How to Become an Ethical Hacker: A Guide

Ethical hacking

Not all hackers break into security systems and steal data to harm companies and make money from it. There are white or ethical hackers. Their task is to find all vulnerabilities on a website or online service for further analysis. Such specialists are in demand. And many of them earned millions of dollars.

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What Ethical Hacking Is

Online services are made up of large and complex pieces of software, and errors are possible. Small ones are not a problem. But larger ones can lead to the fact that an attacker gains access to secret information and user accounts, and divulges the data arrays stored on the site.

No matter how hard site owners try, it is difficult to create absolute protection for the code. And sometimes important vulnerabilities go unnoticed. Checking a website or online service for such security vulnerabilities to improve it is called ethical hacking or penetration tests. This is a targeted search for errors in code by an IT specialist who works in the field of security research.

What an Ethical Hacker Does

Ethical hackers, also known as white-hat hackers or information security analysts, don’t steal data or cause damage. They detect the problem and report it to the site owner so they can fix the error. Many companies specifically hire such specialists to conduct such testing and improve the security of their websites.

The work of an ethical hacker is highly paid. According to Glassdoor analysts, the average annual salary for an ethical hacker (in the US) is $100,000. But a company may not have a large budget and it will pay off with its product or by publishing the name of the analyst on the site’s honor board in the section with information about the developers. It is not profitable but a good way for a beginner IT specialist to form a portfolio of projects in order to get a good vacancy later.

What a Novice Hacker Needs to Know and Be Able to Do

The simplest testing doesn’t require a lot of knowledge. It can often be done using automated tools. Programming skills are not required for an ethical hacker but they can help in the profession. This will give an understanding of the groups of mistakes that IT specialists developing the site could have made.

  • You should know the basics of programming and easily pass mathematical and logical tests, for example, TalentQ
  • Think critically
  • Be attentive to details
  • Have experience in administering Windows OS and Active Directory
  • Have basic knowledge of Linux, networking, IP addressing, and static routing
  • Be able to configure anti-tamper systems based on Windows, antivirus systems, Apache 2, NGINX, MySQL.

Information security is a rapidly changing industry. Technologies appear quite fast, so a specialist must be aware of the latest trends, developments, techniques, and software. A future ethical hacker should monitor what is happening in the market.

What Language You Should Use

It depends on which platform you will be working on. For web applications, it’s best to learn HTML, PHP, JSP, and ASP. For mobile applications, you should pay attention to Java (Android), Swift (iOS), and C # (Windows Phone). For desktop software, try Java, C #, C ++. It is also recommended to use Python because it is a general-purpose language, and it is becoming more and more popular nowadays due to its portability.

But what is really needed for every programming language is to learn the basics of programming and concepts such as data types and manipulating variables in a program at the operating system level, using subroutines and their functions. This knowledge will be suitable for every programming language.

What Books are there on Ethical Hacking?

Books and tutorials will help you find up-to-date information related to potential exploits — they should be used as a source of general knowledge. It is much more important to constantly engage in your own research: do more practice, communicate with colleagues, and study other people’s cases.

Coding assignment experts from programming homework service advises the following books for ethical hackers:

  • Jon Erickson, “Hacking: The Art of Exploitation”;
  • Patrick Engebretson, “The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing”;
  • Peter Kim, “The Hacker Playbook”;
  • Georgia Weidman, “In Penetration Testing”;
  • James Corley, “Hands-On Ethical Hacking and Network Defense.”

How to Find a Job?

Hackers can find work in different organizations, including government ones. But working for the government usually requires special access, which includes going through extensive background checks.

Making contacts in the hacking community can help you find a job. Hackers are actively recruited by all types of organizations looking to secure their IT systems, and participation in events such as hacker conferences and conventions can connect a person with future colleagues or interested recruiters.

It is advisable to attend closed “parties” of specialists — specialized conferences, meetups, hackathons, seminars, and master classes where industry cases and hacker attacks are solved and analyzed. Leading experts often share their experiences there.

As you can see, hacking is not a negative act if you do it for good purposes. Ethical hacking is an important part of an organization’s security level. Ethical hacking enables organizations to improve security by identifying and minimizing flaws and vulnerabilities, fixing bugs, and more. To become a white hacker, you need to make a lot of effort, study a lot of new information every day, follow the development of technology, and, which is important, have a desire and striving for a goal.

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