Beginners Guide to Ethical Hacking, Certifications, Career & Salary
Ethical hacking is one of the most demanding career options these days. With time, the number of learning resources, certifications, and job opportunities have significantly increased. Many reputed companies are looking for ethical hackers to protect their computers and network from unauthorized access and cyber-attacks.
If you are also fascinated by the term ‘ethical hacker’ and want to know everything about this career, you’re at the right place. Today, I will talk about ethical hacking, types of hacking, courses and certifications, ethical hacking as a career, responsibilities and nearly everything. So, without any further ado, let’s get started..!!
What is Ethical Hacking?
Hacking is the process of finding loopholes and vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to the system. If you caught in an illegal act, the consequences will be drastic. But when the term ‘ethical’ is added to the hacking, it’s become a purely legitimate job.
Hackers are generally classified especially into three categories: Black Hat Hackers, White Hat Hackers, and Grey Hat Hackers, based on their intent of hacking a system.
Black Hat Hackers
As the name suggests, black hat hackers are the bad guys which also known as crackers. Their main intent behind hacking any system remains to steal sensitive information and harm their operation.
Black Hat hacking includes stealing data, invading privacy, blocking the network, damaging the system, restricting communication, etc. And that’s why it’s always illegal.
White Hat Hackers
These people also play with the security of a network or system but not with an intent to harm it but in order to find weaknesses as a part of their several vulnerability assessments. White hat hackers are also known as Ethical Hackers which is completely legal.
Moreover, it’s one of the most demanding jobs available in the IT industry. There are various companies that are looking for ethical hackers for penetration testing and other security-related profiles. I will talk about ethical hacking in detail but let’s first understand who are grey hat hackers.
Grey Hat Hackers
Grey hat hackers are a combination of both black hat and white hat hackers. They usually hack the system and violate privacy norms, not with malicious intent but for satisfying their fun quotient.
Exploiting security weaknesses in a computer or network without the owner’s permission is actually fun for them. Their main intent is to bring the vulnerabilities of a system to the owner’s attention in the exchange of little bounty and getting appreciation.
Coming back to the main topic, Ethical hacking is also a process where an organization hires someone and allow him/her to hack into their systems to find security issues and weak points.
Unlike the intentions of a black hat hacker, ethical hackers aim to find the vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed before any unfortunate incident happens.
Such people, who try to break the security of a network or system with permission and without any malicious intent, are known as ethical hackers. Today, I will talk about ethical hacking, certification courses, ethical hacking as a career with roles, responsibilities and average salary. If you are a beginner who is planning to take his first step, this article will help you.
Ethical Hacking as a Career
There are many people in this world who don’t have any idea what they are actually doing in their job. But thankfully, ethical hacking is different from those fields. It’s one of the most lucrative and satisfying career options today. It doesn’t only pay well but also brings a greater sense of accomplishment. Here, you face many challenges on a daily basis and so it never gets boring.
Roles and Responsibilities of an Ethical Hacker
An ethical hacker strives to ensure that any vulnerability or sensitive information that could damage the reputation or finances of an organization or its clients does not fall into the wrong hands. I have met people who still believe that ethical hacking is just about penetration testing, but in reality, it’s much.
- Conducting advanced penetration tests to find vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks is the responsibility of an ethical hacker.
- He/she should be able to analyze risk assessment and put proper measures in place to control vulnerable areas.
- Examining patch releases by performing strong vulnerability analysis on them.
- An ethical hacker is responsible to check if it’s possible to invade IDS (Intrusion Detection Systems). IPS (Intrusion Prevention systems), honeypots and firewalls.
- The candidate must be able to employ their strategies such as network sniffing, bypassing and cracking wireless encryption, hijacking web servers, and others to safeguard the systems from unknown risks.
- An ethical hacker should also engage in social engineering practices.
Last but not least, ethical hackers need to carefully document the steps taken to find loopholes and exactly how they were able to compromise client security systems. They have to spend time with IT professionals in order to train them to avoid future security breaches.
