WHAT DOES A PENETRATION TESTER DO?
A Penetration Tester (a.k.a. Ethical Hacker) probes for and exploits security vulnerabilities in web-based applications, networks, and systems.
In other words, you get paid to hack legally. In this “cool kid” job, you will use a series of penetration tools some predetermined, some that you design yourself to simulate real-life cyber attacks. Your ultimate aim is to help the company develop its security.
Penetration Tester Responsibilities
Ethical hacking is a mix of sexiness and boring bits. Unlike real-life hackers, you may only have days to settle systems. What’s more, you will be required to document and describe your methods and findings. Penetration testing has been called one of the most frustrating jobs/work in the infosec field.
Overall, you are likely to be required to:
- Perform formal pen tests on web-based applications, networks, and computer systems
- Conduct physical security assessments of systems, servers, and network devices
- Design and make new penetration tools and tests
- Pinpoint methods that attackers could use to exploit logic flaws and weaknesses.
- Probe for vulnerabilities in web applications, thin/fat client applications, and standard applications Employ social engineering to uncover security holes.
- Incorporate business considerations into security strategies
- Research, document and handle security findings with management and IT teams.
- Work on improvements for security services, including the continuous improvement of existing methodology supporting assets and material
- Define and review requirements for information security solutions
- Give feedback and verification as an organization fixes security issues.
During the pen test, you will typically focus on using vulnerabilities. The Difference Between a Pen Test and a Vulnerability Assessment, you do not have to go all the way to prove your point:
A penetration testing team may be able to take pictures standing next to the open safe simply, or to show they have full access to a database, etc. without actually taking the entire set of actions that a criminal could.
Certifications For Penetration Testers
- CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker
- Licensed Penetration Tester
- GPEN: GIAC Certified Penetration Tester
- CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- OSCP: Offensive Security Certified Professional
- GCIH: GIAC Certified Incident Handler
- CREA: Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst
- GCFA: GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst
- CCFE: Certified Computer Forensics Examiner
Penetration Tester Vs. Vulnerability Assessor
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between Vulnerability Assessors and Penetration Testers. We like Miessler’s explanation:
Penetration Tests are designed to perform a specific, attacker-simulated goal and should be requested by customers who are already at their fancied security posture. A standard goal could be to enter the contents of the prized customer database on the inside network or to modify a record in an HR system.
Vulnerability Assessments are designed to generate a prioritized list of vulnerabilities and are usually for clients who already know they are not where they want to be in terms of security. The customer already understands they have issues and require help identifying and prioritizing them.
In simple terms, Pen Testers are goal-orientated, and Vulnerability Assessors are list-orientated.
Penetration Tester Career Paths
Penetration testers come at the field from all angles. Some take up hacking in university others use their CS degree to concentrate on cybersecurity.
Regardless of your path, companies are unlikely to hire you straight out of school. You can always consider obtaining experience in IT jobs such as:
- Security Administrator
- System Administrator
- Network Administrator
- Network Engineer
After you have shown your worth as a Penetration Tester, you may find better pay as a:
- Senior Penetration Tester
- Security Architect
- Security Consultant
Penetration Testers are also known as:
- Ethical Hacker
- Assurance Validato
PENETRATION TESTER SALARIES
According to Payscale, the median salary for a Pen Tester is $81,892. Overall, you can expect to take home total pay of $49,206 – $133,134. This includes your base annual salary, bonuses, tips, profit sharing, commissions, overtime pay and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable.
PENETRATION TESTER JOB REQUIREMENTS
Most Pen Testers do not hold a specialized degree. Since ethical hacking is more about skills than course credits, a bachelor or master’s degree in cybersecurity is irrelevant if you have relevant job experience.
Hone your street skills any which way you can. Go to hacking conferences, research valuable certifications, look into SANS courses, set up a Penetration testing lab, learn from other Penetration testers, read and read more.
Overall, companies appear to be looking for 2-4 years of security experience with practice in pen testing and vulnerability assessments. The range for Senior Pen Testers is more whimsical. It may be as low as 3 and as high as 7-10 years of work experience.
Penetration testers conduct develop code, security audits, automate processes, reverse engineer binaries the list goes on. So try and learn as much as you can about operating systems, communications, software, and network protocols.
Here are Some Technical Skills we Have Seen Employers Favoring:
- Windows, UNIX and Linux operating systems
- C, C++, C#, ASM, Java, PERL, PHP,
- Network servers and networking tools (e.g., Nmap, Nessus, Burp, etc.)
- Computer software and hardware systems
- Web-based applications
- Security frameworks (e.g., ISO 27001/27002, NIST, HIPPA, SOX, etc.)
- Security tools and products (AppScan, Fortify, etc.)
- Vulnerability analysis and reverse engineering
- Metasploit framework
- Cryptography principles
- Forensics tools
Writing your résumé? Start with the standard list of soft skills: creativity, analytical thinking and problem-solving. Explain them proof of your high ethical standards. Show your “out-of-the-box” approach. Note your scrupulous attention to detail.
Oral and communication skills are two other biggies. In addition to the amount of paperwork (assessments and writing reports), you might be surprised at how often you will have to talk to people. Part of your day will include defining your methods to non-technical and technical audiences. You could also be coordinating social engineering initiatives.
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