What Is Penetration Testing, and How Can You Start a Career In It?

By Lumify Learn Team  |  October 25, 2023

Imagine you’re a bank manager, and you want to ensure that your vault is secure from thieves. You do this by installing locks, alarms, cameras, and security guards to protect your money. But how can you be sure that you’ve done the right things to safeguard your assets? How can you find out if there are any weaknesses or vulnerabilities in your security system?

One way to do this is to hire a professional hacker to try to break into your vault by using various tools and techniques to simulate a real attack and test your defenses. They will then report back to you with their findings, such as what worked, what failed, and what can be improved. This process is called penetration testing, or pen testing for short.

In this blog, we will explore what penetration testing is, its current job outlook, and how Lumify Learn can help you start a career in penetration testing through our CompTIA PenTest+ course.

What Is Penetration Testing?

In the realm of cyber security, penetration testing refers to a method of evaluating the security of a system or network by simulating an attack from a malicious source, such as a hacker. It is a more specific type of ethical hacking, which refers to any activity aiming to improve the security of a system or network by identifying and reporting vulnerabilities.

The purpose of penetration testing is to allow organisations to find and patch security issues before malicious actors can exploit them. This process is different from conventional security assessments (like network scanning), which are usually compliance-driven and do not really simulate real-world cyber attacks.

When IT professionals conduct pen testing, they mainly do five things:

  • Identify vulnerabilities: The primary goal is to pinpoint vulnerabilities and weaknesses in systems and applications. These could range from software bugs and misconfigurations to incorrect security settings.

  • Assess risk: By uncovering potential threats and vulnerabilities, organisations can make informed decisions about where to allocate resources and prioritise security efforts.

  • Comply with regulations: Many industries and governments have stringent regulations and compliance requirements related to data security. Penetration testing is a crucial tool for demonstrating compliance with these standards.

  • Security improvement: Beyond identifying vulnerabilities, penetration testing offers recommendations and insights for improving security. This can include advising on best practices, security policies, and enhancing employee awareness and training.

  • Realistic simulation: Penetration testing simulates real-world cyberattacks, offering a practical understanding of how a breach might occur. This insight helps organisations fine-tune their incident response plans.

What are the Types of Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing involves various specialised types tailored to different aspects of an organisation’s security. The common types include:

  • Network penetration testing: This assesses the security of network infrastructure, including firewalls, routers, and switches, to identify vulnerabilities and potential entry points for hackers.

  • Social engineering testing: This involves testing the human element of security by simulating phishing attacks, baiting, or impersonation to assess an organisation’s likelihood of falling victims to social engineering attacks.

  • Physical penetration testing: Physical security measures like access controls, surveillance systems, and potential for unauthorised physical access are evaluated in this type.

  • Cloud penetration testing: Pen testers assess the security of cloud-based systems and service to make sure that they ae protected against cyber threats.

What Does the Penetration Testing Career Job Market Look Like?

As more and more organisations need to protect their systems and data from evolving cyber threats, penetration testers find themselves in high demand. According to a survey by PWC, an additional 16,600 cyber security experts (which includes penetration testers) will be needed by 2026.

The average salary for penetration testers in Australia is at $125,000 per year. However, this can increase up to $135,000 as one’s experience increases.

What Skills Should You Gain for a Career in Penetration Testing?

To become a successful penetration tester in Australia, it’s essential to have a combination of technical skills and soft skills.

Technical Skills

Networking Concepts

A deep understanding of network protocols, IP addressing, subnetting, and routing is paramount for evaluating network security.

Operating Systems Knowledge

Proficiency across various operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS, is critical. Such expertise allows testers to identify vulnerabilities and apply exploitation techniques effectively.

Scripting and Programming

Proficiency in scripting languages like Python and programming languages such as C/C++ or Java is essential. It equips penetration testers to automate tasks and develop custom tools for effective testing.

Web Application Technologies

Familiarity with web technologies, including HTML, JavaScript, and databases, is necessary for assessing web application security. Mastery of these elements is pivotal for identifying and addressing vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability Assessment

Penetration testers must have the ability to evaluate systems for vulnerabilities and weaknesses. They use tools like Nessus, OpenVAS, or Qualys to perform comprehensive assessments.

Soft Skills

Curiosity and Creativity

Penetration testers should possess a natural curiosity to discover the different ways to breach systems and networks.

Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills

Proficiency in analysing complex situations and coming up with solutions can help penetration testers identify vulnerabilities and developing robust security measures.

Communication Skills

Effective communication and interpersonal skills will help in collaborating with clients, stakeholders, and team members during penetration testing.

Ethical and Professional Conduct

A strong dedication to ethical standards and professional behavior is important. This involves strict compliance with engagement rules and maintaining the highest level of confidentiality when handling sensitive data.

How Can You Become a Penetration Tester?

To start a career in penetration testing, it's important to take an appropriate course. Lumify currently offers the CompTIA PenTest+ course, designed to provide hands-on, practical experience in penetration testing. This course covers a wide array of topics such as planning, scoping, testing, reporting, and in-depth analysis.

What makes this CompTIA PenTest+ course invaluable is its global recognition. By attaining this certification, you show your proficiency in penetration testing, thus opening doors to a wide array of career opportunities in cyber security. This certification also sets you apart from the competition and showcases your expertise to potential employers.

The best part about this course is that it’s self-paced and conducted 100% online, so you can tailor your learning to your individual schedule. This ensures that you can easily balance your studies with your professional and personal commitments.

Aside from this course, we also offer other cyber security programs:

When you complete our courses, you will gain access to our exclusive Lumify Edge program, which gives you the tools needed to prepare for the job market and connect with companies looking to hire IT professionals.

Start your career in penetration testing by enquiring with us on the course today.

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