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Should I Learn Ethical Hacking?

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By: Cybrary Staff

October 13, 2021

Four reasons to learn ethical hacking

Ethical hackers play a central role in proactive cybersecurity by informing organizations how well (or poorly) their network is defended.

Summary: Ethical hackers play an essential role in proactive security by using similar tactics and tools to those deployed by malicious actors, albeit with the organization's permission. This approach reveals potential vulnerabilities that may otherwise go unnoticed. In this blog, we will explore the main benefits of learning ethical hacking.

Ethical hackers are highly skilled and accomplished individuals who play an increasingly vital role in proactive security. Also known as white-hat hacking, ethical hackers are highly sought after by governments, enterprises, and smaller organizations struggling to navigate the increasingly complex world of information security.

What are the skills and responsibilities of ethical hackers?

Becoming an ethical hacker is not an easy endeavor, but it can be extremely rewarding. Most ethical hackers hold internationally recognized accreditation, such as the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification from EC-Council or the Pentest+ from CompTIA. They work under contract with clients, either under the capacity of freelancers or full or part-time employees, to identify and assess potential security vulnerabilities and provide remediation advice.

Ethical hackers use the same tools and tactics as black-hat hackers, albeit in a legal manner. The concept of ethical hacking follows the understanding that to catch a thief, one has to think like a thief. Everyday duties and responsibilities include conducting penetration tests, exploiting any vulnerabilities they find, and, most importantly, documenting their findings and attack vectors. The ultimate goal is to help organizations stay ahead of malicious actors.

#1. Work in any industry

Every organization needs an ethical hacker, regardless of its industry vertical. Although small businesses rarely have the need nor resources for employing a full-time ethical hacker, they often work with freelancers or managed security service providers to test their networks after any major changes or upgrades. As such, ethical hacking is something every industry needs, whether it is a logistics firm, government agency, an eCommerce company, or anything else.

Ethical hackers also have many opportunities to branch out, thanks to their strong technical backgrounds and experience working with a wide range of operating systems, programming languages, and networking protocols. Some take on purely technical and largely solitary roles, while others specialize in penetration testing or training and consultancy roles.

#2. Earn a generous salary

According to PayScale, certified ethical hackers enjoy an average gross salary of $83,000 in the US. Wages are constantly increasing, too, as organizations struggle to tackle the widening cybersecurity skills gap. Ethical hackers are in high demand across almost all industry sectors, especially healthcare, legal, and government. Furthermore, there are millions of new job opportunities opening up globally.

Although some might be turned off by the $1,119 price tag of the CEH exam and the need to have two years of professional experience beforehand, there are few better ways to invest in one's career. Ethical hackers can also choose to work in a freelance capacity to set their rates and have complete control over their career development.

#3. Stay at the forefront of IT

Ethical hackers often work in high-pressure, high-reward positions. Government agencies may even hire the most accomplished to the point of becoming a national asset in the era of cyberwarfare and state-sponsored attacks. For example, a rival state may attempt to disable another's power grid by hacking into critical infrastructure. Ethical hackers play a vital role in preventing such attacks.

Standing at the cutting edge of technology is one of the greatest challenges and most rewarding parts of being an ethical hacker. Ethical hackers must think like malicious actors, albeit faster and better, to identify and exploit vulnerabilities before anyone else does. After all, there is always something new to learn in the constantly evolving world of technology and cybersecurity.

#4. Enjoy global recognition

Not only are ethical hackers at liberty to work in virtually any industry they want, but they can also choose to work anywhere they want. Many duties can be performed remotely and others on-location. This makes ethical hacking ideal for those looking for a location-independent lifestyle or a highly lucrative freelance career. For employers in international companies, investing in training and certification for ethical hackers can also be a great way to tackle global security skills shortages.

The Certified Ethical Hacking accreditation, though maintained by the US-based EC-Council, is recognized the world over. As such, those interested in working abroad, either temporarily or permanently, will find that earning a certification serves as a passport to the world. After all, cybercrime is a global challenge, and almost every major country faces an acute shortage of skills in the area.

How to get started with ethical hacking

Given the enormous trust that organizations place in ethical hackers, a certification is a practical necessity. It is extremely unlikely that anyone will be able to get contracted work in the space without one.

The two most widely recognized certifications are the Certified Ethical Hacker from EC-Council and the Offensive Security Certified Professional from Offensive Security. There are also more specialized certifications to aim for, such as CompTIA's PenTest+. These accreditations recommend that candidates have at least two years of professional experience in the security space. They also require a broad range of skills, including experience working with common programming, scripting, database languages, server-side operating systems, and network protocols.

Those thinking of applying for certification and taking an exam should first put their skills and abilities to the test with hands-on training. While it will take time and effort to ascend to the rank of an ethical hacker, few career paths are more lucrative than specialized roles in information security.

Cybrary for Teams is an all-in-one workforce development platform that helps organizations develop stronger cybersecurity skills, prepare for new certifications, and track team progress. Get started with our penetration testing and ethical hacking course to learn more.

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