Category Archives: Cyber Security

What is White Hat?

Know About White Hat!

White hat could be any individual who has the skills to identify security issues, vulnerabilities and improve security network for a company or a network. These technically sound specialists only look for vulnerabilities when they are legally permitted to do so. White hat professionals expose the vulnerabilities and exploits by respecting the rule of law applied to hack. The white hat professional is derived from the western movies where white hat cowboys were considered as good persons and black hat guys were known for bad behaviors.

White hat hackers are also being popularly called as ethical hackers. By conducting their research on software, hardware and web pages they test and asses the security aspects related to it. They are known to protect the system before some black hat hacker takes the opportunity to exploit it for a larger benefit. If hired by the company or agency they have given all the permissions to conduct the security checks and look for vulnerabilities. The methods here are the same as being used by any black hat hacker but they do it to help the company and with proper authorization.

Many companies run bug bounty programs to attract the individual white hat hackers to find and alert the vulnerabilities in exchange of reward. This has turned out to be one of the most effective ways for companies to prevent themselves from the exploits and make their network secure. The reward for white hat hackers mostly depends on the companies and the type of vulnerabilities they found in the system.

White hat hackers break into the network with the clear intent of helping the company to improve the system and protect it from the black hat hacker. They make sure that the vulnerability should not be illegally accessed by black hat hackers and compromise the system.

The things white hat hackers do include thwarting any type of cyber attack in real time, proactively exposing the security weakness to help company smooth functioning of services. Most of the companies employ white hat hackers to keep themselves secure and help assess the security.

Types of Hacker Hats

Generally, the hackers are divided into three basic categories, white hat, grey hat and black hat. While the white hat and black hat are more popular whereas the same persons could act as a grey hat hacker.

The good guys or the ethical hackers are known as white hat hackers whereas the bad guys who exploit the vulnerability for their personal gains are black hat hackers. There are hackers who fall in between of these two categories who do have the authorisation to go into the system and follows the law but they don’t reveal the real problem. They are known as grey hat hackers.

Grey hat hackers are usually good programmers who usually work according to the law and rules. They mostly report the problem the vulnerabilities but never exploit it for malicious purposes. Sometimes they after detecting the problem they still didn’t report it to the owner because of personal rivalry or with any other reason. But even in this case, they don’t try to sell the vulnerability to the criminals or competitors.

Black hat hackers are the one who has only one intention which is personal gains, take down networks, steal data, or compromising and damaging the system. With the technological advancements, they are using multiple tricks to get hold of their prey. They are the sole reason behind the massive cyber attacks, data breaches which took place in recent times. They mostly blackmail the system or network owner of damaging or leaking information if their demand is not met within a specific time period. Black hat hackers exploit the vulnerabilities they discover in a system and can sell them to the highest bidder. Most of the black hat hackers work individually but in recent times many hackers come together from different countries to carry out specific attacks on companies and agencies.

White Hat Penetration Testing

Penetration testing (pen testing) services are usually done by the companies to engage the white hat hackers into getting in the private network, applications and endpoints of the organization. The white hat hackers use different methods to point out security lapses and gaps to help the company better it’s cybersecurity defences. This is used as a precaution to get away from the real attack situation. Penetration testing consists of infiltrating into the system and breaking into a business environment.

White Hat Hacking Tools and Tactics

White hat hackers use all the same methods and tools which are used by real attackers to get to know about vulnerabilities. The various tools can be public “rootkits”, sophisticated campaigns which may involve social engineering, protocol spoofing, endpoint vulnerabilities, attack decoys etc. Penetration testing plays a major role for and it is the most important aspect for white hat hackers.

With the help of the company, a white hat hacker can also form a strategy and attempt phishing attack on the staff of the same organization. This practice can be very effective to get to know how vulnerable the employees are. White hat hackers can also try to physically break into the system with the permission of IT head and company management to find the security lapses in the network. A white hat hacker can also initiate a DDoS attack on a separate version of the company’s server or when the usage of the system is at a minimum.

The difference here between a white hat hacker and black hat hacker is of the time allowed to them for finding the vulnerability. The white hat hacker has relatively less time to detect and perform hack exploits on the system whereas a real hacker can spend months and sometimes a year on the same system to find the vulnerability.

Becoming a white hat

It is a well-known fact that most of the white hat hackers were once black hat hackers and they left the illegal path after being caught or with the fear of getting caught. Some white hat hacker thought of it as a lucrative career opportunity as it can land them a job in federal agencies, high profile corporate with a handsome pay package.

