Not all hackers are criminals. Ethical hackers, or “white hat” hackers, are tasked with legally breaking into IT systems to test and improve an organization’s defenses.
Ethical hackers are paid to keep up with the latest cybercriminal tactics and find backdoors and other vulnerabilities – without the threat of being arrested. Keep reading to learn how to become an ethical hacker and gain the skills needed to become an expert.
Career Path to Become an Ethical Hacker
The demand for ethical hackers has increased exponentially as cybercriminals find more advanced ways to hack IT systems. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 28 percent rise in the need for information security analysts (including ethical hackers) from 2016 to 2026.
Here is the recommended career path to become an ethical hacker.
1. Understand Ethical Hacker Qualifications
Here are some of the top ethical hacker skills and qualifications you should keep in mind when preparing to enter the field:
- Two years of information security-related work experience. It’s important to gain experience in the information security field so employers know you understand the tools of the trade. Entering the industry as an information security analyst or security engineer can be a good place to start.
- Networking knowledge. To prevent “black hat” hackers from penetrating a company’s network, you will need to understand advanced networking devices and concepts. You should have a deep understanding of network scanning techniques, wireless network threats, IP spoofing and various detection techniques.
- Social engineering skills. Social engineering involves manipulating users into revealing confidential information to gain access to a computer system. As an ethical hacker, you’ll need to master the standard techniques used to convince people to give up their credentials, open files, shut down or restart systems or otherwise reveal information.
- Cloud computing. Misconfigured cloud technology and human error make it easy for cybercriminals to hack cloud infrastructure. You should be familiar with modern cloud computing concepts, threats and security tools. Having experience with at least one of the “big three” cloud providers (Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure) will help you stand out to potential employers.
- Problem-solving abilities. As an ethical hacker, you’ll need to know how to fix vulnerabilities and solve problems quickly when you find weak spots. You should have a talent for thinking on your feet, remediating issues and recommending security solutions that will prevent cyber breaches.
These ethical hacker skills can take several years to refine, but the payoff is well worth it. According to PayScale, the average ethical hacker salary is over $96,000.
2. Earn a Degree or Gain Experience Through Training
While you don’t necessarily need a master’s degree to become an ethical hacker, having one might give you an advantage when applying to jobs. A master’s degree in information security will equip you with many of the IT security and networking skills we touched on in the previous section.
The most important thing to know is that you can’t just jump into an ethical hacker role. You’ll need to gain cybersecurity experience through education, entry-level jobs and relevant training courses first.
3. Obtain a Job in the IT Security Field
Find a role in information security. Seek out jobs like “penetration tester,” “information security analyst,” “network security specialist” and other similar titles that relate to the ethical hacker role.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re focused on the hacking side of the job so that you can progress in the ethical hacking field. You’re not an ethical hacker yet, but you’re getting close.
4. Earn Your Certified Ethical Hacker Certification
Certifications are a great way to show potential employers that you take the job seriously and want to know more, even on your own time. You gain access to higher earning potential, and you’ll be more confident entering the job market.
To market yourself as an ethical hacker, you need to earn the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification. This vendor-neutral certification is the gold standard in the ethical hacking discipline. It was created to help standardize ethical hacking practices and establish a strict code of ethics.
The CEH certification requires you to have two years of information security-related job experience. If you don’t have it, you’ll be directed toward an accredited training center or approved school to take the CEH training course. This prerequisite is in place to weed out hobbyists and anyone looking to use hacking for malicious reasons.
Once you’ve received adequate training, you will take the CEH certification exam to prove your ability to think and act like a cybercriminal. The exam mimics real-life scenarios and covers 270 attack technologies.
The training course is five days long. The exam itself is four hours long and covers everything from cloud computing to social engineering.
Browse Certified Ethical Hacker training from New Horizons.
Prepare to Become an Ethical Hacker With New Horizons Training
If you’re ready to learn a highly sought-after skill set, have a penchant for finding weak security points and have a desire to follow a strict code of ethics, then you’re ready for ethical hacking.
New Horizons can help. We have a large list of courses to help you gain the right skills for an ethical hacking career. Check out our available cybersecurity courses or get in contact with one of our training specialists to take the next steps toward a new career.