To understand what is Ethical Hacking, one should first understand both the terms ethical and hacking separately and then in the context of each other.

Ethical means any activity that is when judged upon comes under the ethical or the moral category as positive for good behavior. Society and law both encourage behavior that is well within the ethical line and condemns behavior opposite to it.

Activities that are also done in regards to obeying the law are ethical activities, and any activity that promotes breaking the law is not ethical.

Now, whereas ‘ethical’ is a term that underlies judgment upon an activity, it is not necessarily an activity but only quality. But, hacking is an activity in its core and is judged as to whether it was done for ethical or non-ethical purposes.

Hacking means entering a private space by someone without the permission of the owner and stealing or manipulating the data. Hacking is a criminal offense and the punishment varies according to the level of the breach that a person has violated.

And the person who carries out the process of hacking is called a hacker. Majorly there are two types of hackers:

Traditional Hacker:

In traditional terms, a hacker is simply a person who enjoys going through technological challenges and keeps on testing different servers and their security walls for safeguarding purposes. Hackers love discovering all the shortcomings there are on software and online sites so that they can inform on them and make those more secure and safe to use.

Modern Hacker:

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In modern terms, a hacker is a person who violates the personal space of an online site or software and tries to gain data for personal or organizational uses, which are under no authorization of the original owner of the data. These people are called crackers (criminal hackers) and if they are found guilty, there are huge penalties implied and treason is a common occurrence in the methods of punishments. Modern hackers are only out there for personal gains using someone else’s data. They manipulate the data either by stealing it or deleting it and then may use it to threaten the owner of it.

So basically, there are two types of hackers, simply hackers who use the knowledge they have to help others and the ones who use the knowledge they have to help themselves in a wrong manner. The good-guy hackers like to differentiate themselves from the bad guy hackers. So to state it bluntly, hackers are people who use the information and data for their personal use and ethical hackers are people who use the information and data to help other people and even though both the categories of hackers do the same thing, the intent is doing so differentiates on a very large scale.

Hackers like to hack or go for anything or any system they think can be compromised. They love challenges along their way, because the harder the system they crack through, the higher they are ranked in the hacker’s circle.
Would you like to read more about this topic? This book might interest you: Ethical Hacking.