What is a Penetration Tester?
Penetration Testers, sometimes referred to as Pen Testers or “ethical hackers”, assist firms in locating and addressing security flaws that harm their digital assets and computer networks.
Some Penetration Testers work for long-term companies in-house, contributing to internal cybersecurity or information technology (IT) teams. Other Pen Testers operate for specialist companies that provide clients’ services. Penetration Testers are frequently employed by sectors of the economy that deal with confidential, private, classified, or proprietary information.
A Penetration Test, commonly referred to as a Pen Test, simulates a cyberattack on your computer system to look for weaknesses that might be exploited. Penetration testing is frequently used to supplement a web application firewall in the context of web application security (WAF). The Penetration Tester’s insights may be utilised to polish your WAF security procedures and address any vulnerabilities that were found.
Pen Testing involves attempting to get into any number of application systems (such as frontend/backend servers, APIs, etc.) in order to find security holes like unsanitized inputs that are vulnerable to code injection attacks. People with superior technical and problem-solving abilities frequently choose careers in cybersecurity.
In general, Pen Testers evaluate security, do threat modelling, and ethically attack systems, networks, and web-based applications.
In more detail their responsibilities entail any or all of the following tasks:
- Performing evaluations on a wide range of technologies and implementations using both human and automated methods.
- Creating approaches, tools, and scripts to improve testing procedures
- .Carrying out physical penetration testing and social engineering drills.
- Checking for security flaws in wired and wireless networks.
- Determining the underlying reason for both technical and non-technical discoveries.
- Offering subject matter knowledge with an emphasis on offensive security testing activities, working to test defensive systems inside a company.
- Analysing assessment outcomes to pinpoint discoveries and providing a comprehensive analytical perspective of the system within the context of its operating environment.
- Assisting with the sizing of potential engagements, and steering engagements through the planning, execution, and remediation phases.
- Compiling and examining OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) to look for information leaks.
- Publication of an assessment report that outlines results and suggests potential defences
- Offering technical assistance to ISOs for correcting assessment findings.
- After evaluations are finished, sharing the techniques used, the results, and the analysis.
- Offering technical assistance in network exploitation and evasion methods to help with thorough incident handling and forensic examination of infected computers.
- Tracking and sharing findings that are consistent across several examinations.
Penetration Testers with less experience typically earn less money. Education has an impact on salaries, with better education often translating into higher salaries for Penetration Testers. Location, sector of business, and area of speciality are other variables that might affect pay.
The national average salary for a Penetration Tester in the UK amounts to £54,072. Ranging from £29,000 to £101,000. The average additional cash compensation in the UK amounts to £4,422.
Working hours and work location
In this position, a 37-hour workweek is typical, however flexible working arrangements are popular and you might need to work other hours beyond the usual 9 am to 5 pm schedule. You may occasionally be able to pick your working hours because many Penetration Testers operate from home and remotely.
It is feasible to work part-time. Freelance jobs and short-term contracts are also options. After gaining some experience, you can go into consulting or self-employment. Although many Penetration Testers work remotely, the traditional work environment for Penetration Testers is an office setting.
Workplaces for Penetration Testers differ depending on the role, organisation, sector, and region. The creation of computer systems and related services, banking and insurance, and management are typical employers. Information, administration, and support services are among other industries that employ Penetration Testers.
What to expect
The frequency of cyberattacks rises as businesses keep more and more sensitive and valuable data online. By doing vulnerability assessments, Penetration Testers examine the efficacy of businesses’ cybersecurity policies and procedures. Pen Testers apply sophisticated IT security techniques to identify potential entry points for malevolent hackers looking to compromise systems, networks, or other assets. These specialists work to stop cyberattacks before they start.
A Penetration Tester’s normal day may involve planning and launching tests, preparing reports and presentations following testing, and providing suggestions for security enhancements. Both internal and exterior testing can be conducted during penetrations.
Pen Testers use physical, wireless, web application, and network services to access computer systems. Additionally, they employ social engineering strategies to con people into divulging passwords and allowing access to private data. Every kind of Penetration Test requires a particular set of resources and technical expertise.
Although Penetration Testers’ basic activities normally remain the same regardless of the work environment, the workplace setting might impact their scope of duties. Pen Testers may do more basic computer support and maintenance duties at smaller companies in addition to their specialist job.
With gained experience, Penetration Testers may advance from junior to senior positions over time. Senior Penetration Testers often devote more effort to developing simulation plans and suggesting security enhancements.
An undergraduate or graduate degree in computer science, information technology, cybersecurity, or a closely related field is increasingly preferred by employers.
The candidate’s expertise and experience may, however, be more valued by some employers than their official school credentials.
Employers frequently look for professional credentials from organisations like the EC-Council, OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional), SANS Technology Institute, IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers), and GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification).
Depending on the specific duties of each position and the degree of the role, employers' expectations for new employees in the Penetration Testing area, as in all cybersecurity disciplines, may vary greatly.
Some of the skills that you will have to acquire or possess as a Penetration Tester include:
must have skills:
- Knowledge of certain programming languages, such as Bash, Python, Powershell, and Golang.
- Knowledge of mobile penetration testing of iOS and Android systems, network operating systems, Windows, Linux, and MacOS, communications protocols, firewalls, IPS/IDS systems, virtual environments, and data encryption.
- Understanding of popular application security and pen testing technologies, including Web Inspect, Kali, Wireshark, Burp Suite, Network Mapper (NMAP), Nessus, Metasploit and others.
- Excellent communication skills
- Familiarity with OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities.
In any job, being an authority in a certain sector is a good idea, but there are many ways to differentiate yourself from the competition as a Penetration Tester. Pen Testers will become known among their peers by participating and being respected in cybersecurity-related activities including bug bounty programmes, gathering open-source information (OSINT), and creating proprietary attack programmes.
It’s important to stay up to date with developments in the field, as is the case with the majority of cybersecurity job pathways. Keeping one’s skills and knowledge up to date with all of the most recent developments in programming and network security, constantly evolving hacking methodologies and security standards, widely used exploits, and everything else occurring in the cybersecurity sector.
Penetration Testers are used by businesses to identify possible security flaws and prevent cyberattacks. Being aware that you must stop the loss of sensitive or important data can be stressful, especially when breaches are occurring.
Candidates must maintain composure under pressure, acquire advanced technical skills, and continuously investigate new security dangers if they want to become Penetration Testers.
There will be a significant and quickly expanding need for information security personnel for the foreseeable future.
In reality, there is a severe lack of infosec specialists across all fields, and this lack is projected to last for some time. The systems are increasingly directly targeted and more susceptible as networks, applications, and information demands become progressively more complex and essential to commercial and governmental operations.
Pen Testers are at the cutting edge of technical proficiency, playing the part of potential attackers the closest. Top Pen Testers are currently highly valued among infosec professionals, and there are no indicators that this attitude will change in any manner in the near future.
A prospective Pen Tester can enter the cybersecurity profession in a number of ways. You will have a solid base for becoming a Pen Tester if you start out in security administration, network administration, network engineering, system administration, or web-based application programming, always keeping the security aspect of each discipline in mind.
The University of the West of Scotland teaches this program at their London Campus, so you’ll be studying at the heart of the UK’s industry. This one-year, full-time curriculum is for students who have no prior expertise with computers or information technology. The course will help you learn much-needed IT expertise to help you prepare for a job as a Penetration Tester.
If you want to study fully online, this course is a great choice. It still has all the hallmarks of the leading MSc delivered by the University of the West of Scotland on campus. You do not need to have an IT baccalaureate degree to attend this course.