Knowledge of programming and skills in the computer is a must for becoming a white hat hacker. Most of the white hat hackers have their degree in computer sciences and information technology whereas coding is the most important aspect of becoming an ethical hacker. Most importantly passion and genuine interest in security are added asset for white hat hacking. Ethical hacking is more of a desire to do good for the society or to help make the internet a safe place.

Many institutes and colleges around the world have started ethical hacking courses and training. Students can enroll online or can opt for offline physical classes to have a career in white hat hacking. Apart from this, a person should connect itself well enough with the cyber security world and read about the latest technical elements of hacking and remain up to date with all the latest developments.

How do ethical hackers make money?

Due to the rise in cyber attacks and data breach incidents, the demand for ethical hackers is at all-time high. Most of the companies have created a new position for white hat hackers to oversee the security of the systems and associated networks. Some companies regularly call the white hat hackers for network penetration testing and offer a good amount for finding vulnerabilities in the network. Moreover, sometimes federal agencies seek help from ethical hackers where they need to access the network or interference legally.

Most of the white hat hackers work as a freelance and earn money from bug bounty schemes offered by websites and companies. Big tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google have their open bug bounty platform where they reward handsomely for finding a vulnerability in the system.

Ethical hackers, on the other hand, are quite often employed by cybersecurity companies, or within the security departments of larger organizations. The fact that they know how attackers operate often gives them valuable insight into how to prevent attacks. This reward is sometimes so high that one can earn in millions in some cases. According to a report by Bugcrowd, the average payout for the top 50 white hat hacker was about $145,000 USD with over 600 submissions which were declared valid. Ethical hackers can make up to $500,000 per year by finding vulnerabilities in a system and submitting it to the owner.

The motivation for ethical hackers

A genuine passion to explore the security world and curiosity to know how things are functioning is one of the major motivations for white hat hackers and monetary reward is definitely rank highest. Ethical hackers aspire to make the internet world a more private and secure place. There is a thin line which separates white hat hackers and black hat hackers. Ethical hackers always respect the law and privacy.

According to a report, the top four motivational factors for the ethical hackers are a challenge to hunt the vulnerability, professional development, to educate and enhance knowledge and making the internet a safer place.

Big companies and corporates are offering huge rewards for finding a bug and these extremely lucrative offerings work as greater motivation for the hackers to follow the ethical path. White hat hackers make a career with penetration testing and companies pay handsomely for sessions.

Skills required for becoming an ethical hacker

The top skills for becoming a white hat hacker consists of knowledge of web application, network pen testing, API assessment, Social engineering, Source code analysis, Mobile: Android, Cryptography, Binary analysis and reverse engineering, Mobile/iOS application, OS/Firmware testing, Malware analysis, IoT/Embedded device, Hardware hacking, Mobile: BBRY/WINMO, Vehicle testing.

Future of White Hat

Most of the white hat hackers are presently spend around up to 10 hours per week or hardly two hours a day for bug hunting that too with a regular job. With a bright career as a cyber-security expert in corporate and in government agencies, the future for ethical hacking is bright. The rise in cyber attacks is creating more and more jobs for the security analyst profile. Due to cyber attacks companies not only get affected financially but they also face a dent on their reputation. This will prompt companies to formulate an internal team to check and patch all the vulnerabilities before being exploited by any hacker with malicious intentions. The public bug bounty programs are another way to attract white hat hackers to find flaws in the network. The bug bounty programs are becoming widely popular and companies are set to spend more on these programs and reward the individuals.

Can an ethical hacker face legal issues?

Even white hat hackers are not invincible to legal issues. Many white hat hackers crossed the boundaries of their legal authorities in search of security flaws. For an example, if a white hat hacker is called by the company for pen testing and given legal access to the security system. There may be chances that he may reach out to security systems of business partners or may breach into customer’s information without their consent. In this case, the customers and business partners can legally summon company as well as the hacker.

In case of independently finding a bug in the system, a hacker has to inform the affected company about it. If this is the case of a data breach, it means the white hat hacker has seen the personal data of the customers before informing about it to the concerned authority.

There is a very thin line which separates the white hat and black hat hackers. Doing things legally is now much more rewarding than being a black hat hacker.


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Firewall

Firewall :- Defined, Explained, and Explored

What is Firewall?

A firewall is software which blocks unauthorised access from a private network. It is designed with set of rules which allows it to filter wide range of data packets which are present on the internet. It inspect each individual packets at both sides of firewall i.e, the packets going from the user’s end and packets from being received by the user. It prevents user from attackers or illicit software getting access to the system. A firewall can be hardware, software or a combination of both.