Skill Set of an Ethical Hacker
An ethical hacker must be a computer systems expert and have a strong understanding of programming and computer networking. Furthermore, he/she need to have a lot of patience, persistence, and perseverance to try multiple times for the desired results. Ethical hackers are also an expert in operating systems, database handling, etc. They need to possess good communication skills to efficiently talk about the problems with others. An ethical hacker also has a good record of working with the following skills:
- Denial of Service attacks
- Network traffic sniffing
- SQL injection
- Exploit buffer overflow vulnerabilities
- DNS spoofing
- Cross-site scripting
- Social engineering
- Session hijacking and spoofing, etc.
As black hat hackers always come with some new and advanced ways to exploit a system. An ethical hacker must be a creative thinker to predict and be ready for upcoming risks.
Ethical Hacker Average Salary
After getting a much-coveted Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification. You can try for Ethical Hacker, Information Security Analyst, Security Consultant, Penetration Tester, Information Security Manager and other job profiles.
According to payscale, the average salary of an ethical hacker in India varies from Rs. 4,34,483 to Rs. 18,00,000 based on skills, experience and negotiation capabilities. As per the infosec institute, an ethical hacker has an average income of $24,760 – $132,322 per annum in the USA.
Ethical Hacking Certification Courses
According to EC-Council: Ethical Hackers are also known as Penetration testers and they are highly-trained professionals who can employ creative ways beyond the use of automated tools to identify vulnerabilities in a system. The human involvement is essential to stimulate an attack and uncover vulnerabilities. “White hat” hackers need additional training to add penetration testing to their arsenal of skills as ethical hacking is only a part of the pen-testing process. They either go through intensive training or learn on the job. But to grow in the industry, you must acquire skills that are often in-demand by employers. This can be done through a series of credentialing programs.
Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH)
A Certified Ethical Hacker is a skilled personnel who is well versed with the knowledge of how to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in systems. Anyone possessing this certification also uses the same methods and tools as a malicious hacker, but with all permissions and in a legitimate manner.
CEH (v10) is the most popular information security training program in the ethical hacking space. This course is designed around the thinking — “To beat a hacker, you need to think like a hacker.” The certified course explains advanced techniques and provides hacking tools used by hackers and expert information security professionals.
In addition, this course will help you develop a hacker’s mindset so that you will be able to safeguard your network and systems against future cyber attacks. Here, you will scan, test, hack and secure your own systems. This course will introduce to a completely different way of achieving optimal security presence in your organization — by hacking it!
CEH Hacking course will teach you the five phases of ethical hacking and the ways you can approach your target. The five phases include Reconnaissance, Gaining Access, Enumeration, Maintaining Access and covering your tracks.
CEH (v10) is divided into 20 comprehensive modules and covers 340 attack technologies, commonly used by hackers. CEH certification exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions. The length of the exam is 4 hours.
Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH Practical)
C|EH Practical is the next step in your ethical hacking career. You can opt for this certification after you have succeeded in getting the highly acclaimed CEH certification.
Here, you will be able to sit for an exam that will test your ability to find the vulnerabilities and weaknesses across major operating systems, networks and databases. It’s a six-hour rigorous exam that aims to validate your understanding of the different security issues and the ways to tackle them.
C|EH Practical requires you to demonstrate the ethical hacking techniques such as network scanning, vulnerability analysis, threat vector identification, web app hacking, etc to solve a security audit challenge.
The exam includes 20 real-life scenarios with questions designed to check whether the candidate has essential ethical hacking skills required as outlined in the C|EH program. We strongly recommend this exam if you already have attended the current CEH course/equivalent.
The C|EH Practical certification exam consists of 20 practical challenges. The length of the exam is 6 hours where you’ll have to secure at least 70% to pass and get a certificate. There are no eligibility criteria for people in attempting the CEH (Practical) exam. If your age is 18 years or above, you can register for this exam at $550.
It’s one of the most popular certifications for penetration testing enthusiasts. Unlike other pen-testing courses, ECSA offers a set of comprehensive methodologies able to fulfill various pen-testing requirements across different areas.
This certification program provides a seamless learning experience, continuing where the CEH program left off. It’s a complete hands-on program with labs and exercises that allow you to practice the skills taught in the ECSA classes covering real-world scenarios. It helps you build expertise to reveal potential security threats that organizations are vulnerable to.
ECSA certification course lets you access a host of Virtual Machines preconfigured with vulnerabilities, exploits, tools, and scripts from anywhere. Moreover, this course will also teach you how to make proper documentation and write a penetration testing report.
