How to become a professional ethical hacker

Ethical hacking is a career in great demand, with excellent job prospects, good pay and plenty of opportunities to help protect the security of systems in government, corporate and retail spheres. Find out more about a career in ethical hacking.

Online security is a big issue in the modern world. Cyber crime is rife, with hackers breaking into the system of banks, retailers, institutions, businesses and stealing information and worse. To combat such unethical hacking, there is a full profession of "ethical" hackers who have made a full career out of breaking into computer systems.

There is a great demand for ethical hackers in the market today. They protect individuals and institutions against miscreants who hack email accounts, use password attacks to steal and intercept sensitive data, send spam emails or abusive emails etcetera. As a result, many people who are interested in the subject are pursuing a career in it.

Hacking is illegal in general. But when it is done under a contract between an organisation and the hacker, it becomes "ethical". Ethical hackers are not criminals. Instead, they are "white hat", which means they are aboveboard and our protectors.

What does an ethical hacker do?

An ethical hacker hacks into a system with permission, in order to strengthen security, find loopholes and make them secure against other hackers. You must be a computer expert to be able to find vulnerabilities in an IT system. Other terms used instead of "ethical hacking" are "red teaming", "intrusion testing" or "penetration testing".

Who can be an ethical hacker?

If you have a strong interest in solving problems and preventing malicious hackers from gaining access to and causing damage to networks, and if you are a skilled IT professional, you can consider a profession in ethical hacking. Today, ethical hackers are hired by large companies or governments to secure their data.

If you have a background in computer engineering or computer science or IT, you can think about a career in ethical hacking. The following criteria are helpful and some are essential -
  • Knowing a programming language like Python, C, C++, Ruby etc.,
  • Understanding the ins and outs of commonly used operating systems like Windows, Linux and Macintosh are essential for ethical hackers, since they must protect these systems from hackers

You must be computer savvy and good with gadgets. You must have good problem-solving skills, dedication, initiative, motivation and a strongly investigative nature. You must be resourceful and adaptable. You must also have formal training or certifications in ethical hacking, and practice continued education to excel in the field.

Certifications in ethical hacking

You will also need to obtain a certification in ethical hacking before you can get hired. There are several certifications offered, including:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and
  • Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), both offered by EC Council
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA) offered by Cisco Systems
  • Security Certified Network Specialist (SCNS) and Security Certified Network Professional (SCNP) offered by SCP
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) by Intl Information System Security certification Consortium, etcetera
  • The US-based SANS institute offers a certification course in ethical hacking - it is expensive, but undoubtedly,
    among the best

There are several other certifications that you can obtain, offered by other companies as well. You may prefer to take up a vendor-specific course, such as those offered by Novell, Microsoft and Cisco. All of these certifications are intense courses that help participants learn critical network security fundamentals.

On these courses, you will typically learn skills like IDS, firewalls, Cryptography, wireless security, Windows security, Linux security etc.

Job prospects and pay scale

There is a huge demand for ethical hackers, but not enough professionals in the field, especially in India but also abroad. This means job prospects are excellent. Ethical hackers can join private organisations as well as governments, IT firms and retail companies, financial services, hotels etc. have positions for ethical hackers.

The military, defence organisations, law enforcement agencies, forensic labs, detective agencies etc. also hire ethical hackers. The best work for CBI, NSA and the FBI. As a graduate, you can also set up your own ethical hacking company.

A few big organisations recruit security testers to audit the computer networks. Companies such as Reliance and Airtel, and TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, IBM and Tech Mahindra have vacancies for ethical hackers, under different heads. The jobs on offer are -

  • Applications/Systems Security Executive
  • Web Security Manager
  • Web Security Administrator
  • Network Security Administrator
  • Network Security Systems Manager

The pay scale is quite attractive. Freshers earn a minimum annual package of 2.5 lakhs in a trainee or assistant position. After this, salary hikes to 4.5 lakhs a year is expected. After 5 years, ethical hackers can earn as much as 10 to 12 lakhs a year.

Where to do courses in Ethical Hacking

A number of institutions offer diploma and certificate courses in Ethical Hacking and other allied fields such as Information Security and Cyber Forensics and more.

Institutes and Courses in Ethical Hacking

A number of institutions offer courses in ethical hacking and other allied fields such as Information Security and Cyber Forensics and more. Here is a look at two of the best -

Vidhya Villa

The autonomous program in ethical hacking conducted at Vidhya Villa is comprehensive in nature, covering every aspect required of a professional ethical hacker. Students are taught how to scrutinise, hack and protect the system of company's.

In a nutshell, the course teaches the following –

  • Understanding the mind and the psyche of hackers
  • Securing loopholes that allow hacking
  • Identifying potential threats through various platforms, such as search engines, emails, organization's restricted & public websites and through social network

These are the institute's contact details –

Vidhya Villa – official website
Online Registration
#Phone no: 8527755266

Indian Institute of Code, Networks and Security (IICNS)

The IICNS conducts a 3-year UG programme in Cyber Security and Ethical Hacking.
Details of the programme are available on the Official Website of IICNS.

Do you think this career is for you? If you have any doubts or questions. leave a message in the comment section below.

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