What Education Is Needed To Become An Ethical Hacker?

Ethical hackers or ‘white hat’ hackers use the same methods to test and bypass network security defences to find vulnerabilities as malicious hackers or ‘black hat’ hackers. But unlike black hat hackers, whose intentions are usually of committing fraud or theft, white-hat hackers bypass network security defences to help companies find the vulnerabilities in their security network and fix them if they are found.

To build a career in ethical hacking, you should have a degree in a computer-related field. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or network engineering education provides a good foundation for a career in cybersecurity.

Alternatively, one can also obtain the A+ certification in which two sets of exams need to be cleared. These two exams test the student’s knowledge of components of a personal computer and their ability to take a personal computer apart and then rebuild it from scratch. To take the test, you are required to have at least 500 hours of practical training.

The next step is to gain some experience and get a Network+ or CCNA qualification. These two certifications prove foundation-level knowledge in network maintenance, installation, and troubleshooting. Once you get any of the two, you are ready to work in network support. In network support, you will be monitoring and updating, installing security programs and testing for weaknesses. After gaining experience in network support, the next step is to obtain a certification in network security such as Security +, CISSP or TISCA.

Security+ certification tests access control, identity management and cryptography. CISSP is a globally recognized certification and validates one’s knowledge in risk management, cloud computing, and application development. TISCA qualification covers the same areas as CISSP certification.

Once you have obtained any of the three above mentioned certifications, you are ready to work in Information Security. The Information Security analyst’s job is to examine the system and network security and deal with network breaches. At this point in your career, you should get an ethical hacking certification.

Following are the top three ethical hacker certifications:

  1. Certified Ethical Hacker 

The Certified Ethical Hacker certification (CEH) is one of the most common certification options. It is managed by the EC-Council. The CEH exam tests the knowledge of security threats, risks and countermeasures of the cybersecurity professionals. An experienced professional can also give the CEH exam without any training by submitting proof of at least two years of cybersecurity experience. A major benefit of the CEH certification is the option of instructor-led training, video lectures, and self-study. All these options are available online, while organizations also have the option to contact EC-Council to conduct on-site training.  

For cybersecurity professionals, forensic analysts, and people looking to hone their ethical hacking skills, CEH (v11) certification is in high demand. Many IT companies have made CEH certification mandatory for cybersecurity-related positions.

  1. Global Information Assurance Certification Penetration Tester

The Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) program is managed by the SANS Institute, which is one of the oldest institutes that provides cybersecurity certifications. The SANS Institute offers many courses in cybersecurity, and all the courses are held online. The GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) certification is highly recommended to become a penetration tester, along with the SEC560 course on Network Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking from the SANS Institute.

  1. Offensive Security Certified Professional

The Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) is the most technical of the three certifications. It is offered by an organization called Offensive Security. It is a very hands-on certification and is designed for technical professionals, which helps them prove that they have a clear, practical understanding of the penetration testing process. The course requires proper knowledge of network protocols, software development, and system internals like Kali Linux, making it quite an advanced level course. Classroom training is only available in Las Vegas, USA. The rest of the students will have to take the course online.

In the OCSP exam, the test taker is tasked with researching the network, finding vulnerabilities and ultimately hacking into the system within 24 hours. The test is conducted on a virtual network with varying configurations. After 24 hours of the test, the candidate is supposed to submit a test report for review to the offensive security certification committee. Based on the report, the committee decides whether to grant the certification or not.

Once you have reached your goal and become an ethical hacker, you will have to put all your technical and security expertise into trying to breach the network security of the business or the organization that has hired you. You will have to give your company a detailed analysis of the findings and suggestions for improving its network security. 

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