Sat. Nov 25th, 2023
difference between Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking - Cybersecurity Certifications - USCSI

If you ever thought of making a career in cybersecurity then you must have definitely heard of the term Ethical Hacking. Hacking has also been glamourized a lot in thriller movies, and novels. An ethical hacker is basically a “good” hacker. So, can an ethical hacker be also termed a cybersecurity professional? Are cybersecurity and ethical hackers the same? Are they related or are they entirely different things?

All these questions are natural to students and young professionals looking to get into a cybersecurity career. Having a clear understanding of the relationship or differences between both of these will help students make a clear decision about which path to go for.

So, in this write-up, we bring to you a brief evaluation of the difference between cybersecurity and ethical hacking. We will also guide you about the best certifications for each of these so that you can take your career forward.

Understanding Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking: The Castle Example

With this example of a castle, you will understand the difference between cybersecurity and ethical hacking in a better way.

Suppose you want to build a castle, a strong castle. There are two ways to make it uninvidable.

  • First make it strong enough and
  • Second test what you have built and make the weaker walls stronger

First, you will use strong materials, and make strong walls that won’t be broken easily. Once you have built a strong castle, you will not test them by hitting cannons. And if you find the walls are getting broken, then you will make it even stronger.

This explains what cybersecurity and ethical hacking are.

Cybersecurity is the same as making the castle strong whereas Ethical hacking is hitting the castle and checking which wall is weak.

And here we derive definitions for both:


Cybersecurity refers to the practices that include various measures designed to protect the digital system, networks, applications, and data within an organization from unauthorized access, and damage. It includes several strategies, planning, tools, and cybersecurity professionals to maintain the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of digital assets.

Cybersecurity also includes professionals utilizing their cybersecurity skills to identify threats, work towards preventive measures, and analyze if anything goes wrong. So, it basically is a broad industry whose sole function is to protect digital assets and infrastructure.

When you enroll in the best cybersecurity certification courses, you will learn about the below-mentioned processes of cybersecurity:

  • Deploying firewalls
  • Intrusion detection system
  • Encryption control
  • Identity and access management
  • Designing and monitoring network and application security system
  • Securing cloud infrastructure, etc.

And you must make a note – Ethical Hacking is included in cybersecurity too. So, what is ethical hacking?

Ethical Hacking

Ethical hacking refers to the practice of identifying vulnerabilities within a system or IT infrastructure. Ethical hackers apply their cybersecurity skills and use a variety of technic to breach the security system of an organization, deliberately, not to harm the organization but to inform where the loophole is.

It is sometimes also referred to as penetration testing or white-hat hacking. Unlike malicious hackers, ethical or good hackers have explicit permission from the organization to try and breach their security. The purpose behind ethical hacking is to simulate real-world cyber-attacks in a safe and controlled manner to find vulnerabilities before cybercriminals can exploit them.

These cybersecurity professionals use a range of techniques, including network scanning, vulnerability assessment, and penetration testing, to identify weaknesses in a system’s defenses. By mimicking the actions of potential attackers, ethical hackers can help organizations understand their vulnerabilities and make informed decisions about how to address them.

The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) offered by the EC-Council is one of the top cybersecurity certifications designed for students who want to become ethical hackers.

Factors that differentiate Cybersecurity and Ethical Hacking

  1. Intent and Consent:

The most significant distinction between cybersecurity and ethical hacking lies in intent. Cybersecurity professionals focus on setting up and maintaining a strong defense against cyber threats, whereas ethical hackers deliberately attempt to breach security systems with permission. This clear distinction in intent and consent separates the ethical hacking process from malicious hacking.

  • Methodology:

Cybersecurity is a holistic approach that involves designing, implementing, and maintaining security measures. It often includes risk assessments, policy development, and incident response planning. On the other hand, ethical hacking involves a more hands-on approach, with professionals actively trying to exploit vulnerabilities to identify weaknesses.

  • Scope:

Cybersecurity is a broader discipline that encompasses a range of activities, from establishing security policies to managing firewalls and implementing encryption. Ethical hacking, while a component of cybersecurity, is a narrower practice that specifically involves testing the security measures in place.

  • Collaboration:

Cybersecurity teams collaborate with various departments to establish a secure digital environment. Ethical hackers, however, might operate independently or as part of a specialized penetration testing team. They often collaborate closely with the cybersecurity team to address identified vulnerabilities.


Though ethical hacking is a part of Cybersecurity, they both are different in their approach, techniques, and purpose. While cybersecurity mostly refers to the constructive approach of securing infrastructure and data, ethical hacking is a destructive approach to finding loopholes within the system and mitigating it within time.

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