Application penetration tester – Job description salary

A Penetration Tester (a.k.a. Ethical Hacker) is an individual who probes for and exploits security vulnerabilities in web-based applications, networks and systems.

In other words, Penetration Tester get paid to legally hack. In this “cool kid” job, he uses a series of penetration tools – some predetermined, some that he designs himselfs – to simulate real-life cyber attacks. His ultimate aim is to help an organization improve its security.

Roles and Responsibilities of Penetration Tester:

Ethical hacking is a mix of sexiness and boring bits. Unlike real-life hackers, ethical hacker may only have days to compromise systems. What’s more, a Penetration Tester is expected to document and explain your methods and findings. Penetration testing has been called one of the most frustrating jobs in the infosec field.

Overall, a Penetration Tester is likely to be required to:

  • Perform formal penetration tests on web-based applications, networks and computer systems.
  • Conduct physical security assessments of servers, systems and network devices.
  • Design and create new penetration tools and tests.
  • Probe for vulnerabilities in web applications, fat/thin client applications and standard applications.
  • Pinpoint methods that attackers could use to exploit weaknesses and logic flaws.
  • Employ social engineering to uncover security holes (e.g. poor user security practices or password policies).
  • Incorporate business considerations (e.g. loss of earnings due to downtime, cost of engagement, etc.) into security strategies.
  • Research, document and discuss security findings with management and IT teams.
  • Review and define requirements for information security solutions.
  • Work on improvements for security services, including the continuous enhancement of existing methodology material and supporting assets.
  • Provide feedback and verification as an organization fixes security issues

During the penetration test, a Penetration Tester will typically focus on exploiting vulnerabilities (e.g. making it a goal to break part of a system).Remember there is a difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, you don’t have to go all the way to prove your point:

A penetration testing team may be able to simply take pictures standing next to the open safe, or to show they have full access to a database, etc., without actually taking the complete set of actions that a criminal could.

Education requirement for becoming application penetration tester:

Most Pen Testers don’t hold a specialized degree. Since ethical hacking is more about skills than course credits, a bachelor or master’s degree in cyber security is unnecessary if you have appropriate job experience.

Hone your street skills any which way you can. Go to hacking conferences, research potential certifications (see below), look into SANS courses, set up a pen testing lab, learn from other pen testers, read and read more.

Work Experience for application penetration tester:

Overall, employers appear to be looking for 2-4 years of security-related experience with practice in penetration testing and vulnerability assessments. The range for Senior Penetration Testers is more variable. It may be as low as 3 and as high as 7-10 years of experience.

Pen testers come at the field from all angles. Some take up hacking in university; others use their CS degree to focus on cyber security.

Regardless of your path, employers are unlikely to hire you straight out of school. You can always go for certifications or consider gaining experience in IT jobs such as:

  • Security Administrator
  • Network Administrator
  • System Administrator
  • Network Engineer

After you have proven your worth as a Penetration Tester, you may find better pay as a:

  • Senior Penetration Tester
  • Security Consultant
  • Security Architect

Salary of application Penetration Tester:

According to Payscale, the median salary for a Penetration Tester is $71,929 (2014 figures). Overall, you can expect to take home a total pay of $44,220 – $117,398. This includes your base annual salary, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime pay and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable.

Certifications For Penetration Testers:

There is no master list of preferred certifications for pen testing. Although it’s popular within the IT industry, CEH is fairly loose. We recommend you ask colleagues about the pluses and minuses of accreditations like CPT/CEPT, GPEN and – especially – OSCP.

CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker
CPT: Certified Penetration Tester
CEPT: Certified Expert Penetration Tester
GPEN: GIAC Certified Penetration Tester
OSCP: Offensive Security Certified Professional
CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional
GCIH: GIAC Certified Incident Handler
GCFE: GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner
GCFA: GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst
CCFE: Certified Computer Forensics Examiner
CREA: Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst


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