How To Become An Ethical Hacker


What do you think a hacker looks like?

You’re probably imagining a young tech genius, sat there with their hood up, fixed to a screen, and furiously tapping away at the keyboard whilst hiding in their basement. At least, that’s what Hollywood movies would have you believe!

The reality is often very different.

In fact, hackers can look like the average person, like you or me. They could even be you or me! This is because ethical hacking has become a very in-demand skill when it comes to cybersecurity, particularly for huge government bodies and large corporations.

This means that the need for ethical hackers is also on the rise, and this could be a very lucrative career if you’ve got what it takes.

But what is an ethical hacker, and how do you become one? Well, that’s exactly what this guide has been designed to tell you.

What is an ethical hacker?

One of the best ways to fend off real hackers is to beat them at their own game - and this is where ethical hackers come in. These people are experts, they are often in the security field, and many will specialize in penetration testing and other methods of protecting a company’s infrastructure from cybercriminals.

However, this does not mean that pen testing and ethical hacking are the same things. Rather, an ethical hacker is employed to act as a hacker would and to try to get into the mind of a hacker. They use tools (such as pen testing) and various cyberattacks to try and break down a company’s systems.

They do so as a way of highlighting any problems or areas of weakness in the company’s security and identifying ways that hackers can get access to their systems and information.

It’s also worth noting at this point that this position can also be referred to as a ‘white hat hacker’ because some professionals take issue with the term ‘hacker’ whether ethical or not. But really that is just semantics.

How to become an ethical hacker?

If you’re seriously considering this as a career - and it can be a very rewarding choice if you do - then you might be wondering how to get started in the industry. Well, as this is quite a new role, no one set a path directly to becoming an ethical hacker. That said, we’ve pulled together a list of X steps you can take to get your career off the ground.

1. Get qualified

Although there are many Ethical hacking bootcamps and courses, you can get your foot in the door and gain relevant qualifications. It’s best to ensure that whatever you choose to study is related to computer systems, even better if you can specialize in security at some point along the way.

There are also a lot of cybersecurity courses available, either through formal study such as a university or as an online course, so you can better fit this around your lifestyle.

Some of the formal courses might include the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Certification, and this can often give you the best start as it is so widely recognized in the industry.

You could also study a related degree before moving on to complete a master a field like cyber-security or a CREST certification. And finally, to get you started on the career path, you need to gain the approval of the Communications-Electronics Security Group.

2. Make sure you’ve got the right skills

Believe it or not, being an ethical hacker isn’t just about having the technical know-how to hack a computer system. In fact, there are lots of other important skills you’ll need to thrive in the industry. In lots of cases, particularly if you run your own business, you might find yourself acting as more of a consultant, assisting with strengthening companies' security efforts. Because of this, you need to make sure you have those all-important skills, such as:
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Self-motivation
  • Attention to detail
  • Flexibility
These skills are going to be important for a successful career as an ethical hacker, so you need to make sure you possess them, and if you don’t, there are ways you can work on strengthening these transferable skills.

3. Work your way up

Another way to start a career as an ethical hacker is to get a job in a related field at a junior level and work your way up. For example, lots of hackers will work as auditors or security professionals before climbing the ladder to becoming an ethical hacker.

Though this might take a little longer, this can be a good way to reach your goals because it means that you’ll reach ethical hacker status with lots of helpful and relevant experience behind you.

4. Grow your network

Building a network like-minded individuals can be great for helping your career. This could mean talking to companies like CREST to see what opportunities they offer to budding hackers. You could also connect with people on LinkedIn or attend industry events.

It always pays to keep growing your network and expanding your knowledge of the industry. After all, you never know when a good opportunity will present itself. All it takes is for one person to recognize your talent and you’ll be on your way.

Can cyber criminals become ethical hackers?

And finally, if you once used your hacking skills for evil, you might be wondering whether it’s too late to come over to the good side. Well, it’s not unheard of for illegal hackers (known as black hat hackers) to switch over and become an ethical hacker.

After all, if you’ve hacked systems before, you’ll have the skillset to do it in a positive capacity. The only problem might be getting employers to trust you. But if you can present a good case, it’s entirely possible that you could switch teams to get hired as an ethical hacker.

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