Learn Penetration Testing (Beginner at home from scratch)

Becoming a penetration tester is a demanding career path that requires commitment as there are no shortcuts to it. However, with great determination, you can learn the technicalities, especially if you are aware of the rewards that come with it. Therefore, whether you can learn penetration testing at home, I understand it is a matter of concern that requires your attention.

So, how can you learn penetration testing at home? Learning penetration testing at home is possible if you are willing to put in the necessary effort. This is because this course is not an entry-level skill; hence, more technical. The duration you take to grasp this course when learning at home varies from person to person, but as a beginner, you should take about 8-9 months before you can successfully start running security tests.

If you have at least three years of experience in a tech background, you qualify to join one of the fastest-growing occupations as a penetration tester. Pen testers simulate attacks on a client’s infrastructure to establish its weak points. Learning this skill at the comfort of your home using online resources is achievable, as evidenced by experts in this field.

Learning penetration testing at home is possible if you have an ideal background. All you need is to master the basics and prove your skills. Getting into a technical role is vital to give you the ideal background as a penetration tester. With this background, it will be easier to climb into your career ladder and become a successful pen tester.

A technical role, say as a system administrator, will give you a practical understanding of how systems and networks work. This way, you will be able to identify cracks in the system. With a technical background also, it will be easier to learn the tools on your own.

With an ideal background, you can proceed to master the basics. To do this, start using Linux rather than Windows or Mac. This switch enables you to understand the working of an operating system. When using Linux, you will also interact with boot loader, Kernel, and OSI model, among other concepts, which are useful for a penetration tester. Being conversant with Linux also gives you an advantage and convenience as most tools out there support Linux systems.

The next step will be to learn Kali Linux tools. Kali Linux is a free tool, specially made for and by penetration testers, and it has over 600 penetration testing tools. The advantage of this big number is that it offers variety, especially to experienced penetration testing.

However, as a beginner, you will find this tool overwhelming to explore, but this should not worry you; with time, you will find yourself wanting to experiment with almost all of them. However, you should start by learning the basic tools, including Nmap, Burp Suite, SQLmap, and Hydra. A skilled penetration tester should know how each of these tools works, where to use them, and interpret the output they produce.

Another thing you will need to do when learning penetration testing at home is to polish your scripting languages. To start with, focus on learning Python and Bash, as these are easy and fast to work with. While doing this, you should also expose yourself to many reading materials to learn the basic theory.

Once comfortable with how these tools work, you should sign up in legal hacking competitions. These sites aim at polishing your skills and will give you innovative ways to break security. From the basic training sites, you can advance, for instance, through an Amazon AWS account and implement the techniques you learn. If you are diligent in the above, you should be ready for your first assignment as a penetration tester.

Given the high demand for pen testers, you may be tempted to think that the market is lenient when hiring individuals for the job. On the contrary, employers will always ask you to prove your skill to get the job. You should be able to do this by participating in programs such as the Bug Bounty, which are perfect ways of showcasing your skills.

How Can I Learn Penetration Testing from Scratch?

You will not become a good penetration tester by installing Kali Linux or doing a few online courses. This path is challenging to pursue, and you are prone to many frustrations before you make it. However, with determination and a fast learning speed, you will find this field rewarding.

To learn penetration testing from scratch, you will need to achieve some prerequisites, including an intense desire to break into things and basic technical knowledge. Even with this, you cannot just go and enroll for an ethical hacking course or any other relevant course, as you will likely not understand anything.

Thus, if you want to pursue penetration testing, you should take steps including enrolling in a networking course, familiarize yourself with the Linux Operating system, learn a programming language, understand the working of different technologies, and remain patient after these achievements. Once you take the above steps, you can then be confident to enroll in a cybersecurity course, as you will have a strong foundation for your career.

As part of your basic academic qualifications, you should consider a degree in Computer Science. Studying this course will give you theoretical and hands-on experience with the basics of computing, after which you should be self-driven in your explorations.

In addition to a strong academic background, you should have strong networking, system administration, and programming skills. You will also need good interpersonal skills as a pen tester and pay attention to the minor details as these make the most difference in this field.

While you may take a few years to complete your degree, it is worth noting that you might take longer to practice penetration testing as a career. This is because to be an efficient pen tester, you will need several years of experience in other fields, including incident response, system administration, and network security, among others.

Thus, you should be diligent and ignore the people telling you to jump and start right away as long as you have the preinstalled tools. Rushing to do a relevant course will waste time and resources as you may not benefit from the technicalities taught in class.

