Can You Really Learn Hacking?

06/18/2019

There’s something undeniably cool about hackers. In movies, they’re brilliant rebels in black leather jackets, like a cross between private detectives and rockstars. They’re mysterious, keep to themselves, yet are admired for their wit and savvy tech skills.

With such a glamorous reputation, it’s not hard to see why many people are interested in learning to hack, but how do you start?

The Truth About Hacking

In the movies, hackers roam the internet for hours on end, until they stumble upon a secret or are recruited by a mysterious group on the “dark web.” In the real world, though, hacking is a skill like any other, and learning it requires training, just like being a rockstar requires practice. It’s also important to understand that hacking isn’t just for criminals trying to steal data or disrupt systems: it’s a legitimate tool that organizations use to keep networks safe.

As more and more of the world’s data is stored on digital networks, the need for “good guy” hackers has never been greater. And to learn how to start filling this need, you don’t have to wait around for a shadowy figure to tap you on the shoulder; you can take hacking classes or go through an intensive hacking bootcamp. This is the kind of ethical hacking that a motivated person can learn, and turn into a career.

The Who, What, Where of Learning to Hack

Who can learn hacking? The short answer is: almost anyone can learn to hack.

The longer answer is that it’s a good fit for people with specific backgrounds and personality types. People who have some knowledge of computer programming and a baseline vocabulary to draw on would thrive in these learning environments.

Many people get into cybersecurity from other IT-related fields, or after graduating from college with a computer science degree. However, plenty of hackers take far less traditional routes, and many high-profile security professionals have liberal arts degrees or never attended college. What these people have in common, though, are:

  • a self-starter mentality
  • a curiosity about security issues
  • and strong critical thinking skills

What does learning hacking entail? Any decent hacker will tell you that their education is never truly done because they must evolve as fast as the current cybersecurity threats.

A worthwhile curriculum will teach you foundational skills, like how to control data access and conduct web application penetration testing based on past cyberattacks. In the end, you should be prepared to pass the industry’s standard exams (yep, there are exams!): the OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional) and EC-Council’s CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker).

These are the accreditations that will prove you’re qualified to land a cybersecurity job.

Where can I learn to hack? The good news is, if you're sitting at a computer, you're already in the right spot to start training. These days, several online courses and bootcamps can help you quickly acquire the skills you need.

You don't need to show up in a physical classroom, which means you can work around your schedule, even if you already have a full-time job. However, it's essential to work with a reputable institution, with a curriculum that prepares you for the marketplace and today's threats.

The World Needs (Ethical) Hackers

At the moment, there is a global shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals. According to the International Information System Security Certification Consortium's 2018 report, there are nearly 3 million unfilled jobs worldwide, and the burden of making sure critical data is safe often falls on team members with no formal training.

With the right training, you can kick-start your career, whether you want to make cybersecurity a full-time job, or merely add a new, critically needed skill set to your current role.

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