Penetration testers, also known as “pen testers” or “ethical hackers,” simulate cyberattacks as a way to identify security flaws within a company’s network and infrastructure. Penetration testers provide the organization with a full report detailing any flaws they may find in their attack on the system so the company can then remedy these flaws. These reports can also include specific advice concerning the issues identified in the cyberattack. Penetration testers may work in-house for a large company or within an external security consultancy.
Penetration testers are granted full authorization to expose any flaws in a company’s digital infrastructure. They play a vital role in businesses’ security systems. If the flaws that penetration testers uncover fell into the wrong hands, criminals could use them to breach a company’s systems and steal private data.
Qualifications Needed to Be a Penetration Tester
It is generally accepted that penetration testers need to obtain a relevant degree and cultivate in-depth knowledge of computer operating systems and cybersecurity. Many penetration tester roles require at least 2-4 years of experience in an information security position.
Relevant degree subjects include cybersecurity, computer science, forensic computing, computer systems, and network management. In addition to an undergraduate degree, some penetration testers also take on apprenticeships or pursue postgraduate qualifications.
Additional qualifications that are typically expected of penetration testers include CREST Registered Penetration Tester (CRT), Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Certification, and GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) Certification. CREST, an international nonprofit accreditation and certification body in the information security market, offers a student membership scheme for those studying in degree programs related to information security.
Skills Needed to Be a Penetration Tester
The skills required to be a penetration tester include an in-depth knowledge of computer security systems, strong spoken and written communication skills, attention to detail, creative thinking, ethical integrity, analytical skills, and commitment.
Responsibilities of a Penetration Tester
Penetration testers should have an enhanced understanding of computer security systems because they need to be able to:
- Work together with clients to determine their requirements.
- Plan and generate penetration methods and tests.
- Carry out testing of the client’s security infrastructure.
- Create reports and recommendations based on the reports’ findings.
- Present their findings to the client.
Salary Prospects for Penetration Testers
Starting salaries for junior penetration testers typically range between $30,000 and $40,000 (£20,000 and £30,000). As one builds up experience, they can expect to see their salaries increase, with senior roles earning $100,000 (£70,000) and above. Freelance penetration testers can earn $500-700 (£400-500) a day.
Career Prospects for Penetration Testers
Typically, your first role on a penetration-tester career path involves IT development or support in a junior position. After a few years of serving as a penetration tester, it is possible to progress toward a team leader position. Subsequently, you may become a large-scale project leader, manager, or specialist practitioner in penetration testing. It is possible to move toward consultancy work or eventually work as a self-employed penetration tester.
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