You are probably reading this because you want to become a pentester. But what do you need to obtain this well-paying cybersecurity job? In this guide, you will learn how to become a penetration tester and what qualifications you need.
What is Penetration Testing?
Hackers are always looking for new ways to exploit systems and networks. Even the most secure organizations are usually not that secure. This is where penetration testing – also known as pentesting – comes in!
A penetration tester executes an ethical hack to exploit the vulnerabilities of a system to find out if an attack is possible. The results of this simulated attack are then used to increase the system’s security. Therefore, a penetration tester has to think like an attacker to improve an organization’s security.
A pentester earns between $75,000 and $130,000 a year.
How to Become a Penetration Tester
Most people begin their journeys in other IT-related jobs such as programming and system administration and later take a certified course in pentesting. This means that you should take Computer Science or IT degree courses that have some cybersecurity programs. Also, you need a good understanding of coding, networks, and operating systems to become a pentester.
However, some ethical hackers are self-taught pentesters or reformed criminal hackers that now want to use their skills for good.
If you are already in the cybersecurity field, follow these steps to become a pentester.
- Do your research: read as much as you can on penetration testing and cybersecurity to understand the subjects better. Since you need prerequisite knowledge in networks, hardware, databases, and data analysis, refresh your memory if you need to.
- Get practical: practice what you have learned by using penetration toolkits like Security Onion. This toolkit offers tools to help you practice pentesting on your own. Also, familiarize yourself with the Penetration Testing Execution Standard (PTES) and OWASP.
- Get certified: take certification courses in penetration testing, ethical hacking, networking, and security. These certificates will increase your employment chances.
- Look for a pentesting job: as a penetration tester, you can work within an organization or as a consultant.
Roles of a Pentester
When you get a job as a penetration tester, you can expect to take up the tasks below.
- Testing networks and applications: this entails running simulation attacks and keeping existing tests up to date. Employers will also expect you to know how to apply penetration testing tools.
- Testing physical security: your new role will include checking that servers can withstand non-cyber threats such as vandalism and climate effects.
- Carrying out security audits: this is another important role for every pentester. Your organization will expect you to examine networks and systems and write audit reports.
- Writing security reports: you will have to write security reports with metrics and strategies to show your test results and recommendations.
- Participate in security policy reviews: you will work with the larger security team in handling security policy reviews.
Your role as a pentester will involve reporting your findings and recommendations. Therefore, you need good communication and presentation skills to carry out this role effectively. Project management, problem-solving, and people management skills will also come in handy.