The media, journalists, and the public are prone to oversimplification. And hackers are no exception. Hackers get a bad rap in movies and TV shows. Their reputation is often that of a shadowy, secretive, or marginal group. Here’s how people make hacking a legit career choice.
Possibly it’s the evil genius who can quickly break government systems. Why? Maybe it’s political beliefs or just the lols. But, even the introvert, “the basement hacker,” who is untrained and disorganized, can be a dangerous adversary.
As such, your imagination probably doesn’t conjure ethical hackers. In recent years, though, many large companies have hired white hat hackers. Why? They’re hired to prevent attacks, bugs, and threats and test and monitor their systems.
What’s more, ethical hackers are making a solid living. According to ZipRecruitor, the national average is $135,269 a year for an ethical hacking job in the US.
Apart from a high salary, a good hacker can make money in various ways outside of their regular job. For example, if you want to make your own schedule or don’t want to be tied to any one location, that’s appealing.
But how can you make hacking a legit career choice? Well, let’s find out.
Why Are Hackers Hired?
Professional hackers test the security of companies. To verify whether their security controls are effective, they hire hackers. Additionally, they will make security suggestions.
Before releasing a new web application, a company might hire hackers to find weaknesses. The application will be less vulnerable to hackers when it hits the market as a result.
In addition, private companies and governments hire hackers. Competitive intelligence is in the interest of private companies. To force customers to switch to their services by making their competitors unavailable. Isn’t that illegal? I wouldn’t pursue this career path, although it’s 100% illegal.
Hacking other companies is considered espionage. Government information is mainly kept electronically, so accessing government agencies or third-party providers can be beneficial. Some governments also use cybercrime as a revenue source. North Korea is one of the most infamous examples because its dedicated cybercrime division generates millions of dollars every year.
Understanding Different Types of Hacking
Again, there are lots of controversies over hacking. A hacker can serve either a malicious or a beneficial purpose, as shown above.
Hackers generally fall into three categories:
- White Hat
- Black Hat
- Grey Hat
Grey Hat and White Hat hackers undertake ethics-based hacking.
In contrast, black hat hackers engage in illegal activities.
Awareness of different types of hackers and their legal nuances will help professionals understand their ethical hacker boundaries. For instance, when starting out, you could be a Penetration Tester. To prevent cyber-attacks, vulnerabilities must be identified in a system or application. Then, in the event that their system has a fault, they inform the organization.
What Skills Are Needed to Be an Ethical Hacker
Blackhat hackers have sometimes become whitehat hackers. To be a successful ethical hacker, you need high ethical standards. Blackhat hackers are undoubtedly technical. Their problem is that they lack character discipline.
Candidates for ethical hacking jobs should possess the following skills as well as the “ethical” part:
- Hardware knowledge. It’s vital for you to understand the features of visual display units (VDU), central processing units (CPU), keyboards, hard drives, speakers, sound cards, mice, graphics cards, and motherboards.
- Basic and advanced computer skills. Learning basic computer skills like data processing, managing files, and creating presentations is key to using computers. But, to be successful, you also need advanced computer skills. These skills include programming, coding, and managing databases.
- Expertise in computer networking. An ethical hacker should be familiar with networking commands. Among them are OSI models, IP addresses, MAC addresses, subnetting, and routing.
- A good understanding of operating systems. Operating systems such as Ubuntu, Linux, and Red Hat are essential to building a successful career in ethical hacking.
- Cybersecurity skills. You should learn cybersecurity techniques. These include phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, app protection, hardware protection, database management systems, spyware, and password management.
- Know methodologies and tools used in penetration testing. For ethical hackers, penetration testing is essential. The goal is to find weaknesses and strengthen security frameworks.
Problem-solving skills, pressure tolerance, and the ability to think outside the box are also critical. Ethical hackers also require passion, communication skills, flexibility, and innovative thinking.
How to Become an Ethical Hacker
So, how do you make a successful and fulfilling career in ethical hacking? The following is a complete career path for getting into ethical hacking.
Academics should be the first step.
To succeed in ethical hacking, you should do this first. If you plan to study ethical hacking, however, make sure your field of study is related to it. In general, CyberSecurity or IT.
A degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, or a related field will provide you with the foundation. It can also help you make a living hacking even though there is no requirement for specific education.
You can earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in CS/IT. In addition, you can take courses on ethical hacking. These qualifications are also required when hiring ethical hackers by various organizations.
One of the most well-known certifications is offered by EC-Council. During their 5-day ethical hacking certification, they teach everything from ethical hacking to types of attacks. After completing the course, candidates can take the Licensed Penetration Tester exam.
