Pen Testing

How Can Qualified IT Professionals Get into Pen Testing?

Cyber attacks continue to evolve, with cybercriminals creating new sophisticated methods to attain data, making it crucial for enterprises to defend and protect the cyberspace. Enterprises are on the hunt for solutions that can curb the problem using their IT security staff or third-party consultants. Either way, there’s a rising need for professionals equipped to identify cyber vulnerabilities with the latest pen testing tools, techniques, and methodologies. The penetration tester assesses, scans, penetrates, and secures the various aspects of security infrastructure based on the spotted threats, risks, and uncommon behavioral trends that the systems present. EC-Council got in touch with Dennis Chow, Director of Penetration Testing & CISO at SCIS Security, to understand more on this topic.

He made us understand that Penetration testers are highly trained professionals capable of deploying innovative strategies with the use of traditional and automated tools to single out the security loopholes in a system. The human involvement is essential to stimulate an attack and uncover vulnerabilities. In simple words, a “white hat” with a dedicated and subjected approach to identify unauthorized activities in a secure environment, that’s what a “penetration tester” is about. They either go through intensive training or learn on the job. But to grow in the industry, you must acquire skills that are often in demand by employers. This can be done through a credentialing program with skills that can help you to swiftly grow in your career. You need to possess important skills like –

Detailed Knowledge of Penetration Testing

To stay ahead of cybercriminals, pen testers need to have an upper hand.

As mentioned earlier, penetration testing demands focused knowledge. This knowledge should be comprehensively covered with the inclusion of advanced pen testing techniques and strategies. The advancement of traditional pen testing techniques makes it possible for the professionals to not only combat against malicious attackers but also saves the extra efforts by patching the newly discovered vulnerability before attackers can exploit it. For all this, the professional needs to have mastery the concepts, methodologies, strategies, tricks, tools, and techniques of pen testing.

Real Hands-on Experience Supplemented with Additional Skills

Pen testers with prior hands-on experience count as valuable assets. Finding professionals with real hands-on experience of the latest tools and techniques is one of the frequently noticed demands from the employers. In addition to this, if the professional possesses other important skills such as –

  • Expertise in command-line – generally, tools are command-line based
  • Expertise in operating system – a fair familiarity with Kali Linux, and other OS helps the pen testers to understand the exploits with more clarity
  • Mastering networking concepts and its protocols – concepts like packet sniffing requires you to have networking knowledge
  • Ability to program or write scripts/code – if a tester knows how to code then the time spent on assessment can be reduced to a significant degree
  • Soft skills – from communication skills to report writing, a pen tester must possess these additional soft skills to ace the game

In-depth Knowledge of the Latest Tools

With the advancement of cybercriminals like the use of automated and advanced tools, it’s time for penetration testers to pull their socks up. An expert with an in-depth knowledge of how to use the latest and traditional tools to stay in the race is very important. To name a few, Metasploit, Nmap, Nessus are the best pen testing tools that you should be aware of to its core. This knowledge gives you dominance over cyber attackers.

Offensive and Defensive Strategies

“It’s crucial that the pen tester is comfortable in being a part of blue as well as the red team. It is not enough for a pen tester to only be aware of how to imitate a cybercriminal in order to identify potential exploits and vulnerabilities. The professional should also be well-versed with the strategies to defend an organization’s network and system from the identified exploits. Apart from that, since past few years, the purple team is gaining popularity. Professionals who aren’t subjected to either attacking or defending security system are classified under the purple team. Having the flexibility to work as per the required conditions, is what differentiates a usual pen tester from a great pen tester.”

“Penetration testing is a very lucrative opportunity to apply the skills you’ve learned hands-on. In this specialization, it isn’t just theory or utilizing tools; you really need to master the concepts and make adjustments during your engagement. That’s what makes the career rewarding, challenging, and sometimes higher salary. In addition to varying tactical skills; many testers will exercise new time management and communication strategies that are transferrable to their non-engagement based tasks. This specific role in the field is a place where you can be as creative with a technical control as you want; almost an art.”

“It’s my belief certifications are an attestation to one’s current skillset within the domain examined. Any certification is a reputable tool to augment your learning experience; however it should not be the only source of your learning. Professionals looking to enter the penetration testing specialization, even at a junior level need to have solid fundamentals. It’s been in my professional experience that individuals need to understand that cyber security as a whole is a general umbrella comprised of multiple specializations, including penetration testing. Newcomers should have their IT fundamentals mastered including systems engineering, networking, and desktop experience before entering in the cyber security generalist role. After 3-5 years of solid security experience, is when I’ve commonly seen professionals start to specialize. When deciding to specialize as a junior tester, a critical path towards gaining the skills needed is independent learning. Certification bodies help guide that path; but ultimately the professional needs to seek additional resources, reading, and practice within certification objectives.”

“I would say one such credential is Licensed Penetration Master (L|PT). It is different from the other pen testing training programs available in the market. It has a holistic approach to it for covering all the aspects of penetration testing. This hands-on exam challenged in every possible way to prove my worth as an experienced pen tester with required technical and report writing skills. Getting through this exam establishes that I am proficient at using various pen testing tools. The program is offered by EC-Council which is widely known for its cybersecurity certifications.”

“The EC-Council curriculum is constantly changing, and what I’ve found during different times of certification are that material is updated to meet new threats. In the CEH, many tools are introduced to the student and it is up to the student to master the concepts of not only tools, but methods and tactics of penetration testing. There is a focus on the objectives of threats and fundamental principles of common attack surface types. The ECSA combines the methods of attacks and tools from the CEH as an extension into hands on tactical utilization of the tools and techniques described. There is a splash of defense and a point of view from a defender perspective on how these attacks can be detected or countered. Following up with the LPT, is when training wheels come off and you have limited information along with administrative tasks (as if you were a pen tester engaging a customer). You are expected to utilize all that you have learned from the previous course tracks and apply it on a limited time frame following through with proper reporting. Everything in the LPT is capture the flag style. All of my training with EC-Council’s curriculum has been during my time in the defense and public sector environments.”

“It’s true that EC-Council’s courseware exposed me to tools that I haven’t seen before typically utilized in the field. There was an active insider threat in one organization where I wasn’t able to fully utilize my existing “go to” typical toolsets and through learning from the prior courseware, I was able to utilize alternative tools and red team tactics to lure the insider threat into entering a honeynet and token trap and be able to utilize payloads mentioned in all three courseware, for the purposes of blue team DFIR and extract enough evidence for the internal investigations team. This was a perfect example of how red team skills can tremendously add value to blue team defenders.”

“The remotely proctored L|PT (Master) credential gives you the required edge in an applicant’s pool. Also, it ensures your worth as a skilled pen tester. For anyone who wants to evaluate his/her pen testing skills and knowledge should definitely try a hand on the L|PT (Master).”


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