The cutting edge of IT security these days is something of a testament to the times we live in. It’s dangerous for computer networks, with the rapid expansion of the Internet and data systems, more and more hackers are seeking to cash in on people, companies and agencies who don’t know what they’re doing. Thanks to speed upgrades, a broad spectrum of cash flow possibilities and an increasingly automated, increasingly media-saturated global network of computers, the Internet is becoming more and more feasible for hackers to exploit for financial gain, rather than simply to cause trouble.
Penetration testing consists of a number of skills and methodologies, but at its heart it is a philosophy and methodology. For all the IT specialists who grew up with a simultaneous fascination with piracy and the archetype of the free-spirited electronic pirate, living according to a personal ethic of winner-takes-all, and a more serious ethic regarding not causing harm to others and living morally, penetration testing is a very attractive set of practices. The philosophy behind penetration testing, called “ethical hacking,” is, essentially, about hacking into networks in order to find their weak spots.
Penetration testing lets you have your cake and eat it too. You can learn how to play and have fun with the hacker’s game of cat-and-mouse, but you don’t have to worry about the consequences if you’re caught. And believe me, this is quite a lucrative cake. Businesses all over the world are looking to the first adopters of penetration testing and at how successful their networks have been in fending off hackers. They are all but asking for new network administrative positions to be filled by people with a penetration testing or ethical hacking degree.
Unlike standard methods, a penetration tester is required to actively test the network to see if it could be compromised. This makes it slightly more dangerous and put slightly more strain on a network, but it is definitely worth it. After all, theory only gets you so far. What is successful in theory might fall to a creative hacker’s approach, and only an equally creative penetration tester, trying out that method on the network before the hacker gets to it, can ensure the network’s security.
There are several penetration testing “methodologies” which , but ultimately a penetration tester’s success comes from the same place that a hacker’s success comes from – her ingenuity, creativity, and downright deviousness in coming up with ways that a network could be compromised. As an ethical, or “white hat” hacker, she uses that deviousness in service of good. Or, from a more pragmatic view, she uses it in service of her bank account, since being an illegal hacker is a dangerous job. Illegality is never pragmatic.
If you are at all interested in network security, you’re in luck. Network administration and IT services (http://www.itsupportquotes.com) are among the fastest-growing career fields now. Penetration Testing is the set of practices most highly regarded by prospective employers and those in the know. Learning penetration testing will only serve you in your search for a fun, interesting, meaningful career. most people who have been exposed to the security industry should get their Certified Ethical Hacker (http://www.trainace.com/courses/ceh/) certification and people who have been pentesting for a while should go with either their ECSA / LPT certifications (http://www.trainace.com/courses/lpt/) or the Advanced Penetration Tester / Cyber War (http://www.trainace.com/courses/apt/).