Ethical Hacker Certification
The term “ethical hacker” may sound incongruous to many people, but these white hat hackers are vital to the security and survival of many corporations and government agencies. The market demand for these professionals, also called penetration testers, is high. If you want to serve this vital role on a security team, find an ethical hacker certification program and you will be on your way to a challenging, rewarding and necessary career.
A Diverse Role
The role of an ethical hacker is nothing if not multifaceted. You will need to be a master of computer code, network architecture, cryptography, and also writing—and be able to present your findings to upper management. You will also need to learn to think like a criminal who wants to crack into a secured system, but with less time and preparation. A criminal hacker can spend as much time as needed to study a system prior to launching an attack. You, on the other hand, might have a week or two to prepare.
Once you have completed your simulated break-in to a client (or employer) system, you will then need to analyze the scenario and write a detailed report. That report will need to include a breakdown of the problem for management, suggestions for improvements and a plan for how to implement these upgrades or other changes.
Prior to your immersion in Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) training, you will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree and plenty of experience in a security department. It will be to your benefit to study and practice technical writing, be knowledgeable of managerial and financial concerns within a corporation and have a good working knowledge of system vulnerabilities and the current trends in black hat hacking. You will need well-developed problem-solving skills which can be gained by working in an IT department.
On top of the technical and analytical side of hacking, you will need to know how to manipulate people. Imagine how much easier it will be to break into a server if you are able to gain access to a password. This takes a silver tongue and a knowledge not only of technical vulnerabilities but human weaknesses. As an ethical hacker, you will likely be asked to hack into a client’s computers without ever having set foot on their corporate campus.
To become a CEH you will need to take a course that will prepare you for the examination. During the course, you will face many real-time scenarios that will test your mettle as a hacker and person. You will have many tools—usually over 2,000 total—at your disposal. While you might not use all of them, you will need to know how to use them and be knowledgeable of all of them.
The training to become a CEH is a five-day intensive course. For that, you can either travel to an onsite training facility or take your course online. The online courses are conducted live and in real-time, so it is unlikely that you will be able to work during those days. In the training, you will have a laundry list of learning outcomes that will include these items, and more:
- Denial of Service Attacks
- Hacking Applications for the Web
- Mobile Platform Vulnerability
- Implementing Malware
- Hacking Cloud Computers
- Wireless Network Vulnerabilities
- How to Evade Firewalls and Honeypots
- Hijacking Sessions
- How to Scan Networks
The examination and training is constantly being upgraded to include new technologies, such as cloud computing, that are likely targets of hackers. Since the field is constantly changing, you will want to adopt the attitude of a lifelong learner before you sign up to become a CEH. It might also help to be able to put yourself in the mindset of a criminal. After all, they say to catch a criminal you must think like a criminal.
Once you become a CEH, your career can take a dramatic change. You can take on the role of a penetration tester and work as a consultant to corporations and government agencies. If you want to work as a government contractor, it will help if you have some military training. It will be even better if your time in the military included any security clearances. Such experience will earn respect and esteem among your clients, but you can still earn those clearances without having served in the military.
The longer you work as a consultant, the more you will be able to charge your clients, making your earnings potential great. You might even grow your consultancy by taking on newer, less-experienced CEHs. Before you know it, you could have a company that needs to hire its own penetration testers.
Not everyone will want to go out on their own and you may prefer to work with an employer to gain experience. With your certification, the job market will open up and you may seek work under one of these titles:
- Penetration Tester
- System Administrator
- Security Auditor
- Vulnerability Tester
If you decide to remain in your current role, your newfound knowledge and skills will be of immense value in assessing, upgrading and evolving your security protocols. You will have what it takes to analyze the problems your system faces and communicate these to the top executives in a language they understand.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
There are many job titles in the cyber security field, and more are being created as the field grows. Nonetheless, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has figures for the title of Information Security Analyst for you to use as a benchmark for salary and career projections. In 2014, an IS Analyst commanded a median annual salary of $88,890 with a bachelor’s degree and less than 5 years of experience. Their projected growth rate for that title is 18 percent through 2024, which the BLS states is faster than average. Other reports mirror these projections, but you can consult with other CEH professionals once you join their ranks.
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