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A Profession of Morality: Certified Ethical Hacker

It's no secret that security is a top concern for organizations that utilize the Internet or VPNs, often for mission critical functions, but identifying the right person to help secure a network is no simple task. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification can help make it easier.

Internet crime is becoming an increasingly problematic situation for businesses across the globe. With so many malicious hackers in today's society, businesses are being faced with several issues of security for their online networks, websites, and other confidential information. So how do these companies circumvent the jeopardy of their internet-based assets and information? Who or what can prevent a malicious hacker from running a snippet of code, gaining unauthorized access, and stealing billions of private data? Enter the Certified Ethical Hacker.

Wait, there are good hackers? Yes there are, and several companies that they work for as well. Individuals that are Certified Ethical Hackers (CEH) are information technology (IT) professionals who can simulate and perform the actions of a malicious hacker. CEH's will perform a vulnerability assessment (VA) in search of gaps and loopholes that their malicious counterparts could take advantage of once a business's new technology goes live online. Once the VA is completed, the business is then provided with a report of any areas that lack security within their network.

Can anyone be a Certified Ethical Hacker?

Whether or not someone can become a CEH depends on the individual's qualifications and their ability to pass a screening process. Those who seek employment as a CEH must pass a $250 computer-based test given by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council). Preparation can be through independent study or by attending an Accredited Training Center (ATC). Those who elect independent study must have a minimum of two years of documented IT experience. The other option requires the same amount of experience and involves 67 modules of coursework designed by the EC-Council and delivered by an ATC. Each module is between 30 minutes and 5 hours in length. Why have an experience requirement? The experience requirement is to weed out any individuals that may have the wrong intentions or the tech-savvy "IT professional wannabes." In addition, to further the credibility of the program in general, an individual that is certified as a CEH must sign a written code of ethics and abide by all laws.

After passing the test and being certified, the CEH must continue their education by recertifying every 3 years to be sure they are up to date on the latest methods and practices, while also taking about 20 credits of coursework each year.

As a CEH, job opportunities include working for private IT companies or even the United States government. Working for the government requires a slightly different certification; however, the coursework associated with the certification is identical to the standard CEH. Before hiring a CEH, an organization specializing in IT security performing background checks and clearances known as a personal security investigation (PSI). This acts as a buffer to dodge any "takes one to know one" scenarios.

Many IT employers look at certifications as an added bonus on top of work experience, or in fact, a basic requirement. A recent search at the IT job portal Dice.com turned up 37 open positions that specifically mention CEH certification, ranging from Director of IT Security Infrastructure to Security Analyst. No doubt many other IT security positions would also welcome someone with the designation. For a summary of CEH requirements, see GoCertify's CEH page.

Ryan Corey is the Director of Admissions at the Academy of Computer Education (ACE), an IT and computer training school in the DC metro area. His experience on the topic comes from years of delivering CEH training classes to students seeking to further their careers.