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Ethical Hackers Are In Demand, And Here's How You Can Become One

29/02/2016 8:13 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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The threat hackers pose to businesses is finally being taken seriously as more e-commerce and mobile app-based service providers are taking concrete steps to address the loopholes in their networks. A recent survey conducted by KPMG across various industries had stated that 94% of companies perceive cybercrime as the major threat to business; as many as 72% of the companies faced some sort of cyber-attack over just the past year. What is even more shocking is that 78% of these companies do not even have a cyber-incident response plan. These statistics have brought to light that companies and startups operating in India are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and need stronger security safety measures.

The root cause of increasing cyber-attacks is the severe talent crunch in the number of skilled and trained professionals in the field. Ideally, a firm must have a dedicated team of 'white hat' hackers working to continuously test and improve the organization's network.

Ethical hackers work with government and private firms to test their networks for vulnerabilities, loopholes and bugs to prevent an actual criminal from encroaching.

The word "dedicated" must be emphasized because there have been incidents where hired consultants have gone rogue due to the large amounts of money involved. This leaves no other option for the firms but to look into developing and training such professionals and encouraging it as a mainstream line of profession if not a standalone department besides IT.

The age of inventing followed by networking is in the past. We're all connected. The current age is of protection and security. However, it must be understood that cyber-security is a process and not a product. There is no website that is hack proof. Given enough time and effort, anything and anyone can be hacked. Ethical hackers work with government and private firms to test their networks for vulnerabilities, loopholes and bugs to prevent an actual criminal from encroaching upon the network.

How does one become an ethical hacker?

To begin with, you must be well versed with writing programs in various programming languages like C++, C#, Perl, Ruby and Python. Familiarity with web applications like .NET and PHP is also essential. Furthermore, knowledge of assembly language is also a plus. You must also be knowledgeable about the different operating systems as well. Apart from this you should also have a basic understanding of TCP/IP protocols such as HTTP, SMTP and ICMP.

It is recommended that you undergo a brief certification course to cover all the important aspects of ethical hacking, from code analyzing to cyber laws.

On the hardware side, you must be familiar with network devices such as switches, routers, firewalls as well. Besides the technical side, a hacker needs to have good soft skills as well.

It is recommended that you undergo a brief certification course to cover all the important aspects of ethical hacking, from code analyzing to cyber laws. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and EC-Council Certified Secure Programmer (ECSP), Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) are some of the courses that students can pursue. There are plenty of options available to choose from. However, you must research the quality and return expected before investing time and money.

Why should one opt to be a hacker?

There has never been a better time to enter into the cyber-security field. The current demand is booming due to government initiatives like Smart Cities. This demand is expected to surge as more startups and businesses go online. According to recent data, India needs at least 4.7 lakh cyber-security professionals currently for protection of IT infrastructure in the country as well as to serve the export market.

Career prospects

Internet security and networking are the two fastest-growing industries where ethical hackers can find employment. Ethical hackers are hired to find any vulnerability that might exist in a network and to fix them. They can join the government as well as private organisations as cyber-security experts. IT firms are the main recruiters of ethical hackers. Such experts are also required by financial service providers, airlines, retail chains and hotels.

Companies such as Wipro, Infosys, IBM, TCS, Tech Mahindra, HCL, Airtel, Reliance and many more are also looking for good ethical hackers.

In addition, government agencies such as various wings of the military and law enforcement, defence organisations, forensic laboratories, detective companies and investigative services offer challenging roles for ethical hackers. Some skilled hackers work for investigative agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Information. Some large organisations employ security testers and others use contractors to audit their systems.

Graduates can set up their own companies offering ethical hacking services. Companies such as Wipro, Infosys, IBM, TCS, Tech Mahindra, HCL, Airtel, Reliance and many more are also looking for good ethical hackers. Designations that are used for this profile include Network Security Systems Manager, Network Security Administrator, Systems/Applications, Security Executive, Web Security Administrator, Web Security Manager, etc.

Salary

A fresher may work as an intern for a couple of months and can start with a minimum of ₹2.5 lakh per annum. With one year of experience, one can expect up to ₹4.5 lakh per annum. Those with work experience five years or more can rake in anything between ₹10-12 lakh per annum.

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