December 1, 2021
Cyber Security vs. Ethical Hacking: What is the Difference?

Cyber Security vs. Ethical Hacking: What is the Difference?

Fred JacksonDecember 1, 2021,

The two most popularly emerging fields in the tech world are cybersecurity and ethical hacking. However, many people still confuse the terms and what their specialists actually do. Cybersecurity is a broader category of online and digital security, whereas ethical hacking is considered a part of cybersecurity.

We consulted the experts in the cybersecurity world, so let’s take this opportunity to understand the two concepts from them. 

Basic Concept

In simple terms, cyber security is the practice of identifying potential security risks or flaws, taking appropriate measures to safeguard against them, detecting if or when such flaws have been exploited and reacting in a swift manner to contain the threat. 

Cyber security aims to keep a device or network secure from any potential threats by following the four tasks listed above. 

Ethical hacking, on the other hand, is a bit different. It also falls within the parameters of cyber security, but it involves one specific job: testing and straining a security system against all possible flaws. 

The goal is to replicate the measures an actual malicious hacker would take to attempt to gain access to a system and ensure that the security protocols are robust enough to withstand all such attempts. Ethical hacking often leads to critical security flaws being uncovered, resulting in stronger preparation for any eventuality.

Patrick Sinclair, Web Developer and Founder of


Cyber security is described as a method or a process that protects networks, computers, and data against harm, hostile assaults, and illegal access. It is a set of abilities and techniques that protects users' data, devices, and programs from cyber-attacks. The global cyber threat is evolving at a rapid rate, which means every firm must take the necessary precautions to secure its private data. 

Ethical Hacking is the process of testing and validating a system to identify any flaws so that the organization is notified and can act. Essentially the purpose of this is to emulate a cyber-attack from hackers so that the organization can prepare and defend against real future attacks. The ability to defend networks with continual evaluations is one of the many advantages of ethical hacking. Not to mention the confidence that consumers and investors will create if the security of your data and system is kept up to date.

Key Differences: These two terms are often used interchangeably since the objective of both the terms is the same, but the way that the two approach the objective differs vastly from each other.

The main distinction is that cybersecurity focuses on defending the system from attacks, constantly updating security protocols, whereas ethical hackers concentrate on how to attack the system and break it down to harvest data. Another key point to consider is that not all cybersecurity experts are ethical hackers, but all ethical hackers are cyber security experts. 

Isla Sibanda, a Cybersecurity Specialist with a background in ethical hacking and an entrepreneur at

The Specialists Behind the Roles

Ethical hacking is done by legal hackers authorized by the owners to perform these hacking tasks. Their job is to prepare a report on the hacking process and collect data to assist in investigations and other operations. 

Mostly ethical hacking is carried out to help the cops. Cyber Security is carried out by cyber security experts to monitor the system and take preventive measures to safeguard from unknown online malicious activities.

Harriet Chan, Co-Founder and Marketing Director of CocoFinder.

Key Roles

Ethical hacking is an activity that has been identified as critical to companies' cybersecurity. Indeed, ethical hacking helps an organization identify technical vulnerabilities affecting their systems, networks, or applications most commonly. To do so, companies hire a hacker. This is the offensive security side. The hacker simulates a cyberattack and provides visibility of technical weakness ahead of the malicious cybercriminals or malicious hackers.

Cybersecurity, on the other hand, allows organizations to protect their valuable assets and systems from disruption, data loss, or breach. It encompasses defensive cybersecurity. Cybersecurity requires a balance between controls across people, processes, and technology. 

Ethical hacking is just one domain in the cybersecurity industry. It is undoubtedly critical and required. However, it does not allow companies to build cyber resilience if implemented solely; it is just a piece of the puzzle.

Cybersecurity requires understanding an organization's risks, and adapting the security controls that are needed. Then, the company proceeds with ethical hacking or penetration testing on its systems, networks, or applications that are considered in the scope, based on its risk appetite. In addition to ethical hacking, the company needs to implement other security controls.

Magda Chelly, CISO and a Hacker, Responsible Cyber Pte. Ltd.

Main Aims

Cybersecurity is that domain that provides solutions for its users' security on their endpoints and networks via various skills and tools. For instance, a tool like Threat Prevention will protect endpoints and networks from malicious attacks that might occur based on prediction, a tool like Privileged Access Management will, among others, deescalate users' rights if dubious activity is detected. 

On the other hand, ethical hacking is something different, being a part of cybersecurity actually, being basically a process where the system is continuously tested to find vulnerabilities that, if not patched or discovered, could further serve as paths to hackers malicious actions.

Basically, in ethical hacking, security experts are the good hackers authorized to bypass system security, as they hack the system for good purposes in order to find where's the problem and how they can protect it. 

There are also three key differences between cybersecurity and ethical hacking: the roles associated with them, the goal, and the process. For instance, security analyst roles are related to cybersecurity, while penetration testing roles and security manager ones are related to ethical hacking. 

Cybersecurity's main focus is system protection; ethical hacking's main focus is to attack the system in order to bring out the weak spots, so, as I mentioned before, hacking the system for good purposes. In cybersecurity, the process is based on continuous updates; in the second area, it's based on continuous system testing.

Andra Andrioaie, a Content & PR Officer at Heimdal™ Security

Cybersecurity vs. Ethical Hacking


The Fundamental Idea: It entails identifying and fixing system security concerns in order to safeguard data.

Roles Crucial: Security analyst and SOC engineer are two examples of cybersecurity occupations.

The main goal: Cyber security is a defensive job that focuses on how to secure the system.

Process: Cyber security professionals update the system on a regular basis to ensure that it is up to current.

Ethical Hacking

The Fundamental Idea: It entails identifying vulnerabilities and flaws in the system that malevolent attackers may exploit, reporting them to the owner, and repairing them.

Roles Crucial: Roles such as penetration tester and security manager are involved in ethical hacking.

The main goal: Ethical hacking is an offensive job that focuses on how to attack the system.

Process: Ethical hackers examine the system on a regular basis in order to uncover faults.

Yousun Allen, CEO at Yosun UV Printer

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