In this increasingly digital landscape, hackers are continually innovating and coming up with new ways to exploit information systems. As such, organisations big and small need people willing to adapt to these ever-changing threats and protect their crucial digital assets. This responsibility falls on penetration testers, also known as ethical hackers.
Penetration testers are highly sought after in the cybersecurity industry due to their immensely relevant and flexible skillset. Naturally, this means that they often enjoy relatively sizeable salaries. What’s more, with new threats emerging every day, there is never a dull moment on the job. Anyone who appreciates challenging, exciting, and meaningful work can consider entering a career in penetration testing.
An introduction to penetration testing
Penetration testing is a subset of cybersecurity. It involves the launching of a simulated cyber-attack against the employer’s computer system, often using tools and techniques similar to those malicious hackers may use, to try and breach the system. While the end-goal varies, testers are typically aiming to access data or assets that are protected by an IT security system.
This process allows for a full risk assessment to be conducted, including the identification of exploitable vulnerabilities, and the strengths of the security system. After these factors have been identified, the relevant security engineers can then patch over the vulnerabilities to prevent exploits from malicious hackers. Sometimes, these fixes are implemented by the ethical hackers themselves if they have undergone the relevant training.
Now that you understand the basic job scope of a penetration tester, you can start taking steps to become one.
Be familiar with IT fundamentals
As with many occupations in the IT industry, you will need a strong understanding of IT fundamentals to succeed in your work. While the field of cybersecurity and IT continues to progress at a break-neck pace, there are certain foundational topics that you need to be familiar with.
For instance, knowing how to write and read code is a necessity, better still if you have a working knowledge of various coding languages, like C++, Java, and Python. Following that, you can educate yourself on how IT systems and networks work, and the inner workings of communication protocols. Other important topics include operating systems, applications, and data analysis.
Once you are in the know about the basic principles of IT, you can go on to research more specific cybersecurity topics. Some of these include ethical hacking techniques, vectors, and threat profiles. Additionally, you should keep up-to-date on the latest industry trends by reading IT news sites or attending cybersecurity conferences.
Aside from self-studying, it makes sense to attend cybersecurity training in Singapore as well. After all, there is no better way to get insider knowledge than by learning it from the experts themselves. It is also useful to gain tangible qualifications, such that you can provide employers with proof of your competence. One of the most well-established cybersecurity courses is the Certified Ethical Hacker course, perhaps better known as the CEH course.
This highly practical course imparts all the necessary skills you need to assess an organisation’s security posture. Some highlights include coverage of emerging attack vectors like cloud computing threats and defence mechanisms like artificial intelligence. The CEH certification is also the globally-recognised industry standard, having earned the endorsement of several high-profile organisations.
Practise on practice environments
There is a reason why the certified ethical hacker course focuses on hands-on training. When it comes to penetration testing, practical execution is just as, if not more important than the theory. As such, you can consider getting some practice in on penetration testing practice environments, to best prepare yourself for the actual task.
Several third-party organisations offer virtual penetration testing labs which can let you explore the practical aspects of hacking in a safe and secure environment. Alternatively, you can implement your own test system if you have the resources and knowledge to do so. In that case, you can look for open-source penetration testing toolkits so that you can get a feel for the real thing.
Anyone looking to enter the field of penetration testing will face many challenges, both during their preparatory phase, and on the job. However, they will be rewarded with highly fulfilling and lucrative work, as valued employees of any IT company. If you are still on the fence on whether to start a career in this field, you can consider attending Cybersecurity Conversion Programme. Hear insights from the experts themselves at EC Council as they share their thoughts on what you need to thrive in the cybersecurity industry.