A penetration tester (also known as a pen tester or ethical hacker) is a cybersecurity professional who is responsible for testing the security of computer systems, networks, and applications. Penetration testers simulate attacks on these systems to identify vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and potential entry points that could be exploited by malicious hackers.
The goal of a penetration tester is to identify and report security flaws before they can be exploited by attackers. This helps organizations improve their security posture and prevent potential data breaches, financial loss, or reputation damage.
Penetration testers typically use a combination of manual and automated techniques to conduct their assessments, including vulnerability scanning, network mapping, social engineering, and exploitation of known and unknown vulnerabilities.
Once the testing is complete, penetration testers provide detailed reports that document the vulnerabilities and provide recommendations for remediation. They may also provide guidance on improving security policies, procedures, and best practices.
Overall, the role of a penetration tester is critical for maintaining the security and integrity of computer systems, networks, and applications in today’s rapidly evolving threat landscape.
A red teamer is a cybersecurity professional who is responsible for simulating cyberattacks on an organization’s systems, networks, and infrastructure. The goal of a red teamer is to identify vulnerabilities in an organization’s defenses by emulating the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of real-world attackers. This can include performing social engineering attacks, exploiting software vulnerabilities, and attempting to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data.
Red teamers are typically part of a larger cybersecurity team and work closely with blue teamers, who are responsible for defending the organization’s systems and infrastructure. By working together, red and blue teamers can identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in an organization’s defenses and develop effective strategies for protecting against cyber threats.
In many cases, red teamers are employed by government agencies, military organizations, and large corporations to test the effectiveness of their security defenses. They may also be hired by smaller businesses and organizations that want to proactively identify and address potential security risks.
Jobs & Career
There are a variety of job roles and career paths for pentesters, as the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. Here are some examples of job titles and roles in the field of penetration testing:
- Penetration Tester: This is the most common job title for individuals who specialize in penetration testing. Penetration testers are responsible for conducting assessments of computer systems, networks, and applications to identify vulnerabilities and provide recommendations for remediation.
- Ethical Hacker: Ethical hackers are cybersecurity professionals who use their skills and knowledge to test and evaluate the security of computer systems, networks, and applications in a legal and ethical manner. They may work for organizations or provide consulting services to clients.
- Security Consultant: Security consultants provide expert advice and guidance to organizations on how to improve their security posture. They may conduct security assessments, develop security policies and procedures, and provide training to employees.
- Cybersecurity Analyst: Cybersecurity analysts are responsible for monitoring and analyzing computer networks and systems for security threats and vulnerabilities. They may also be responsible for investigating security incidents and providing recommendations for remediation.
- Red Team Member: Red team members are cybersecurity professionals who simulate real-world attacks on computer systems and networks to test their security defenses. They may work as part of an organization’s internal security team or as part of a consulting firm.
- Vulnerability Researcher: Vulnerability researchers are cybersecurity professionals who specialize in identifying and analyzing security vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, and applications. They may work for software companies, security firms, or government agencies.
Overall, there are many different job roles and career paths available for individuals who specialize in penetration testing and cybersecurity. The key is to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and techniques, and to continue to develop your skills and knowledge in this rapidly evolving field.
Learning & Practicing
There are some websites and platforms that offer legal and ethical hacking challenges and simulations for educational and training purposes. These websites are designed for cybersecurity professionals and students to improve their skills and knowledge in a safe and controlled environment. Here are some examples:
- Hack The Box (https://www.hackthebox.eu/) – Hack The Box is a popular platform for practicing penetration testing and cybersecurity skills. It offers a wide range of challenges and virtual machines that simulate real-world scenarios and vulnerabilities. Users can create their own teams and collaborate on solving challenges.
- TryHackMe (https://tryhackme.com/) – TryHackMe is a beginner-friendly platform that provides virtual labs and guided tutorials for learning penetration testing techniques. It covers a wide range of topics, including web application security, network security, and cryptography.
- VulnHub (https://www.vulnhub.com/) – VulnHub is a website that provides virtual machines and challenges for testing and practicing penetration testing skills. It offers a large collection of vulnerable machines that simulate real-world scenarios and can be used for testing and training purposes.
- OverTheWire (https://overthewire.org/wargames/) – OverTheWire is a website that provides a series of wargames that cover different aspects of cybersecurity, including cryptography, web application security, and system exploitation. The challenges are designed to be solved in a progressive manner, starting from easy to advanced levels.
Tools under the hoody
Here are some of the best operating systems and tools for a pentester to learn.
- Kali Linux – https://www.kali.org/: Kali Linux is a Debian-based Linux distribution that is designed for penetration testing and digital forensics. It comes pre-installed with a wide range of tools and utilities for pentesting, such as Nmap, Metasploit, Wireshark, and John the Ripper.
- Parrot OS – https://www.parrotsec.org/: Parrot OS is another Debian-based Linux distribution that is designed for security researchers and penetration testers. It comes with a wide range of pre-installed tools and utilities, including network analysis tools, password cracking utilities, and vulnerability scanners.
- Metasploit – https://www.metasploit.com/: Metasploit is a popular open-source framework for developing and executing exploits against target systems. It includes a vast library of exploits and payloads, making it a powerful tool for penetration testing.
