How to Become a Hacker: Paths for a Career in Ethical Hacking
Hacking is an industry that’s growing fast. There are lots of job opportunities for ethical hackers (people like us) who can test the security of systems to make sure they are secure and not vulnerable to black-hat hackers. There is actually a huge demand for ethical hackers these days because of the increased amount of hacking attacks. We hear stories on the daily news about big systems and big companies getting hacked. Not so long ago, Uber got hacked, and the information of more than 56 million users was exposed. Companies like Uber, Facebook, and Google hire good hackers to try to hack into their systems to point out the weaknesses. They also set up bug bounty programs, where they ask all the hackers around the world to try to hack into their websites – those who can will receive a bounty for the bugs they find.
What is hacking?
Hacking refers to accessing systems you’re not supposed to have access to. For example, logging into an email account you’re not supposed to have access to is considered hacking that account. Gaining access to a remote computer you’re not supposed to have access to is hacking that computer. Reading information you’re not supposed to be able to read, again, is considered hacking.
There are three main types of hackers:
- Black-hat hackers: these are criminals who hack systems illegally to steal money, or to achieve their own illegal goals.
- White-hat hackers: this is what we’re referring to in this article. White-hat hackers, also called ethical hackers, use the same techniques used by the black-hat hackers to hack into systems. The main difference is they only hack into systems they have permission to hack in order to test the security of the systems and better secure them.
- Gray-hat hackers: these are a mixture of the two above. Gray-hat hackers will hack into any system, even if they don’t have permission to test the security of it. But they will never steal money or damage that system, and in most cases, they’ll notify the administrator of that system. What they do is still illegal because they test the security of systems they do not own, or do not have permission to test.
How can you become a hacker?
In this blog post, we are going to discuss the two elements you need to become an ethical hacker, and different paths you can follow to gain more hacking experience to help you land a job.
Learning how to become an ethical hacker
If you want to get a job as an ethical hacker or as a cybersecurity expert, having the skills is simply not enough. Although some of my students got jobs simply by relying on my courses, in general, online courses work great as an add-on to existing experience, a cybersecurity degree, or a degree in IT.
You’ll need two important elements if you want to work as an ethical hacker: skills and experience.
First, learn hacking skills.
You can search Google for “how to hack” or “how to learn hacking” and you’ll get a lot of useful resources. This is how I learned hacking, and the best thing about this option is that it’s completely free.
If you don’t have time to go through all of the free results Google returns, and you prefer a specific path or curriculum that will take you from one stage to another, then an online course is what you’re looking for. There are a lot of great hacking courses available these days. I teach a number of hacking courses myself.
Top courses in Ethical Hacking
Another thing that’s helped me a lot has been contributing to the websites and communities that I learned from. Making a video or a tutorial about a topic helped me understand that topic much more – not to mention the connections you make with like-minded people and the doors these connections open. You might even get a job this way.
Then, gain experience and build a name for yourself.
Paths to becoming an ethical hacker
If you already have an IT degree or experience working in IT
In this case, you might be able to find a job in hacking without having to do too much additional learning. Once you have learned the skills needed for an ethical hacker, you can start applying for jobs. You can still follow the five tips mentioned earlier to get more experience and enhance your CV, but they are not necessary if you have existing IT experience or degree(s) that show your capabilities.
If you are still in school
In this case, you will need to learn relevant hacking skills, whether online or through courses, and complete an IT-related college course before following the 5 tips for gaining hacking experience. You don’t have to do a cybersecurity course necessarily. I did a computer science course and while doing it, I kept learning about hacking, contributing to the communities, and working on my profile to get experience and to get myself noticed. By the time I graduated, I had a lot of job offers in computer security.
If you are studying an IT course in college
In this case, you’ll need to acquire the relevant skills for hacking and follow the five tips mentioned above to get experience. By the time you graduate, you’ll be extra lucky because you can apply for graduate positions, where you’ll get trained and gain more experience while earning a paycheck. Some of these positions will even pay for you to do cybersecurity certifications.
Becoming a white-hat hacker simply depends on how much time and effort you are willing to put into learning the skills and gaining the experience required. I know several people earning more than $300,000 a year working in cybersecurity without qualifications! One of them didn’t even go to college.
Having certifications will make your road to a hacking career easier, but don’t feel like you can’t pursue this field just because you don’t have a certification right now. Hacking is a very accessible career path, and you can achieve your goal of joining the hacker community if you put the time and effort into learning the skills – whether through a course, or through free resources online.