Ethical Hacking: How to Make Money as a Hacker
When you picture a hacker, the word “ethical” probably doesn’t spring to mind. Hackers are often associated with some shady suspects, like scammers and cybercriminals. In reality, ethical hacking is a new kind of IT career, and it’s all about a new kind of hacking: the ethical kind.
In the IT industry, ethical hackers are lifesavers when it comes to network security and privacy protection. While a lot of IT careers can be repetitive, ethical hackers have one of the most exciting careers in the IT industry. To do the job properly, you have to think and act just like a hacker.
In an ethical hacking career, you get paid to hack the system. It’s much more fun than your average job. It’s a job that pays off, too — Certified Ethical Hackers (CEH) in Australia make an average of $102,383 a year. But what do ethical hackers actually do, and how do you become one?
What is ethical hacking?
Ethical hackers — also known as penetration testers and white hat hackers — are paid to break into other people’s computers. Literally. But not without good reason. Clients hire ethical hackers to hack into their systems so that they can identify any vulnerabilities, prevent any unauthorised access and keep backdoors closed. This way, companies can always remain one step ahead of malicious hackers and black hat hackers.
As Shubham Shah, ethical hacker and co-founder of Assetnote, explains:
“A hacker is someone who wants to take something apart, understand it, and figure out what’s wrong with it, how to fix it and advise how to fix it.
An ethical, or ‘white hat’ hacker is someone who does this for good — to uncover bugs and help companies improve vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can exploit them.”
There’s no better way to test a system’s security vulnerabilities than to hack into it. By testing the system’s strength, the hacker can close any vulnerabilities they find and reduce the risk of cybercrime.
In comparison to other careers in the IT industry, ethical hacking is the opposite of dull. If you’re looking for a fun job that bends people’s expectations, ethical hacking has it all — full of twists and turns; this is an industry that forces you to expect the unexpected.
This kind of job is more than just exciting, it’s promising too. On average, Australia loses $328 million to cybercrime every year. More and more businesses realise how important it is to invest in their cybersecurity plan, and the strong growth in the ethical hacking industry is proving it.
Hacking presents a fun, intellectual challenge that can be solved with a mix of creativity and ingenuity, all the while helping to make the internet safer.
— Shubham Shah
Why do companies hire ethical hackers?
Companies hire ethical hackers to act as all-round security professionals. With most businesses shifting into online spaces, the risk of data theft and security breaches is increasing every day. Companies and government agencies have to hire ethical hackers to secure their network, update their cybersecurity plans and correct their company’s security posture.
As an ethical hacker, it’s your job to make sure none of your client’s data infrastructure and information is left vulnerable.
Ethical hackers are also responsible for tasks like:
More and more government agencies in Australia are falling victim to cybercrime. In 2020, only one agency out of 18 met the mandated security guidelines, with the other 17 falling significantly below the expected requirements. Inadequate security systems will leave these agencies vulnerable.
With cyber threats on the rise, more of these agencies will need to secure their information and hire ethical hackers. An increase in demand holds a lot of promise for certified ethical hackers and business owners in the industry.
Regardless of how much time, effort and resources are spent on securing an attack surface, there are still often flaws that can be exploited. With enough time and resources, vulnerabilities can be found in anything.
— Shubham Shah
What do ethical hackers actually do?
As an ethical hacker, your responsibilities will vary depending on your area of expertise. In general, an ethical hacker will spend a day on the job working on webservers, ensuring things like:
Some of the most common cybersecurity issues ethical hackers deal with are identity theft and online fraud. These are the two most commonly reported cybercrimes in Australia. You will also help prevent other problems associated with ransomware, denial of service, SQL injections and social engineering.
There are plenty of ways that companies engage white hat hackers to improve their security. These can include private bug bounty programs, public bug bounty programs, time-bound bug bounty programs and vulnerability disclosure policies (VDPs). All of them are different ways of partnering with ethical hackers to find vulnerabilities in their security posture.
— Shubham Shah
How do I become an ethical hacker?
To start your career as an ethical hacker, you should get certified. There’s a whole range of ethical hacking courses available in Data and Cyber Management and Cybersecurity that are entry-level and entirely online.
Getting an ethical hacking certification will help you cover all the basics when it comes to IT risk management, providing you with all the hacking tools you’ll need to get your foot in the door. On top of that, you can show your future employers and clients that you’re more than just competent, you’re up-to-date and highly skilled.
Getting certified as an ethical hacker will open up a world of opportunities for you. Outside of ethical hacking and bug bounty jobs, Certified Ethical Hackers can take on other careers, like:
As technology continues to develop, people are becoming more and more concerned with their privacy. If you want to upskill and become an expert in the IT industry, ethical hacking is worth investing in and will be for years to come.
To help you start your journey, Shah recommends doing further research and checking out some online resources. “The number one way new hackers on HackerOne learn is by reading the publicly disclosed reports on HackerOne’s Hacktivity pages. There’s also plenty of free resources online like Hacker101, which offers free learning tools for web security as well as capture-the-flag exercises. You can find a list of 100 tools and resources for hackers here.”
For those starting out, I’d recommend developing a range of skills which tap into your creativity and curiosity and to just dive in and get started.
— Shubham Shah
If you’re looking to speed up your career, why not embrace the adrenaline of hacking for a living? As an ethical hacker, your IT expertise will offer your clients more than a fast internet connection and a smooth operating system. You’ll help find security solutions for the people that need it.
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