Penetration Tester 101

7 Feb 2023

Photo by Desola Lanre-Ologun on Unsplash

Penetration testing is an invaluable skill in the world of cybersecurity. It involves attempting to access systems and networks without authorization to uncover potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses.

Being able to assess these risks, and respond with appropriate countermeasures appropriately, is essential for all organizations and their digital assets.

If you're looking for a basic step-by-step guide to becoming an expert penetration tester, this article will provide you with the needed knowledge.

What is Pen Testing?

Penetration testing, also known as pen testing or ethical hacking, is a cybersecurity practice that involves simulating cyberattacks to identify vulnerabilities in networks, systems, and applications.

Pen testers use manual and automated techniques to attempt to gain unauthorized access to systems to uncover potential weaknesses before malicious hackers exploit them.

What Is Penetration Testing/Pentest? Benefits & Its Types

By assessing how secure an organization's digital infrastructure is against real-world attacks, pen testers can help organizations reduce their exposure to data breaches and other cyber threats.

Pen testing exercises typically include finding system vulnerabilities, exploiting those vulnerabilities, attempting privilege escalation on user accounts, and breaching networks from external sources.

After performing these tests, pen testers will analyze the results for security flaws or weaknesses that attackers could use for malicious purposes.

Organizations can then address these issues before outside actors exploit them.

Obtain Qualifications

As a penetration tester requires dedication, time, and a commitment to learning. Individuals need to acquire specific certifications relevant to the field of study to demonstrate their knowledge about cyber security best practices and ethical hacking principles.

How to become a penetration tester - Cybersecurity Guide

One should also stay up-to-date with the latest developments in cyber security threats by reading research papers regularly or attending seminars on the topic.

Having practical experience as a white hat hacker can prove invaluable when applying for jobs or contracts as a penetration tester.

Learn Technical Skills

If you're a penetration tester, you must be highly knowledgeable in computer networks and systems security.

To become a successful penetration tester, you'll need to gain several vital technical skills to help you identify and protect against various cyberattacks.

The Fundamentals of Networking | IBM

The first skill that is required for this job is knowledge about the different types of networks used today.

This includes understanding concepts like IP addresses, protocols, and firewalls.
It would be best if you also understood operating systems such as Windows and Unix-based systems.

Network analysis tools such as Wireshark are valuable assets when attempting to identify weaknesses in networks or specific targets within them.

Tools and Resources

As a penetration tester, you must have the necessary tools and resources to carry out your job.

List of Top Penetration Testing Tools 2023 - TrustRadius

You know what to use and when can give you the edge in evaluating system security and identifying potential vulnerabilities.

A wide range of tools is available for penetration testers, from commercial products such as:

To open source products like:

These tools enable testers to identify weaknesses in systems, networks, applications, and individual devices.

With these specialized tools, software developers should consider leveraging development frameworks such as OWASP ZAP and Burp Suite Pro which provide greater accuracy and control when testing web applications.

Join Communities

Joining communities of like-minded professionals is a great way for penetration testers to stay up-to-date on best practices and develop their skills.

Join the world's most collaborative pentester community | Cobalt

These communities provide members with an invaluable opportunity to network with others who are also involved in the field of penetration testing.

Working together allows members to share ideas, compare notes, and learn from each other's experiences.

Pentest Community Application - HackerOne

The communities often organize workshops and seminars where professionals can collaborate in developing new techniques or discussing potential solutions for challenging problems.

By joining these communities, penetration testers will gain access to the necessary resources for staying ahead of the curve with their knowledge and expertise.

Become Certified

For many aspiring penetration testers, gaining certifications is an important step in becoming a successful and accredited professional.

How to Become Penetration Tester in 2023 - EC-Council

Obtaining the proper certifications can be daunting for those who are just starting, as there are several options to choose from.

But with some research and guidance, aspiring penetration testers can easily find their way to the best certifications that will help them achieve their goals in the field of cybersecurity.

Penetration Tester Certifications - Cyber Degrees

One of the most important requirements for becoming a penetration tester is obtaining an academic degree in Information Security or Computer Science.

This degree can be obtained through an online program or traditional university coursework. Additionally, some employers may require certification from organizations such as:

These certifications help demonstrate to potential employers that applicants have acquired industry-standard skillsets associated with penetration testing.

Also, Certifications provided by organizations such as Offensive Security Certified Professionals (OSCP) are some of the most popular choices among penetration testers.

These two provide foundational knowledge on hacking techniques and tools which make them perfect for new professionals entering this field.

They cover everything from scanning to exploitation techniques, cryptography, reverse engineering, and malware analysis – all skills required of the successful penetration tester.

Final Thought

Becoming a penetration tester is not an easy task. It requires a strong understanding of technology, security, and coding.

It also requires analytical skills and the ability to think outside the box. However, with dedication, hard work, and a passion for cybersecurity, penetration testers can become successful in this field.

Continuing education is essential for those who want to excel in this field to keep up with the ever-evolving cybersecurity world.


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Incyb3r focuses on cybersecurity education and career advice. I started this blog as a project to share my experience taking a cybersecurity master's degree.

I have also been able to help other people interested in the field by sharing my experiences and knowledge.

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