What Are Some Penetration Tester Roles and Responsibilities?
Penetration testers seek to identify security vulnerabilities in an organization’s networks, and then resolve them, sometimes creating new or improved security protocols. This involves many responsibilities and tasks.
As a penetration tester, you will likely be required to:
- Perform penetration tests on computer systems, networks, and applications
- Create new testing methods to identify vulnerabilities
- Perform physical security assessments of systems, servers, and other network devices to identify areas that require physical protection
- Pinpoint methods and entry points that attackers may use to exploit vulnerabilities or weaknesses
- Search for weaknesses in common software, web applications, and proprietary systems
- Research, evaluate, document, and discuss findings with IT teams and management
- Review and provide feedback for information security fixes
- Establish improvements for existing security services, including hardware, software, policies, and procedures
- Identify areas where improvement is needed in security education and awareness for users
- Be sensitive to corporate considerations when performing testing (minimize downtime and loss of employee productivity)
- Stay updated on the latest malware and security threats
While the above are typical responsibilities for a penetration tester, you may have additional duties depending on the organization you work for. Sometimes there is overlap in IT positions, so it is important to be flexible and to work as part of a cohesive team.
What Are Some Penetration Tester Job Requirements?
While it may be possible to find a job as a penetration tester based solely on having the right set of skills, most employers prefer to hire penetration testers who have previous relevant work experience. Some employers want employees who have at least a bachelor’s degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that employers prefer to fill entry-level positions in the field of information security analysis with applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information security, or another comparable field of study. Some employers may want penetration testers to have programming skills in specific programming languages and operating systems. Additionally, employers may require that penetration testers have certification in ethical hacking and other IT security areas.
In addition to education, penetration testers are required to have certain skills. They must have excellent computer skills to be able to attempt hacking systems. They require solid analytical skills to evaluate and analyze the processes involved in resolving existing and potential security threats. It’s also important for penetration testers to have proficient communication skills as they will be writing reports and working closely with other IT professionals and departments. Most importantly, penetration testers must have exceptional problem-solving skills to be able to determine the best course of action when resolving issues and protecting networks from potential threats or breaches.
What is a Typical Penetration Tester Job Description?
As a penetration tester you will be responsible for ensuring that computer information systems are protected from hackers. That means that your role will include running tests on applications, networks, and software. You will attempt to hack in, allowing you to access data that should not be accessible to unauthorized individuals. You will be responsible for identifying any potential weaknesses in existing systems and collaborating with other departments and professionals to determine the most effective and efficient way to resolve them. This may require adding new or additional security measures and rewriting program code.
Additional duties for a penetration tester includes reviewing any security system incidents, documenting threats, and completing reports concerning your findings. You may also be asked to design improved security protocols and policies.
Ultimately, you will utilize your knowledge to find vulnerabilities in networks, internal systems, and applications. This may include automated testing but may also require manually attempting to breach security. It may also include creating new tests to identify system weaknesses and pinpointing entry points for hackers. When vulnerabilities are identified, you will be responsible for advising managers or executives on how to make systems more secure.
A Day in the Life of a Penetration Tester
A typical day for one penetration tester may look a lot different from another’s depending on the organization they work for. For some, there may be travel required between different sites, they may be required to work evenings or weekends to not disrupt the work flow of the company, or they may be able to perform some duties remotely or by telecommuting. But, the heart of the penetration tester position is identifying security system vulnerabilities by attempting to exploit them and then coming up with solutions to resolve the weaknesses to keep their organization’s information safe.
A normal day for a penetration tester may include the following tasks:
- Plan a specific penetration test
- Create or select the appropriate testing tools
- Perform the penetration test on networks, applications, or systems
- Document methodologies
- Identify vulnerabilities using the data gathered
- Review and evaluate findings
- Establish possible solutions for the weaknesses
- Provide feedback and recommendations to management or clients