One of the most commonly asked questions in 2021 was “Should I Consider A Career In Penetration Testing In 2022?” So we decided to begin this year by answering this.
In this article, we will cover the following topics.
- What is Penetration Testing?
- What does a Penetration Tester do?
- Tasks and responsibilities of a Penetration Tester.
- What are some soft & hard skills required?
- Penetration Testing v/s Ethical Hacking
- Why should you pursue a career in Penetration Testing?
- Is a college degree needed to become a Penetration Tester?
- How to Become a Penetration Tester?
What is Penetration Testing?
Ever wonder how hackers can pull off a cyberattack? You’ve probably seen in the news how many people are being attacked. You could become a Penetration Tester if you’re interested in how they do it.
To be a successful Pentester or Penetration Tester, you must think like an attacker. Pentesters are motivated by curiosity about how cybersecurity work and how threat actors can infiltrate and destroy them. Pentesting refers to the process of testing computer systems, networks, and web applications to identify and exploit vulnerabilities.
What does a Penetration Tester do?
Penetration testers (or pentesters) simulate cyberattacks against a company’s computers and networks. These authorized tests are used to identify security weaknesses and vulnerabilities before hackers exploit them.
An entry-level position in cybersecurity is often the first step to a career as a pentester.
You will play a proactive and offensive role in cybersecurity as a penetration tester by attacking the company’s digital systems to find vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. These tests may use a variety of hacking tools and techniques. You will keep track of your actions and compile a report detailing what you did and how successful it was in breaching security protocols.
Tasks and responsibilities of a Penetration Tester.
Each organization will have different daily tasks for pen testers. Below are some everyday responsibilities and tasks that you might encounter in this role
- Test applications, network devices, cloud infrastructures, and more
- Design and implement simulated social engineering attacks.
- Research various types of attacks.
- Develop Penetration Testing methodologies.
- Identify Security vulnerabilities by reviewing code.
- Conduct spam and malware reverse engineering
- Address document security and compliance issues.
- Automate common testing methods to increase efficiency
- Prepare executive and technical reports
- Communicate your findings to technical staff as well as executive leadership
- Perform additional testing to validate security improvements
What are some soft & hard skills required?
- Excellent networking skills. You will need to identify and exploit network vulnerabilities.
- System administration skills. Pen-testing is crucial for understanding how computers, servers, and network appliances function and are configured.
- Linux Skills. It is essential to get used to the Linux terminal when using network security tools.
- Automation Skills. Programming languages allow you to automate tasks and use many tools. You can easily learn web development languages and get familiar with common attack surfaces.
- Interpersonal and Communication Skills. These skills are essential to carry out Social Engineering Attacks.
Penetration Testing v/s Ethical Hacking
Ethical Hacking and penetration testing terminology are often used interchangeably in the cybersecurity industry. However, the meanings of these terms are slightly different. Penetration Testing is a method of locating security problems in particular information systems and not causing damage. On the other hand, Ethical Hacking is a broad term covering a wider variety of hacking techniques. One aspect of Ethical Hacking is penetration testing. These roles overlap with the cybersecurity Red Team, which is the group that provides security feedback from an adversary’s point of view.
Why should you pursue a career in Penetration Testing?
As a pentester, you can use your hacking skills to help organizations prevent cyber criminals. This is a highly-paid career that’s in high demand.
- Salary: According to Glassdoor, the average salary for penetration testers in the US is $102,405 as of November 2021. This is only expected to grow in 2022. The factors that affect your salary include where you live, what experience you have, and whether or not you have any certifications. Specific industries, such as financial services or military contracting, pay more than others.
- Outlook: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 33 percent increase in employment for information security analysts and penetration testers between 2020-2030. This is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations in America.
- Career Path: You may be able to lead a pen-testing team as you gain more experience as a penetration tester. Some penetration testers may become information security managers or even executive positions.
Is a college degree needed to become a Penetration Tester?
Although a degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or information technology can be beneficial, not all penetration testing jobs need one. Your level of experience and ability are more important than any degree you may have. It might be beneficial to get a certification if you are starting out in cybersecurity.
How to Become a Penetration Tester?
1) Develop and Strengthen your skills.
Penetration testers must understand security systems and information technology (IT) to test for vulnerabilities successfully. Some of the skills you need to develop include
- Awareness of network and applications security
- Familiarity with programming languages, particularly for scripting (Python and BASH, Java and Ruby, Perl, etc.
- Threat modeling awareness
- Good understanding of Linux, Windows, and macOS environments
- Experience with security assessment tools
- Experience with Pentest management platforms
- Documentation and technical writing skills
- Knowledge of Cryptography
- Knowledge of Cloud architecture
2) Take advantage of online courses or training programs.
A specialized course or training program is a great way to develop the skills you will need to be a penetration tester. These programs allow you to learn in a structured environment and build multiple skills simultaneously.
Check out the Cybersecurity School if you are new to cybersecurity. This includes a unit on penetration testing, incident response, and more. You can complete the entire program online at your own pace so that you can acquire job-ready skills while managing other responsibilities.
3) Get Certified
Certifications can significantly boost your chances of securing a job as a Penetration Tester. Some reputable certifications include:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).
- CompTIA PenTest+
- GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN)
- GIAC Web Application Penetration Tester (GWAPT)
- Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP).
- Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)
Passing an exam is usually required to earn one of these certifications. You can earn a credential to add to your resume, but preparing for certification exams can help you improve your skills.
4) Take advantage of Simulated environments
Companies are looking for penetration testers who have previous experience. There are numerous ways to gain experience outside the workplace. Many pen testing programs offer hands-on testing in simulated settings.
Participating in a bug bounty program is another way to get experience and make your resume stand out. These programs offer cash bonuses to security researchers and pen testers who report bugs or security flaws in the code. This provides a great way to network with security professionals and test your skills. A list of bounties can be found on websites like HackerOne and Bugcrowd .
Finally, many websites allow penetration testers legal practice and experiment with fun, gamified experiences. Some popular websites are
Penetration testing requires an understanding of networks, computers, security, and other technical skills. Despite this being intimidating at first, it is possible to learn the skills and become fluent in the related technologies through practice and persistence.
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