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Ethical Hacker: The Thrill of the Penetration Tester

Ethical hackers are in high demand, using their skills to find and fix security vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them.

Ethical hackers are in high demand, using their skills to find and fix security vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them.

This article explores the thrill of ethical hacking and the valuable role penetration testers play in keeping our digital world safe.

Ethical Hacker: The Thrill of the Penetration Tester
Ethical Hacker: The Thrill of the Penetration Tester

Imagine a world where you are being paid a pretty penny to break into systems not for malicious reasons but to expose vulnerabilities and strengthen defences. This is the exhilarating world of ethical hackers, also known as penetration testers. A way for you to use your skills for good is the best of both worlds. Forget the shadowy stereotype of hacks in dimly lit rooms – pen testers are the security heroes of our generation, armed with wit, extensive knowledge and a thirst for the digital chase.

It’s crazy how some ethical hackers have evolved from being the problem at hand. For example, all the way back in the 1990s, Keven Mitnick might already know him for being one of the most famous hackers to this date. He was arrested for his activities and served five years in prison. However, after he served his time, he was reached out to become a respected cyber security consultant and worked with the US government on projects.

It’s hard to ignore that once criminals have the skills and knowledge, they understand how a hacker thinks and can turn their old motivations to steal to now protect businesses and therefore are a viable asset to any company.

The ethical hacker’s playground is the intricate web of systems that underpin our modern lives – websites, networks and applications. Their mission? To bypass security measures, exploit weaknesses, and uncover any gaps in the armour before malicious actors can. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse, with pen testers employing their arsenal of tools and techniques to outsmart the defences and fine the critical entry points.

The Thrill of The Hunt

The job isn’t about technical prowess; it’s about strategic thinking and creativity. Pen testers must think like the attacker, anticipating the attacker’s next move and adapting their approach. Each system is uniquely designed, like a puzzle. Think of a Rubrics cube and how there are only a small number of people that can solve it. You need these people to be on your defence, making your puzzle harder and harder to breach.

The uniqueness demands resourcefulness and ingenuity in the unreal and the successful discovery of any vulnerability, however hidden, brings a unique sense of accomplishment, knowing it could prevent any potential breach.

Beyond The Technical: The Human Element

Pen testing isn’t just about technical wizardry. It’s also about understanding human behaviour and how unethical hackers think; you truly have to adapt your mind and soul to it for you to anyway. Phishing emails, social engineering tactics, and exploiting misconfigurations all rely on manipulating human trust and exploiting vulnerabilities in user behaviour. Pen testers understand these tactics and use them ethically to expose their effectiveness, educating organisations and individuals on how to stay vigilant.

The Real-World Impact

The work of pen testers has a tangible impact on our daily lives. By identifying and patching vulnerabilities, they help prevent data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. This is especially crucial in today’s digital age, where our reliance on technology makes us increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks.

How To Become an Ethical Hacker

After establishing and complying with the code of ethics and passing certain exams, like the Certificated Ethical Hacker (CEH) exam, you can take the right steps forward to joining the cyber security community.

Ethical hackers take two main paths to becoming professional penetration testers. They either enrol in formal education programmes or pick up hacking techniques on their own. Many did both, including me. Even though self-learners occasionally make fun of them, ethical hacking certifications and courses are frequently the first step towards a well-paying position as a full-time penetration tester.

Many courses and certifications teach people how to be ethical hackers in today’s IT security education curriculum. You can take an authorised education course or self-study for the majority of certification exams, bringing your own experience to the testing facility. Although it’s not necessary, it can’t hurt to have an ethical hacking certification to work as a professional penetration tester.

Trainer for CBT Nuggets Keith Barker stated, “It’s more of a gateway to further study, but having ‘certified ethical anything’ on your resume can only be a good thing.” Companies will also know that you have read and agreed to a specific code of ethics if they notice that you are certified in ethical hacking. It must be helpful if an employer is reviewing resumes and notices a difference between a candidate with and without an ethical hacking certification.

Although all ethical hacking courses and certifications teach the same skills, they differ from one another. Find the best one for you by doing some research.

Ethical Hacking Courses and Certifications

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

The oldest and most popular penetration course and certification. It is an official course you can take either online or with live, in-person instructors. It covers 18 subjects, including traditional hacking subjects, plus modules on malware, wireless, cloud and mobile platforms.

Or you can opt for the full remote course, which includes six months of access to Cyber Range iLab online, which grants all of its students the opportunity to practice over 100 skills so they are learning them hands-on.


SysAdmin, Networking, and Security (SANS) Institute is a well-known and respected training company, and IT security professionals hold their certifications and everything they teach in high regard. Although SANS provides a variety of pen testing certifications and courses, its foundational GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) is one of the most well-liked.

Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

This course and certification have recently gained a credible reputation for their toughness, with a very hands-on learning structure and exam processes. Penetration Testing with Kali Linux is the official name of the self-paced, online training course, which also includes 30 days of lab access. Participant familiarity with Linux, bash shells, and scripts is required because it depends on Kali Linux, which replaced pen testers’ favourite Linux distribution, BackTrack.

