LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - It sounds like an oxymoron, but what’s known as ‘ethical hacking’ is growing in popularity as more companies deal with cyber security threats.
Ethical hacking refers to the act of breaking into computer and information systems to identify and fix weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It’s sometimes referred to as penetration testing or intrusion testing.
“The ethical hacker does it to find the problems to help people fix the problems. The criminal hackers do it to break in and commit crimes and steal information,” said Dr. Glyn Gowing, professor and chair of the Global Computer Science Program at LeTourneau University. “Is a gun good or evil? It’s neither. A gun has no volition of its own, it’s what you do with it. Law enforcement officers use firearms to protect and defend. People in the military use firearms to protect and defend. Criminals use firearms to intimidate and kill.”
For the first time, LETU is offering a 100-percent online program for students to become certified ethical hackers. The certification can be earned in two semesters. Students can still choose to earn an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in ethical hacking.
Gowing teaches ethical hacking, and his background includes time working in cyber security for Michelin Tires where he would break into the company’s computers to look for and fix vulnerabilities.
“There were days at my day job where literally the only difference between committing a felony and doing my job was the fact that I had written permission from the computer owners to attack the computers,” he said.
Certified ethical hackers work to protect critical infrastructure, banking systems and to prevent industrial espionage and identity theft.
The Identity Theft Resource Center tracks data breaches that affect U.S. organizations and customers. According to the data the ITRC compiled from January 2018 to October 2018, there were more than 930 data breaches resulting in the exposure of more than 47 million records.
“The bad guys are going to keep trying," Gowing said.