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How to become a Penetration Tester or White Hat Hacker

Published: Friday 12th October 2018

Display showing multicoloured codingHardly a week goes by without another data breach or hacking scandal making the headlines. At a time when there is so much concern about cybercriminals and hackers, it should come as no surprise that the industry of penetration testing is booming and there are more hacker jobs than ever.

Carried out by workers known as white hat hackers, penetration testing (pen-test) is how hacking experts test the vulnerabilities of IT infrastructure by attempting to infiltrate or compromise the technology. The job involves isolating bugs and flaws, identifying where data breaches can occur and how IT systems can be improved through the development of defensive mechanisms to protect the technology from criminal hackers.

The emergence of penetration testing in the workplace

Mysterious male figure with hooded jacket on on black backgroundAs new technologies such as SaaS (Software as a Service), mobile apps, and IoT (the Internet of Things) make an increasing impact on every area of society, business and work, penetration testing has become commonplace and is now viewed as an essential practice in many companies. The result has been an explosion of jobs in ethical hacking. In fact, the cyber security market is expected to grow from $75 billion in 2015 to $170 billion by 2020. This means jobs in hacking are appearing in every industry niche, from government jobs and IT to just about every conceivable industry that invests in technology. Opportunities in ethical hacking are growing fast and look to do so for the foreseeable future, meaning there is plenty of work out there for those looking to move into the industry as a penetration tester or white hat hacker.

Becoming a penetration testerA sophisticated female with a transparent computer display

The boom means a job as a white hat hacker can mean good wages, job security and excellent opportunities for career progression. Of course, it can also be a full and highly fulfilling job in its own right. But how do you get started?

As yet, there are very few dedicated courses in penetration testing, so most would-be white hat hackers start out by doing independent study, starting in an area such as web application pen-testing, which can give students a fundamental knowledge of client side and server side attack, including common web apps vulnerabilities and how to exploit them. After gaining the basics, you can then move into network hacking and other areas.

Others start as system administrators or programmers, as these jobs offer an in-depth knowledge of how systems work and what can go wrong when it comes to exploits and vulnerabilities. Along the way, workers pick up security and penetration testing expertise and can then progress into a role more focused on ethical hacking.

Getting a job in hacking

Once you have the experience, there’s plenty of work out there, including both full-time, contract and part-time jobs in hacking. If you’re looking for a new job as a penetration tester, you’ll find lots of opportunities on Zoek UK. Right now, there are a number of jobs in London, as well as other UK destinations, so start your search today.

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