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Ethical Hacking

By JOHN FELTMAN

It’s scary to think that at any given moment during the day our identities can be taken from us.

Although hacking occurs on a daily basis, there is a lot of positive hacking going on as well. Many government and security agencies are trained to hack in order to gain information or benefit society in a positive fashion. Cyber security is a crucial part of technology, because without these people protecting us, who knows what kind of damage could be done. Director of cybersecurity programs Dr. Kenneth Knapp teaches a course at UT called Ethical Hacking. This course is an ethical hacking course, and allows students to learn how to hack safely and properly.

Website servers and databases are just a couple of examples of hacking that the students condone in the course. Most students who take this class are trying to earn an undergraduate degree in cyber security.

“The goal of my class is to cover the overall ‘ethical hacking’ methodology,” Knapp said. “It gives students the skills and knowledge on how to conduct ‘penetration testing’ in an ethical manner.”

Knapp earned a Ph.D. at Auburn University, and is an associate professor as well as an Information and Technology management director. He took the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) exam in order to be registered as eligible to teach this course. To prepare for this exam, he took online courses because he realized how important it is for his students to learn the type of hacking skills in the course.

“Students who know this material will have confidence and technical awareness,” Knapp said. “It’s very beneficial even if a cyber security student does not work directly in penetration testing or hacking after they graduate.”

Knapp also makes it clear to his students how important it is to follow the ethical hacking guidelines; meaning to never do anything illegal or scan or hack into a system without permission. Every class has endless possibilities with the hacking that students perform.

“We typically begin each two hour class with 30 minutes of discussion and then spend the rest of the class working with Kali Linux or other Windows tools directly on the lab computers,” Knapp said.

         

The cyber security major students in Knapp’s class all have experience with technology and computers. From day one, Knapp was impressed with his students.

“On the first day of class, we used a tool called Metasploit to hack into a server and each student successfully did this,” Knapp said.

The software used in ITM 480 are programs like Microsoft Windows and Kali Linux operating systems.These types of programs are specialized for hacking use, and makes hacking life easier for students. Students also use special computer applications such as Nmap, Wireshark, and Metaspoloit. This might be foreign to students who aren’t quite tech savvy, but even students who are advanced users of technology learn something everyday in this course.

“It takes time and exposure,” said senior cyber security major Benny Calhoun. “A lot of tools we use come pre-programmed in form of scripts that perform a set of task and outputs information.”

Calhoun is taking this course because he is interested in the employment opportunities that are affiliated with completing the CEH exam. He also says he has an interest in this career field, and this course gives him the core knowledge in order to become a network penetration tester.

But what really is hacking? When someone says they are “hacking into something” it could mean something as simple as gaining access without permission, or taking over a website or database. Hacking is a difficult process, and many people can still feel unsafe when their personal information is online. But, this isn’t the case at all when it comes to ITM 480.

“Controlled chaos, as a safety precaution we are limited to a virtual environment, so more often than not to no access to public website,” Calhoun said. “But we do have virtual targets in the lab that simulate the real thing.

Again, a lot of the tools that come pre-programmed are capable of taking down websites and gaining access to information.”

Calhoun says the course isn’t necessarily difficult, but he said that they’re a lot of long, tedious steps when it comes to hacking. The technology world wouldn’t be safe if it wasn’t for cyber security, and ethical hacking.

Cyber security majors are now required to take this class as part of their major. Students can not only learn a lot in this class, but it can put them at good standing when it comes to finding a job after obtaining a degree, because this gives them a set of skills that employers are looking for.

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