds of computer criminals to predict their moves and stop them before they can strike. “To catch a thief, think like a thief - that’s the basis for ethical hackers, as they have the ability to think and act like a criminal and can get into the mind of a criminal, outsmarting him or her to protect systems,” says Ankit Fadia, the renowned computer security expert, in one of his books.

One of the first examples of ethical hackers at work was in the 1970s, when the United States government used groups of experts called red teams to hack its own computer systems. A survey done by the International Data Corp (IDC) says that the worldwide demand for information security professionals stands at 60,000 and companies such as Wipro, Infosys, IBM, Airtel and Reliance have set up separate security divisions. Says Fadia, “Currently there is a huge gap between the demand and supply as far as ethical hackers are concerned in India. Because of this shortage, pay packages and growth opportunities are superlative and ever-growing.”

To become an ethical hacker, being computer savvy and gadget friendly are important pre-requisites. There should be a keen interest in the Internet and basic knowledge of networking and programming and desire to stay updated in the field of ethical hacking and cyber crimes. Although the starting salary for ethical hackers in India ranges from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4.2 lakh per annum, the annual salary can be between Rs 27.7 lakh to Rs 32.5 lakh post currency conversion.

Computer security is a global issue and it’s the job of an ethical hacker to make the cyber space safe, now and forever.

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