There are two main types of firewalls, one is network based firewall and the other is host based firewall. A network based firewall can be used in cloud based structures where it acts as a virtual firewall and provides security for the network. Whereas, a host based firewall is present on servers which effectively monitors the outgoing and incoming signals.

What Firewalls Do?

Firewall enhance the security of the systems connected to the internet, it is usually the first line of defense in protection from online threats. A firewall validates the access given to the data packets on the internet to the user’s network. It also defends user’s resources blocking the external forces getting access to the system. It also manages and control network traffic and provide smooth flow of data over the internet. The set of rules in the firewall define if the packets are harmful or harmful and accordingly it notify the user or raise a flag by reporting an malicious activity.  Firewall also works as an intermediate between the user’s system and the internet.

Why should we use Firewall?

Firewall is one of the most important aspects of user’s computers security. It provides protection to the system as it,

Prevents from remote access : Firewalls can be very helpful in protecting the system from programs which allow remote access. With remote access hackers can view or get access to the personal files, folders present in the system and in some cases they can lock out the user from the system.

Prevents Backdoor entry of bugs: Online space is filled with various virus, malwares and other threats. Firewall blocks the backdoor entry of malicious programs and keeps the system safe.

Prevents from SMTP hack : Firewall restricts the access of hacker who can use the user’s IP address to send phishing emails. SMTP is used to send emails and hackers can use the user’s system to redirect their spam mails through the user’s SMTP server which will make them untraceable.

Prevents from operating system bugs : Firewall blocks the backdoor entry of operating system bugs into the system. Hackers can take advantage of the system’s vulnerability and can install an malicious program into the system.

Prevents from DoS(Denial of Service) and DDoS(Distributed Denial of Service) attacks: Firewall is very effective in case of any attempts of DoS or DDoS attacks. Here, attackers send a request to connect with the server. When the server responds and tries to start a session, it cannot find the system from where it received the request.

Prevents from e-mail bombs : Firewalls can block the email attacks by the hackers. In an email bomb, hackers send the same email multiple times until the email system gets crashed

The other benefits of firewall involve protection from Macros, virus, malware, spam and source routing.

For protection against online threats, firewall is one of the most effective solutions. It provides safe and secure online space for the users.

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Benefits of VPN connection

What is VPN?

In an elongated form, VPN is Virtual Private Network. It is a service which lets a user access the internet safely and privately by providing you a temporary IP address and hiding the user’s online activities. It encrypts the data sent from the user’s computer so that no third party can read it.

It does not guarantee the full security but still can save the user from many potential hackers. VPN provides an extra layer of security especially at places like Airport, Coffee shops, shopping malls or wherever the user is opting for a private or open network.

A Virtual Private Network consists of a network infrastructure, encryption tools and some other tools to mix up the IP addresses. Here, user’s data goes in encrypted form to the internet service provider (ISP) and then to the VPN server. VPN scrambles the user’s present IP and connects to the web.

Benefits of VPN connection

VPN from being a safe option for browsing does provide multiple other benefits for the users, some of them listed below:

Hides the Identity: VPN masks the identity of the user from the outsiders. Users can enjoy the autonomy of free internet from any part of the world and access the content without revealing your current IP address.

Bypass Government Blocks: VPN lets user access content which is blocked in their country. This helps in bypassing the governmental censorship and let user access websites and content which is not available in the country. This can be done by using the virtual address of the country which lets the user access that website.

Encryption of Data: VPN ensures the high level of privacy than normal browsing by encrypting the data sent by the user over the internet.

Get Access to blocked contents on streaming services: With VPN users can get accessed to the blocked contents on the streaming services. Some countries have certain restrictions regarding the content of the streaming services and blocks some movies, programs and documentaries.

More Security from hackers:  VPN can be a much safer option when it comes to protection from hackers. The virtual IP don’t let hackers to track user’s location and encrypted data provides security for the information user share over the internet.

Apart from these, privacy is the biggest advantage VPN can provide. It is hard for anyone to identify a user’s location and the activities being performed from a particular system. Streaming and downloading movies are considered much safer with VPN than on normal browser. The only downside of VPN is that sometimes it slows down the internet connection as user’s data is routing through an extra server.

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How to Secure your WiFi ?

How to Secure your Wi-Fi? – Connected devices are taking over our homes. Not only smartphones and laptops, but wide ranges of products such as smart lights, air conditioners, smart locks, doors, kitchen appliances and devices that are connected to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant are becoming a necessity for our lifestyle. All the internet operated connected device are solving our daily life problems and our home Wi-Fi enable them to function smoothly. As we say these are internet-connected devices, we should look a step ahead and scrutinise the security aspects related to it. These devices are connected with the Wi-Fi but the question is how secure is your Wi-Fi?