Foundstone Ultimate Hacking

McAfee’s Foundstone business unit provided one of the first publicly accessible courses for practical penetration testing. For a very long time, its books and courses on ultimate hacking dominated the industry. They covered SQL, web, Linux, Windows, and a variety of sophisticated hacking techniques (like tunnelling). Regretfully, official tests and certifications are not offered for Ultimate Hacking courses.


A non-profit organisation offers pen test courses for information assurance accreditation and certification bodies, with exams accepted in multiple countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe, and Asia. Their mission is to educate and certify quality pen testers while remaining accessible to anyone who believes they have what it takes.

All CREST-approved exams have been revised and approved by the UK’s Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), which is comparable to the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Tools Available for Ethical Hackers


The heavyweight champion of ethical hacker tools, it focuses on your Wi-Fi security needs, making it ideal for monitoring, launching stealthy attacks, rigorously testing defences, and cracking those solid WPA keys like a master locksmith.

It is primarily used to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in Wi-Fi networks, with a focus on WEP and WPA/WAP2-PSK security protocols. It works best by intercepting network packets and using various algorithms to decipher the keys used to secure wireless networks.


Think of SQLmap as one of the OG’s in the pen-testing game, not just surviving but thriving in the continuously evolving digital landscape’s threats. There is little that SQLmap can’t handle.

It streamlines the procedure for identifying and taking advantage of SQL injection (SQLi) vulnerabilities present in online applications. To find potential vulnerabilities, SQLmap analyses the target web application’s responses after submitting various kinds of requests to it. SQLmap can be used to extract data from databases, obtain administrative access to databases, or even run remote commands on the server once it discovers a SQL injection vulnerability.

It is a very useful tool for evaluating the security of web applications that communicate with databases because it supports a large variety of databases and has many features for sophisticated manipulation and customisation of SQL injection attacks.


Greetings and welcome to the web app pen-testing world’s secret weapon. While ZAP—formerly OWASP ZAP—might not be well-known outside of the web application security community, it is comparable to Nessus in that regard. It is an open-source web application security scanner made to assist in automatically identifying security flaws in web applications as they are being developed and tested, not to mention that it is very user-friendly.

By putting itself in between your browser and the online application, the tool acts as an intercepting proxy, allowing it to monitor and control traffic to and from the website. This makes it possible for ZAP to find problems like malfunctioning access control, unsafe setups, and other vulnerabilities.


Wireshark goes beyond “packet sniffing.” This powerful tool captures and dissects network traffic, offering deep insights into protocols, data, and overall flow. Used for troubleshooting, security analysis, development, and more, it’s like having a magnifying glass for network activities. From pinpointing issues to dissecting firewalls, its filtering and search let you hone in on specific details. While it might not be my main tool for cloud and web app pen testing, for network pivoting, Wireshark reigns supreme.

John the Ripper

This might not be your most used tool for pen-testing, however, no toolbox is complete without it. This password-hacking tool can come at the best of times and more often than not, it will get the job done. It can also be used to test password strengths, which would be useful for any business type to protect sensitive information.


The boss of all vulnerability scanners has arrived and his name is Nessus. It’s renowned for its ability to uncover any network’s cracks and in most ethical hacker cases, it is one of the most used and appreciated tools in the game. It is used to scan for vulnerabilities, configuration issues, insufficient benchmarks, missing patches and many other things.

BURP Suite

Web application security researchers can rely on BURP Suite as their reliable steed. All of this is included in one seamless platform that emphasises depth and adaptability. BURP can intercept, manipulate, and URL-encode payloads, switch delivery methods and send requests directly to a website, ranging from scanning and spidering to attacking and exploiting.

Additionally, they offer one of the most reputable free training academies out there in all the ways their tool can be used for a wide range of goals and scenarios. weaknesses.

The Future of Pen Testing

The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, and so too is the role of the pen tester. As new technologies emerge, pen testers will need to adapt their skill sets and stay ahead of the curve. With the increasing interconnectedness of our world, the demand for skilled and ethical hackers is only going to grow.

So, if you’re someone who thrives on intellectual challenges, enjoys puzzles and problem-solving, and has a passion for making the digital world a safer place, then ethical hacking might just be the thrill you’re looking for. Just remember, the responsibility that comes with power is immense. Ethical hackers are the guardians of our digital fortresses, and their dedication ensures that we can navigate the online world with confidence, knowing that heroes are working behind the scenes to keep us safe.

Final Thoughts

As fraudsters become more sophisticated in their digital attacks, things like credit insurance brokers, all tools-in-the-box and other providers can leverage pen testing methodologies to assess their vulnerabilities and strengthen their defences. Imagine a pen tester simulating a cyberattack on a credit insurance system, uncovering weaknesses in authentication protocols or data encryption practices. Addressing these vulnerabilities proactively can prevent fraudulent claims and protect policyholders, offering them peace of mind in an increasingly digital world.

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