- Burp Suite – https://portswigger.net/burp: Burp Suite is a web application security testing platform that includes a suite of tools for testing the security of web applications. It includes a web proxy, scanner, and various other tools for testing web application security.
- Nmap – https://nmap.org/: Nmap is a popular network scanner that is used for network exploration, security auditing, and network inventory. It can be used to discover hosts and services on a computer network, as well as create a map of the network topology.
- Wireshark – https://www.wireshark.org/: Wireshark is a popular network protocol analyzer that is used to capture and analyze network traffic in real-time. It allows users to see what is happening on their network at a microscopic level and is a valuable tool for network troubleshooting and security analysis.
- John the Ripper – https://www.openwall.com/john/: John the Ripper is a popular password cracking tool that can be used to perform brute-force attacks against password hashes. It can crack many different types of password hashes and is often used by pentesters to test the strength of user passwords.
- Aircrack-ng – https://www.aircrack-ng.org/: Aircrack-ng is a suite of tools that can be used to test the security of wireless networks. It includes tools for capturing and analyzing wireless traffic, as well as cracking wireless encryption keys.
- Hydra – https://github.com/vanhauser-thc/thc-hydra: Hydra is a popular password cracking tool that can be used to perform brute-force attacks against login pages and other authentication mechanisms. It can crack many different types of authentication protocols, including HTTP, FTP, and SSH.
- SQLMap – http://sqlmap.org/: SQLMap is a popular open-source tool for detecting and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities in web applications. It can be used to automate the process of finding and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities.
Here are some of the best YouTube channels for pentesters, along with a brief summary of what they offer and their URL:
- IppSec – This channel is run by a cybersecurity professional who provides walkthroughs of capture-the-flag challenges and hacking simulations. The videos include detailed explanations of the thought process and techniques used during each challenge. URL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa6eh7gCkpPo5XXUDfygQQA
- LiveOverflow – This channel covers a wide range of cybersecurity topics, including hacking techniques, exploit development, and reverse engineering. The videos include live demonstrations and tutorials that are easy to follow and understand. URL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClcE-kVhqyiHCcjYwcpfj9w
- HackerSploit – This channel provides tutorials and walkthroughs of various hacking techniques and tools. The topics covered include web application security, network security, and cryptography. The videos are aimed at beginners and intermediate level pentesters. URL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ZTPkdxlAKf-V33tqXwi3Q
- John Hammond – This channel is run by a cybersecurity professional who covers a wide range of cybersecurity topics, including penetration testing, CTF challenges, and exploit development. The videos include live demonstrations and detailed explanations of the techniques used. URL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVeW9qkBjo3zosnqUbG7CFw
- The Cyber Mentor – This channel provides tutorials and walkthroughs of various hacking techniques and tools. The topics covered include web application security, network security, and exploit development. The videos are aimed at beginners and intermediate level pentesters. URL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ArlFuFYMpEewyRBzdLHiw
These YouTube channels are excellent resources for pentesters and cybersecurity professionals who want to learn more about the latest techniques and tools in the field. It is important to always use this knowledge ethically and legally, and to respect the privacy and security of others.
Here are some of the best websites for finding job opportunities in the field of pentesting:
- CyberSecJobs – https://www.cybersecjobs.com/
- Dice – https://www.dice.com/
- Indeed – https://www.indeed.com/
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/
- Glassdoor – https://www.glassdoor.com/
- Monster – https://www.monster.com/
- SimplyHired – https://www.simplyhired.com/
- ZipRecruiter – https://www.ziprecruiter.com/
- CyberSN – https://cybersn.com/
- ClearanceJobs – https://www.clearancejobs.com/
These websites offer job listings for a wide range of cybersecurity positions, including pentesting and ethical hacking roles. They allow you to filter job listings based on location, experience level, and other criteria, and some also offer resources such as career advice, salary information, and networking opportunities.
Some countries that have a strong reputation in the cybersecurity industry and are home to many skilled pentesters.
Here are a few countries that are known for having a strong cybersecurity industry and a high number of skilled pentesters:
United States – The US has a strong and well-established cybersecurity industry, with many top companies and universities focused on cybersecurity research and development. Additionally, the US government invests heavily in cybersecurity and employs many skilled pentesters.
United Kingdom – The UK is home to many top cybersecurity companies and has a strong focus on cybersecurity education and training. The UK government also invests heavily in cybersecurity and employs many skilled pentesters.
Israel – Israel is known for its advanced cybersecurity industry and has produced many skilled pentesters. The country’s military and intelligence agencies are also heavily invested in cybersecurity research and development.
Russia – Russia has a strong history of cyber espionage and cyber attacks, which has led to the development of a large number of skilled pentesters in the country.
India – India has a large and rapidly growing cybersecurity industry, with many skilled pentesters and security professionals. The country is also home to a large number of outsourcing companies that provide pentesting services to clients around the world.
It’s worth noting that the quality of pentesters can vary widely within a country and that there are skilled professionals located all over the world. Ultimately, the quality of a pentester depends on their individual skills, experience, and dedication to the craft.