Penetration Testing and Red Teaming: Exploring a Career in Ethical Hacking for College Students

Penetration Testing and Red Teaming: Exploring a Career in Ethical Hacking for College Students

Cybersecurity careers appeal to college students due to the large number of opportunities available and the pride that comes with defending society against cyberattacks. There are a wide variety of roles available within the cybersecurity industry, such as Malware Analysis, Digital Forensics, Threat Response, etc. We will explore Penetration Testing and Red Teaming in this blog, and discuss career prospects in this field.

What Are Penetration Testing and Red Teaming?

Before we expand on careers in Penetration Testing and Red Teaming, let us first understand what they refer to:

Penetration Testing, which is more usually known as Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) is a process of analysing an organisation’s cybersecurity with the goal of identifying weaknesses in cyber defences. This process is similar to an audit, and a report is submitted to the organisation listing the weaknesses identified.

Vulnerability Assessment involves scanning the organisation’s computing assets to identify all potential vulnerabilities and assessing the associated risk. Vulnerabilities are contextual i.e., what may be a vulnerability in one organisation may not be a vulnerability in another, and therefore Vulnerability Assessment requires understanding the organisation and its business processes to discover vulnerabilities. A device that isn’t automatically installing available updates due to insufficient memory is an example of a vulnerability.

Penetration Testing involves ethical hacking to discover if, and to what extent, a vulnerability may be exploited by a threat actor and the impact if it is successfully exploited. A penetration test of the vulnerability example provided in the previous paragraph might attempt to plant malware in the unprotected machine and then move laterally through the organisation’s network until access to unencrypted Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of customers is obtained. Penetration testing is time- and resource-intensive and therefore all identified vulnerabilities will not undergo penetration testing.

Red Teaming simulates a real-world cyberattack and this exercise will usually include a Blue Team (the organisation’s IT team) which will try to counter the Red Team attack. Red Team exercises are performed to obtain a realistic picture of the organisation’s ability to defend against a determined and knowledgeable attacker.

Difference between VAPT and Red Teaming

Red Teaming will include VAPT but a Red Team exercise will usually have a wider scope than a VAPT assignment; internal teams will not be informed that a Red Team attack simulation will be conducted, and will have to respond believing the attack is real.

Why Opportunities are Growing in Ethical Hacking

The increase in digital transformation and remote working has created more opportunities for threat actors to attack organisations, and the costs and consequences of a cyberattack keep increasing, resulting in an expansion in demand for ethical hacking services, like Penetration Testing and Red Teaming, that can identify an organisation’s cyber weaknesses. Penetration Testing is also increasingly mandated for businesses e.g., the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) expects Mutual Funds and Asset Management Companies to perform VAPT once in a financial year (or twice a year if they are classified as a protected system) through an external agency and submit the report within a month.

The global Penetration Testing market is expected to increase from USD 1.4 billion in 2022 to USD 2.7 billion by 2027. This growth is likely to sustain beyond this period as well, as digital transformation is expected to accelerate (and not reduce) in future which will be accompanied by an increase in demand for cybersecurity professionals who have the knowledge and skills to provide effective ethical hacking services. College students who choose to specialise in cybersecurity can expect to enjoy a stable and rewarding career with many opportunities for long-term growth.

What Credentials are Required?

Organisations seeking to recruit ethical hacking experts with an emphasis on Penetration Testing and Red Teaming look for

  1. Knowledge of IT infrastructure in an enterprise environment
  2. Ethical hacking skills
  3. Understanding of Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors

Knowledge of IT Infrastructure in an Enterprise Environment

Ethical hackers need to understand the IT environment to successfully compromise an organisation, and should be familiar with types of hardware, software, middleware, servers, and other computing assets used in the enterprise.

Ethical Hacking Skills

Ethical hackers must have expert familiarity with hacking tools to be able to test an organisation’s defences against the cyber weapons that would be deployed against them by a cyberattacker.

Understanding of TTPs Used by Threat Actors

Penetration Testing and Red Teaming are expected to replicate cyberattacks. Ethical hackers will, therefore, need to have an in-depth understanding of the Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures used by threat actors to create simulations of real-world attacks.

How Can College Students Access Cybersecurity Careers?

K7 Academy offers cybersecurity courses for students and professionals that are designed to suit varying levels of skills and experience. College students who wish to gain the skills required to enter the cybersecurity field can Contact Us for more information on our cybersecurity courses that include hands-on learning with training from cybersecurity experts.