The “ethical hackers,” or “nice guys,” are penetration testers. Penetration testers, also known as assurance validators, are hired by network system owners and web-based application providers to hunt for holes that malevolent hackers may be able to exploit in order to gather secure data and intelligence.

Ethical hackers do vulnerability assessments (among many other things) by utilising their talents and knowledge — and they are rewarded to perform the equivalent of digital break-ins.

They replicate genuine cyberattacks with a wide range of tools and methodologies, some of which they developed, leaving no stone unturned in their quest to find flaws in security protocols for networks, systems, and web-based applications.

The goal of a penetration test, also known as a pen test, is to investigate all conceivable ways to breach any given computer system in order to identify security flaws BEFORE the real hackers can get in. As a result, pen testers frequently work on highly private and time-sensitive projects, thus they must be trustworthy and remain calm under pressure.

Penetration testers should be able to think creatively on the go while yet being organised enough to document, record, and report on initiatives.

5 important things any great pen tester needs

  1. Self-assessment: Penetration testing is not for everyone. It requires excellent problem-solving skills, perseverance, attention to detail, and a strong desire to keep current on current advances in the field. Successful ethical hackers must possess a high level of each of these characteristics in order to excel. So, before you decide if pen testing is a good career for you, be honest with yourself.
  2. Education: It was formerly customary for corporations to employ real-world hackers and train them to work for the good guys once they had left the “evil side.” However, in recent years, college degrees have almost become a requirement for penetration testers. Undergraduate degrees in the different domains of cybersecurity are all suitable entry points into the industry.
  3. Path to a career: There are various avenues for aspiring pen testers to enter into the cybersecurity profession. Starting out in security administration, network administration, network engineer, system administrator, or web-based application development will give a solid basis for pen testing.
  4. Professional credentials: Employers prefer to see a variety of professional qualifications on assurance validators’ resumes, especially for more senior jobs. Several organisations now provide industry-recognized qualifications for penetration testing positions.
  5. Honing your talent: Becoming an expert in a chosen topic is a good idea in any job, but there are other methods for penetration testers to separate out from the crowd. Being active and acknowledged in cybersecurity disciplines such as bug bounty programmes, gathering open-source intelligence (OSINT), and designing proprietary attack programmes will all help pen testers get recognition among their peers.

What is a penetration tester?

Penetration testers and ethical hackers are the private investigators of the information security world. The aim, like with all PI operations, is to detect dangers before any prospective intrusive operators can put their plans into action.

One of the fundamental facts of human nature in general, and digital information systems in particular, is that dishonest individuals will constantly seek chances to exploit flaws. Pen testers examine, discover, and assist in the repair of any possible vulnerabilities in wired and wireless network systems, as well as web-based applications.

The tug of war between ethical hackers’ proactive activity and the efforts of real-world hackers is a never-ending arms race. Each side strives to expand their knowledge, talents, and tactics beyond the capability of the other.

Pen testers employ an offensive defensive tactic. The purpose is to provide the greatest possible information security by assaulting computer systems offensively in the same way that a real-life hacker would, therefore beating the hacker to the punch and aiding in the closure of the vulnerability. As a consequence, information and systems that are under assault will be protected.

Skills and experience that a penetration tester require

Some occupations still merely demand the presentation of applicable skills and a sufficient degree of cybersecurity expertise and understanding. Employers are increasingly looking for employees with a bachelor’s degree in information security or a comparable computer science degree. Some advanced occupations need a master’s degree.

Software development and coding, security testing, vulnerability assessment, network engineer or administrator, and security administrator are all examples of jobs that frequently lead to employment in penetration testing.

Work experience that often leads to careers in penetration testing includes software development and coding, security testing, vulnerability assessment, network engineer or administrator, security administrator.

Knowledge of specific computer languages is often one of the main requirements, such as: 

  • Python
  • Powershell 
  • Golang
  • Bash

Employers frequently seek professional credentials from the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional), SANS Technology Institute, /”>GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification), and EC-Council.

Employers look for soft skills and experience such as: outstanding communication skills; self-motivation, creativity, and resourcefulness; contributions to open source projects and bug bounty programmes; and familiarity with the OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities.

What is a penetration testers main purpose?

Pen testers are generally responsible for threat modelling, security assessments, and ethical hacking of networks, systems, and web-based applications. In particular, assurance validation entails some or all of the following tasks:

  • To locate information leaks, gather and evaluate Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).
  • Provide subject matter knowledge concentrating on offensive security testing activities, as well as working to test defensive systems inside a business.
  • Conduct evaluations on a wide range of technologies and implementations using both automated and manual tools and methodologies.
  • Create scripts, tools, and procedures to help improve testing processes.
  • Assist in the scoping of potential engagements, as well as guiding engagements from the beginning to the end of implementation and remediation.
  • Perform social engineering activities as well as physical penetration testing.
  • Examine wired and wireless networks for security flaws.

Outlook for penetration testers

For the foreseeable future, information security specialists will be in high and quickly expanding demand. In reality, there is a substantial lack of information security specialists across all disciplines, and this deficit is projected to persist for the foreseeable future. As networks, applications, and information requirements become increasingly complex and vital to corporate and state operations, these systems become more directly targeted and susceptible. Pen testers are at the cutting edge of technological skill, playing the role of would-be attackers the most closely. Top pen testers are currently highly valued among information security professionals, and there are no indicators that this attitude will change in the near future.

How much do penetration testers make?

Penetration tester salary is dependant upon experience and can also depend on which company you are working for. In the UK, a junior penetration tester could potentially earn up to £24k per year, and see it go upwards up to £34k for a more experienced pen tester.

Connie Cole
Connie Cole

Connie has been working within the cyber security industry for almost 10 years now, specialising in penetration testing or more specifically web application pen testing. She believes that everyone online should have access to this information and strives to provide people with the knowledge they need to begin within the industry and for others to stay safe online.

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