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Penetration testers must possess and exhibit many skills to be considered effective and efficient at their jobs. They must not only have a strong foundational understanding of network security and web application security, as well as knowledge of at least one programming language, but being a penetration tester also requires the will to continuously learn new things quickly on the fly.
Technical penetration tester skills
At a minimum, a penetration tester (pen tester) needs to have strong knowledge of computer OSes, including Windows, Mac and Linux.
Pen testers also need to have a working understanding of network security and be able to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in corporate or industrial networks, as well as network devices and the hosts and systems connected to them.
As web applications play a vital role in modern organizations and due to the fact that more and more applications are delivered to users via web browsers, testers must know the ins and outs of web applications and how their security works. Everything a user does on the internet involves the use of a web application, whether it is to register for an event, buy items online or pay bills. Comprehending web apps and security will help pen testers look for potential vulnerabilities not apparent to the everyday user.
Penetration tester skills also include code review. This is the most effective technique to identify vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in applications. A manual review of the code, along with the use of automated testing tools, such as Burp Suite or Open Web Application Security Project Zed Attack Proxy, during web application pen testing, is essential to locate flaws that might have never been found without a pen test. Such vulnerabilities include logic flaws, authorization issues, encryption misconfigurations and injection attacks.
Communications penetration tester skills
Once pen testers have broken into and compromised a system, they must possess the ability to effectively communicate their findings to their client for remediation. Remember, pen testing is a service that has a beginning, the assessment; a middle, the fun part -- like breaking into a system; and an end, documenting and communicating findings to a client. Companies hire pen testers to find flaws in their systems and software. Without the proper documentation and communication of those flaws, the company is not benefiting from the service.
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