To start your penetration testing career, you will need to understand the operating systems. You should study what a NAT is, how the TCP/IP works, the OSI layers, and how windows and UNIX function. By understanding these systems, you will be able to work into the non-essential applications built on either UNIX or Windows. This reiterates why a background as a system administrator is an added advantage. This skill will also enable you to hack into systems using security systems.

While you may be conversant with windows, things will not be easy for you if you are not familiar with Linux. Your colleagues in the penetration testing department might mock you if they discover you do not know how to use Linux. To get this tool, you can explore one of three options.

You can install a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu, use macOS, or use Ubuntu on Windows 10. However, using Ubuntu on Windows 10 is a bad idea for beginners, given its unreliability in tool installations and getting the GUI to work. Thus, as a beginner, consider Ubuntu or macOS to save you time and frustration.

With Linux, your work environment is set, and the next step will be to learn how to code. As a general rule, when learning how to break into things, you should first know how to make them. This is the essence of coding.

Some of the things you will want to learn include CSS, Python, HTML, and JavaScript. Python is the most recommended for its great scripting language. It also allows you to write your penetration testing tools, making the experience more exciting.

The hacking world evolves very fast, and most competent websites are safe from the basics. While this holds, you still need to learn them to be an effective penetration tester. You can browse through penetration testing blogs, join ethical hacking communities, or watch vlogs on YouTube to learn the basics.

You may also need to grab a few books on TCP/IP and thoroughly familiarize yourself with the networking technicalities. Also, you should master the set of protocols and familiarize yourself with the vendor implementations in the marketplace.

After learning the theory, you are free to proceed with the practical. To start with, you should understand that attempting to access a system without authorization is illegal. Thus, when making this transition, be careful with the web applications you choose, lest you land yourself in big trouble.

To be safe, consider local hackerspaces such as Wargames and Capture the Flag (CTFs). By exploiting these applications, you will be able to hack into the systems, giving you hands-on experience. It is this experience that you will use in real life to identify the vulnerabilities, determine the attacks that might explore the vulnerabilities, know and use relevant tools to deploy the attack, and document how to fix the vulnerabilities.

Despite being a fun way to learn, the skills you will use in CTFs and Wargame are different from what you will need in real-life applications. Thus, while you may score highly in CTF, you may find yourself unable to do bug bounties. If you cannot find a simulation environment, you can do your research on creating one. The good thing is that you can find this information on some eBooks. Alternatively, if you can afford it, consider seeking professional assistance to learn this skill.

Another skill you will need to learn as a beginner is programming skills. Given that you will become a professional hacker, you will need to be skilled in this area by mastering the different coding languages. This skill will give you an advantage when examining systems for bugs, though this is a long way into the career for a beginner.

Programming skills also enhance data security as you will be able to script languages. Python is the most preferred language for hacking and understanding this language will make your career much easier. You will need to send many hashtags and packets when using CTFs or bug bounties, and you can achieve this easily if you can create Python scripts.

While programming is useful, most penetration testers have limited programming knowledge and prefer commercial tools. By spending time hacking and experimenting, you will realize how easy and quick it is to use Python. Thus, learning Python will make you rock as a penetration tester, and the best way to do this is by building it.

Once you are done with the CTF and Wargame, it is time to graduate to the real world, but you should not be in a hurry. Instead, you can focus on getting certification at this point to validate your existing skills and learn an extra one in the process. You will realize that the real world is a little complicated, as there are no clues to signal you of the vulnerabilities.

However, while you may find penetration testing challenging, you will still overcome the challenges if your passion drives you. To make the journey interesting and less confusing, you can join online communities on Bugcrowd and Twitter. Eventually, you will keep up with the pace and do legitimate good to the world.

Wrap Up

Becoming a penetration tester implies thinking and acting like a hacker. However, a penetration tester will defend an IT system against malicious actors by identifying the weak points and recommending ways to seal them.

Unlike other computer-related courses, this profession is more technical as it combines several aspects of IT, including networking, applications, systems, and coding. Thus, while there are many self-taught professionals in the industry, a background in one of these fields is an added advantage.

If you plan to learn penetration testing at home or from scratch, you should be passionate about it. The learning process can be frustrating, but a devoted student will eventually make it to the market. Once you complete your studies, consider certification to validate your skills. You should also join online groups comprising experienced penetration testers to improve your skills and grow your career faster.

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