A career as an ethical hacker can be a tempting prospect for someone who is passionate about the world of computing and enjoys challenges. Ethical hackers are paid well for using their advanced computer skills and knowledge to break into computer systems. Since ethical hackers use their knowledge to help businesses and organizations improve the vulnerability of their system, they are always in demand.
What is an ethical hacker?
The term hacking is associated with cybercrime, but that’s not the role of an ethical hacker. Ethical hackers are different from hackers who use their advanced computer skills for nefarious activities. Instead, ethical hackers leverage their technological know-how to identify weaknesses in computer data security and protect organizations and individuals from cybercriminals. Ethical hacking involves modifying the characteristics of a system to achieve positive goals outside of the creator’s original purpose.
What does an ethical hacker do?
Certified ethical hackers are tasked with various roles. Your responsibilities may vary from company to company, but there are common roles for all ethical hackers, such as:
Security assessment: Ethical hackers will often be assigned to assess network security. Information security assessment involves measuring the security posture of a company or system. Security assessments are periodic exercises that companies perform to test their preparedness for potential threats. The assessment includes verifying the vulnerability of the system and recommending techniques to reduce the risk of attacks.
Threat modeling: Ethical hackers are responsible for optimizing network security by assessing potential vulnerabilities and determining measures to mitigate the effects of an attack. A threat is an actual or potential event that can compromise a company’s system or network. Ethical hackers can help reduce attacks by providing a comprehensive view of potential threats and their effects on the organization. One of the goals of threat modeling is to determine the areas to focus on when protecting your system. However, threat modeling can change as new applications are added and unique and unknown circumstances develop.
Report writing: Threat correlation, vulnerability identification, and data collection have little value if an ethical hacker can’t write a clear and concise report. Ethical hackers need to understand the value of writing expertise when considering potential educational opportunities and professional certifications to enhance their hacking careers. The ability to write well-written reports can drive the professional success of an ethical hacker.
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How to become an ethical hacker
Patience is an essential skill for anyone planning to pursue a career as an ethical hacker. As in any other career, beginners in ethical hacking cannot expect to get a higher-ranking position and earn a large salary immediately. While there is the possibility of building an impressive professional profile in a short period, beginners in ethical hacking should be patient and focus on honing their skills.
1. Earn a degree in computer science
Earning a degree in computer science is a requirement for most careers in ethical hacking. Ethical hackers can also receive an A+ certification by taking two exams that assess their knowledge of computer components and their ability to reassemble a PC. You must possess at least 500 hours of computer experience to take the qualifying test. Ethical hackers who have performed this test can expect to earn an average of $44,000 a year. However, an ethical hacker needs to earn a CNNA or Network+ rating before advancing their career. It is a certification that validates the knowledge of an ethical hacker on networks, including troubleshooting, maintaining, installing, and managing computers.
2. Gain experience in supporting the network
The next stage before qualifying as an ethical hacker is network support. At this stage, ethical hackers learn to update, install, and monitor security programs and test their weaknesses. Before securing a position as a network engineer, an ethical hacker will need to gain experience in network security. The ethical hacking course certified at this stage will develop the network security skills needed to counter hacking attempts.
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3. Work as a network engineer
You can expect to earn between $60,000 and $65,000 per year after gaining experience in network security. Network engineers have enough knowledge and skill to not only support a network, but also design and plan networks. Once you become a network engineer, your focus should be on the security aspect. The certifications required for a network engineer include TICSA, CISSP, and Security+.
4. Learn more about information security
Learning how to deal with information security is an important step in becoming an ethical hacker. The average salary of an information security expert is around $69,000 per year. Your role will include examining security and network systems, implementing security measures, and handling security breaches. An information security expert should concentrate on infiltration testing to understand how the various tools are used.
5. Get the necessary certification
Certified ethical hackers are professionals who use the same knowledge as malicious hackers to identify vulnerabilities in target networks and systems. CEH evaluates the security posture of an organization’s network or system in a legitimate and legal manner. Certified ethical hackers are some of the most sought-after professionals by tech-savvy companies and organizations. However, several job roles can be assigned to ceh certification, including the security consultant, security auditor, site administrator, security analyst, penetration tester, network security specialist, and ethical hacker. CEH certification opens up high-ranking, well-paying job opportunities in the government and private sector IT sectors.
There are two ways to qualify for CEH certification. First, attend an official certified ethical hacker training course. You can register for this training at an EC-Council approved institution or online through the iClass platform. The CEH can also be obtained without attending an official training. However, the following requirements must first be met, including submitting a $100 non-refundable application fee, submitting the CEH exam application, and submitting the information security experience documentation. The EC Council will confirm your eligibility for CEH certification by email.
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Essential skills for an ethical hacker
Experience with various network and system testing tools can increase your success as an ethical hacker. Tools like OpenVAS, Netsparker, and Metasploit are designed to save time when an ethical hacker looks for system vulnerabilities. Below are some essential skills for an ethical hacker.
Problem solving: Ethical hackers need to become more innovative as cybercriminals find more ways to counter security protocols. Physical measures, including using drones to detect potential vulnerabilities, are becoming more common to gather intelligence and counter potential threats. Ethical hackers should use all attack vectors at their disposal to develop a comprehensive threat analysis.
Basic hardware knowledge: Physical breaches in the data center or server room can precede a digital attack. However, ethical hackers can avoid such threats by understanding the vulnerability of their physical assets and the methods that intruders can use in a physical attack.
Social engineering skills: Success in IT tends to extend beyond security work experience. Physical penetration testing and social engineering are skills applicable in ethical hacking. Most cybercriminals begin their attack with an extended social engineering campaign. Therefore, knowledge of social engineering tactics and strategies can help to understand how attacks are initiated.
Database management systems: Ethical hackers are responsible for creating and managing all databases. Making sure all networks and systems are hack-proof can help prevent access to a database where sensitive information is stored. As an ethical hacker, you need to hone your database management skill and understand different data schemas and database engines to help build a robust database management system.
Excellent computer skills: Basic computer skills include creating presentations, managing files, and processing data. Ethical hackers require basic and advanced computer skills, including running calculations in spreadsheets and managing databases to succeed in their role.