The Difference Between Hacking and Ethical Hacking

by Tashina

Every time you hear the word hacking, the first thing that comes into mind is something malicious. However, that’s not always the case. There is also another form of hacking known as ethical hacking which aims to counter potential malicious attacks on a system’s network.

Hacking and Ethical Hacking – The Difference

Hacking is commonly known when used for illegitimate purposes where experts known as hackers who may access data on a system without permission. They can have high-level programming concepts and hacking skills. Their main purpose is to detect weaknesses in a program or software that arise as a result of software development processes or configuration errors. The hackers aim is to exploit these vulnerabilities and infiltrate the system.
On the other hand, the intention behind ethical hacking is ironically all of the above, with the exception that an ethical hacker will operate within the law, this means obtaining permission from the product owner, be this either through an official penetration test engagement, bug bounty programme or systems intended to be hacked e.g capture the flag engagements.

Differences in Practice


  • Unlawfully holding websites and services
  • Selling and using confidential data
  • Making illegal transactions
  • Blackmailing by keeping classified information

Ethical Hacking

  • Finds vulnerabilities but obtains relevant permissions first
  • Informs the user on penetration of network
  • Helps ensure security loopholes are discovered and subsequently patched
  • Advises on security settings

Ethical hacking is a useful process and includes techniques such as social engineering, web application hacking and web server vulnerability assessments. Each technique has its own way of detecting and dealing with an intrusion. What matters the most is the planning and how ethical hacking helps secure a system, application, or server.
There are a number of ways ethical hackers can ensure security. Primarily knowing all the methodologies the bad guys use ultimately helps them ensure their client can remedy publicly known threats and ultimately reduce the chance of exploitation from the hackers with malicious intent.

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