In short, this course is designed for Ethical Hackers, Penetration Testers, Firewall Administrators, Network server administrators, Risk Assessment professionals, Security Testers and System Administrators.
Here, you’ll require all the tools and techniques that you’ve learned in the Certified Ethical Hacker course (CEH) to enhance your skills and establish yourself as a certified penetration tester.
ECSA certification requires you to pass an exam of 150 multiple choice questions by scoring at least 70% marks. The exam length is 4 hours and it would cost $100 in India.
EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA Practical)
If you have already finished the ECSA course or anything equivalent and now looking for your next certification, consider ECSA (Practical). This credential aims to set a skillful penetration testing professional apart from the crowd.
ECSA (Practical) introduces you to an organization and its network environment, containing multiple hosts. The internal network consists of several subnets and made up of militarized and demilitarized zones. It’s connected with a huge pool of database servers in a database zone. You will have access to domain controllers and application servers that will further provide application frameworks for various departments of the organization.
The candidates are required to leverage different penetration testing methodologies that they learned in the ECSA certification program. Just like the real world, you are required to perform a thorough security audit of an organization.
You will start with challenges where you have to perform various network scans beyond perimeter defenses, exploit selection, customization, launch, etc.
EC-Council certification team conducts this online exam under its strict supervision. Therefore, the exam can last up to 12 hours.
According to the EC Council, “this exam has one purpose: to differentiate the experts from the novices in penetration testing.” This advanced penetration testing course was created as the progression after the ECSA (Practical) and aims to push you to the limit by making you solve complex real-life problems.
The foundation of this course involves four long days where you’ll have to perform various tasks to prove your knowledge of varieties of pen testing concepts. This course is built upon the backbone of the Advanced Penetration Testing Cyber Range (ECCAPT). It was designed by the experts having more than 25 years of professional security testing experience across the world.
Talking about the skills of an LPT (Master), he
- can perform various advanced techniques and attacks to identify SQL injection, LFI, RFI vulnerabilities in web applications.
- Write exploit codes to gain access to a vulnerable system or application.
- Perform privilege escalation in order to gain root access to a system
- Exploit vulnerabilities in OS such as Linux and Windows.
- Explain ‘Out-of-the-box’ and ‘lateral’ thinking
The LPT Master is the world’s first fully online, remotely proctored LPT (Master) practical exam. However, it is a performance-based 18 hours long exam which is further segregated into three practical exams for six-hour duration each.
The exam will test your perseverance and focus by forcing you to outdo yourself with every challenge. The exam cost varies with your preferences i.e whether you want a self-paced program, live training, etc and other factors.
CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level and one of the least expensive certificates you can get in the cybersecurity field. This certificate validates that you have all the fundamental skills needed to perform core duties and a career in IT.
This security+ certificate focuses on the latest trends and techniques in risk management, risk mitigation, threat management and intrusion detection. If you’re looking to make a career in information security, this is the first security certification you should prepare for.
This certification is ideal for people with two years of experience in the IT industry. It requires you to pass an exam of 90 multiple-choice and performance-based questions with a score of 750. The length of the exam is 1.5 hours and costs $190 in India.
Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
It’s one of the most popular and well-recognized certifications for information security professionals. In order to get this certification, you have to complete Offensive Security’s Penetration Testing with Kali Linux (PwK) course and pass a 24-hours long hands-on exam. This certification validates that a candidate has a comprehensive and practical understanding of penetration testing.
Talking about the exam, It consists of a virtual network containing targets of varying configurations and operating systems. The student receives all the connectivity instructions for an isolated network. They have no prior knowledge or experience before the students appear for the exam.
You need to demonstrate your network research or information gathering ability, find the vulnerabilities and successfully execute attacks. The exam also requires you to modify the exploit code with a goal to compromise the systems and gain administrative access. After finishing the practical tasks, you have to submit a detailed penetration test report with screenshots.
The OSCP certification requires you to pass an online exam that lasts up to 24 hours and costs around $800.
That’s it for this article. I hope you understand everything related to ethical hacking. We’ve crafted this blog post in a way to give you a glimpse of the career path for an ethical hacker. Still confused about anything in ethical hacking, ask your queries in the comments below.
Also, remember, ethical hacking is a versatile field but you should never try to attack without authorization. We recommend everyone to stay away from the black hat hacking, otherwise, it may ruin your entire career in hacking.