Your Wi-Fi router is like the main gate of your home, anything that goes out and enters in your home has to go through the gate. While it is also well known that the gate needs to be defended as many unwanted visitors may be looking for an opening to get into your home. Access to even the slightest of the entry points can put your home on the risk of invasion by these unwanted visitors.

The hackers are always looking for that slightest of the entry points to make way into your connected devices through Wi-Fi. Getting access to the Wi-Fi can also give control over all the connected devices. They can cause major financial, reputational and informational loss. Just think if you use smart locks on your doors and if your Wi-Fi gets compromised then you can be locked out of your own home. Similarly, hackers can give commands to your home’s voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant which can include your financial information. If Wi-Fi router gets compromised, the risks are immense and this also calls for the need for enhanced security for your home’s Wi-Fi router.

It’s a very common practice that people think that they are not vulnerable to any kind of threat and continue to use the admin details as their Wi-Fi security measure. Many service providers use the same admin login and password in a locality or an area, which not only make one Wi-Fi connection vulnerable but also puts all the Wi-Fi connections on risk in the locality. Furthermore, some people do change the default login credentials but this is certainly not enough to make your Wi-Fi and connected devices secure. People seem to be reluctant about tweaking options in the Wi-Fi router after a new purchase and many don’t even bother to notice those options.

Giving just a little more time to learn about and apply the enhanced security measures can save not only your personal information but also increase protection for your Wi-Fi network.

How Wi-Fi routers work?

The Wi-Fi router connects all the nearby devices and provides access to a modem which further communicates with the web. Wi-Fi routers deal in data packets which are sent from the connected devices. The data is packaged into blocks with identifying markers, making checks for any errors, address labels and then transmitted to the wider web. Wi-Fi routers also keep the data separate for separate devices and applications installed in those devices. Similarly, it receives data packages from outside and sends it into the connected devices.

Speed and functioning of Wi-Fi routers depend upon the technology used in the manufacturing. The one with better technology will identify and transmit data faster and also allow more devices to connect with it without compromising on bandwidth.

Basics of Wi-Fi Router security

Wi-Fi router gives a single IP address to all your connected devices in the process of connecting to the web. It handles the IP addresses for the individual connected devices itself. It also acts as a basic firewall against the unwanted traffic from the internet. This is done by Network Address Translation (NAT) routing. (Network Address Translation hides all the IP addresses of all the connected devices behind an IP address). So, NAT routing checks the data packets coming into the devices and going out from the device. If it found that the particular data packet is not requested by any of the connected devices, it immediately blocks it or discards it before reaching to the devices. Below are the tips to secure your Wi-Fi network.

Install Wi-Fi Router Security Updates Regularly

It is highly recommended to regularly install the updates for your Wi-Fi router. Many Wi-Fi routers do come with the facility of auto-update but if your Wi-Fi router model is old then you can manually update the regularly released security patches and updates by the router manufacturer.

Change your router login and password

The default password for most of the Wi-Fi routers and network services has been set to admin as username and password as the password for utilizing the services. Not changing the existing password is the most common mistake a person can do. This is the very first combination that a hacker will try. It is advisable to immediately change the password of the Wi-Fi router if it is still the one which is provided by the service provider.

There are many ways to create a strong password which should be a combination of alphabets (both uppercase and lowercase), numbers and special characters. To easily remember the password, make a sentence and use the first letters of each sentence and include some numbers which could be your house number, street number or digits of your mobile number. Insert these cautiously and do not forget to include an extra special character.  For example: ‘I have a pet dog who was born in 2015 and his name is Roman’, so the password here could be ‘Ihapdwwbi@2015ahniR’. You can use a similar trick to create your passwords for different services and platforms.

Use WPA2 to secure your wireless network

Passwords are the easiest gateway to exploit someone’s Wi-Fi network. The first thing to remember is that you should never use WEP password while setting up a Wi-Fi network. WEP passwords are easier to break in case of a brute-force attack. It is recommended to use WPA2 password protection, which is a much stronger protocol. If your Wi-Fi router doesn’t support WPA2 passwords, then probably you are using a very old Wi-Fi router and need an instant upgrade.

One other thing is to consider that some people also run an open Wi-Fi network. This may be helpful for the neighbors but it can be the easiest way for a hacker to enter into your Wi-Fi network as well as the connected devices.