Become familiar with programming languages and operating systems.
Ethical hackers must be proficient in programming languages and frameworks. Among its many benefits are the ability to identify programming errors and vulnerabilities, the implementation of security solutions, and automation of tasks — to name a few.
Various programming languages are available to enter this field, including C/C++, Java, Python, Ruby, and others. Besides that, you’ll have to learn several operating systems like LINUX, UNIX, Windows, and iOS. Of course, these operating systems must be well understood by ethical hackers.
An understanding of network security and network administration.
Ethical hacking requires an understanding of computer networks and cyber security concepts. You must have a basic to advanced knowledge of computer networking and security, such as:
- Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
- Denial of Service attacks (DoS attacks)
It is also imperative to consider various hacking concepts, including Penetration Testing, Cloud Computing malware, SQL Injection, and Vulnerability Assessment.
Various resources are available for learning about computer networks and cybersecurity, including books, journals, YouTube videos, and online courses.
Enhance your ethical hacking skills by participating in training programs.
To learn ethical hacking, you must work your way up from beginner to advanced. Meanwhile, you can learn about ethical hacking through books and videos. But, of course, you’ll also have to interact with experts and get hands-on to gain more knowledge and exposure.
A relevant and worthwhile training program or boot camp can also help you gain practical experience in ethical hacking.
Obtain relevant certifications.
After you complete the above learning processes, it’s time to get certified and validate your ethical hacking skills. You can land various career opportunities even if you have no experience. Certifications include:
- Certified Ethical Hacker
- Global Information Assurance Certification
- Offensive Security Certified Professional
- Certified Vulnerability Assessor
Certifications such as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) are among the most demanding and renowned ethical hacking certifications. Within 240 minutes, candidates must answer 125 multiple-choice questions about SQL Injection, Backdoors, Session Hijacking, and other ethical hacking topics.
Become an ethical hacker.
Now you can start your professional career as an ethical hacker. At first, you might be a Security Analyst or Penetration Tester. From there, ethical hacking jobs include Network Security Administrators, System Administrators, Web Security Managers, and Information Security Managers.
Additionally, you can join several government organizations, such as the investigation department, law enforcement, etc., as an ethical hacker besides private businesses.
The Best Ways to Make Money as a Computer Hacker
The easiest way to make money hacking? Working as a penetration tester. In essence, you’d be a full-time employee testing company security.
The low barrier to entry makes this an ideal first job. Moreover, you’ll be able to learn from more experienced people. As such, you get to grow at work and increase your pay.
As a freelancer, you can work either part-time with a job or full-time. There are many bug bounty programs where companies, such as Apple, Intel, and Cisco, permit people to hack into their networks, applications, and websites. In exchange for disclosing what the hacker has discovered, the company rewards the hacker with cash.
If this is something that interests you, here’s a list of the 30 top bug bounty programs here. There’s no limit to how much you can work, and it’s open to everyone.
However, there is a great deal of competition. In addition, it can be hard to find bugs significant enough to warrant a reward early on in your career. As such, I would recommend this to intermediate to experienced computer hackers.
Unlike freelance work, a contract position usually involves working for one client. Usually, this is for a short time period, such as 6-12 months.
Many companies don’t hire penetration testers full-time for a variety of reasons. For example, a company only needs to test new products once or twice a year. So basically, they’ll hire someone for a short while to perform the testing and then let them go when they’re no longer needed.
Programmers might find this interesting. Most hacking tasks are performed using premade scripts or software. However, experienced hackers usually create custom scripts and tools to simplify their work.
As a hacker, you can make serious money selling software. It’s easy to resell tools once you make them and update them. Eventually, you can earn passive income this way.
Start your own business.
Despite their skill, many hackers do not continue hacking full-time. Instead, they often take their expertise and start a security business that tests companies’ security. This method can maximize profits, but it will require a high level of experience, expertise, and specific knowledge.
It’s even possible for people to go from getting criminal charges for cybercrime to setting up their own businesses. The case of Kevin Mitnick, who was convicted of computer and communications crimes in 1995, is an example of this. As of today, he is the founder and CEO of Mitnick Security Consulting LLC. Aside from being the Chief Hacking Officer for KnowBe4, he is also an advisory board member for Zimperium.
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John’s goal in life is to make people’s lives much more productive. Upping productivity allows us to spend more time doing the things we enjoy most. John was recently recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as being one of the top marketers in the World. John is co-founder and CEO of Calendar.