Turn off Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)

WPS seems to be an easy option where most people tend to use PIN number as a password considering it being easy. But guessing the combination of numbers which is your PIN is much easier than a complex alphanumeric password with special characters. In case of brute force attack, PIN passwords can be guessed easily in multiple attempts. Considering you have a 6 digit PIN as a password, then there are total 518400 possible combinations that you can match your password. During a brute force attack, multiple bots try possible combinations simultaneously and it will be only a matter of minutes to successfully decode the right combination which is your password. It is recommended to disable the WPS entirely.

Switch to a better DNS (Domain Name System)

Switching from your ISP’s DNS is a good idea. With this, you can increase the security factor and also avoid the man-in-the-middle attacks, pop-ups, website redirects and interstitials.

Use MAC filtering

MAC filtering can prove to be a better safeguard of your Wi-Fi network. Attackers can easily spoof a MAC address and put your network into a security risk. You should always allow the websites to be accessed from the networks which are whitelisted. However, this may be annoying but for the security of the connected devices and Wi-Fi network, this is a safe and secure step.

Consider Scheduling your Wi-Fi

This should be one practice to follow. We like to be connected to the home Wi-Fi as soon as we reach the door of the house. But while leaving, you should probably switch off the Wi-Fi router. If you are not at home then probably there is no use of keeping the internet connectivity on, as it is hard to hack a network which is not visible for the hackers.

Disable Potentially Sketchy Services

Users should consider not using any remote services from the home Wi-Fi router. It is advisable to disable all the extra services which allow remote connection or remote management. Check your Wi-Fi router if there is any options that can enabled remote management, remote administration, UPnP, FTP, cloud functionality, SSH or Telnet. It’s better to use your home Wi-Fi router from home as any form of remote access can be vulnerable and provide a gateway for the hackers.

 A separate Wi-Fi network for guests and smart-home devices

While we most likely don’t think about this in length but creating a separate Wi-Fi network for connected devices at home and a separate guest network for the friends and relatives is definitely a good idea. While creating a guest network Wi-Fi router automatically sets up a different SSID for the connected devices from the existing network. You can easily customize the settings and allow them to use the Wi-Fi service securely. You can also choose your less secured connected devices to connect with this guest network so that in case of vulnerability only this device gets affected and your main network and connected devices remain safe.

Use an inconspicuous network name (SSID) (service set identifier)

Usually, people don’t make enough changes to the default settings while installing a new Wi-Fi connection, one of the things that they go along is SSID. Using the vendor or router’s name can be a potential threat for your Wi-Fi network. The hackers can crack the passwords easily in case they see a familiar looking SSID. The SSID also gives an impression of the user and it can be easily judged that how aware the user is about the security of its Wi-Fi network.

Always consider choosing SSID which do not reveal any information like your locality, area or company name. The SSIDs could be the anything but not an information, you can choose any funny quote, recipe name etc while creating an SSID for your Wi-Fi connection.

Always Access Wi-Fi Router Admin Panel with Ethernet

Always prefer to use the Ethernet while logging into the admin panel of your Wi-Fi connection. While it is easier to go into a web browser and type the IP address to get access to Wi-Fi router’s admin panel but the much safer and secure way is to use the Ethernet. In this way, the login credentials cannot be compromised and eliminates the risk.

Enable the Wi-Fi Router Firewall

Most of the advanced Wi-Fi routers are coming with inbuilt firewalls. This can be the most effective first wall of security for your Wi-Fi connection. The firewall compares all the data packages that are coming from the world web with its inbuilt database, if it finds the incoming network positive, it will allow a connection or else it immediately blocks the connection. Make sure that the firewall in your Wi-Fi router is switched on and running for the safe and secure browsing.

Check for rogue Wi-Fi access points

Rogue access points are something which you may not have installed but somebody else has put it to boost signal or for any suspicious work. This is something which you should always look for. Consider a case, where a hacker put a rogue access point with your connection and created a separate SSID and made the connection open. In this case, anyone can access your Wi-Fi connection and can use adversely. Make a check nearby your router or use some advanced software and scan your Wi-Fi connection regularly to keep a check on rogue access points.

Use a VPN (virtual private network)

A VPN keeps your entire private data private by encrypting all the data which is sent from your end.  This not only safeguards the data but also protect it from the prying eyes of the hackers who are constantly on the lookout for any vulnerability. Most of the Wi-Fi routers today have inbuilt VPN facility, make sure you switch it on.

Wi-Fi router security is definitely an important aspect of your digital life. As the generation depends largely on internet and internet connected devices, so a single mistake can not only compromise your personal information but can also pose financial losses. While using internet or any related services, protection is the best form of defence. Use the Wi-Fi router security measures to stay safe and secure in the online world.