Friday, 12 Jul 2024

What is it like being a freelance penetration tester?

Penetration testing is an exciting and ever-evolving field of cybersecurity. It offers a multitude of opportunities for professionals to explore and protect the digital world. While many penetration testers work in teams, there is a growing trend of individuals who choose to be freelance pentesters. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of working as a freelance pentester, the day-to-day experience of pentesting as a freelancer, and how to break into the industry.

Is freelance penetration testing a good way to get started in the industry?

Freelance pentesting can be an incredibly rewarding path for aspiring pentesters. However, it is important to first develop a strong foundation of skills and experience. This can be achieved through internships in reputable cybersecurity companies that specialize in penetration testing.

During an internship, you will work with a team of experienced professionals who conduct pentests for clients. This hands-on experience will expose you to different methodologies and real-world environments. Additionally, you will learn the crucial skill of effectively communicating your findings to clients, including non-technical stakeholders. This client-facing experience is invaluable for building confidence and professionalism in the field.

Passion and constant practice are essential for success as a freelance pentester. The curiosity to understand how things work and the drive to discover new vulnerabilities will keep you at the forefront of the industry. Basic computer science and IT skills, as well as a good understanding of operating systems and networks, are also necessary.

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Finding work as a penetration tester

Starting as a freelance pentester can be challenging because you may lack industry-wide certifications and clients. Initially, a significant portion of your time will be spent searching for clients. However, as your profile and experience grow, you will start receiving more work, and your focus will shift to managing the workload. Striking a balance between finding work and completing projects efficiently is crucial for success.

There are several job platforms that connect freelancers with clients in need of pentesting services. Websites like Upwork, Freelancer, BugCrowd, and HackerOne offer opportunities for freelancers to find work. These platforms post various pentesting jobs, ranging from vulnerability assessments to full-scale pentests.

Hours and challenges

Freelance penetration testers enjoy a certain level of flexibility in their work. Depending on the nature of the projects, you can choose your working hours and location. However, some engagements may require more hours, while others allow for greater freedom in setting your schedule.

As a freelance pentester, you can work from anywhere as long as you have a reliable internet connection. However, it’s crucial to note that public internet connections are not secure enough for sensitive work like pentesting. Using a reputable VPN solution is highly recommended when working on public networks to mitigate the risk of data breaches.

How hard is it for freelancers to access the necessary tools? Are there cheaper alternatives?

Most tools used by freelance pentesters are available as freemium or open-source options. For example, the Kali Linux Operating System is a widely used platform that provides access to numerous freemium and open-source pentesting tools. It is an excellent resource for conducting penetration testing and security auditing.

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While some tools have premium features that require payment, it is advisable to start with the community versions. Purchasing professional versions of tools such as Burpsuite or Metasploit can be expensive, especially for freelancers starting out. Therefore, gaining proficiency with freemium and open-source tools is a cost-effective alternative for conducting effective pentests.

What types of pentesting do freelancers do? Are these jobs closer to entry-level in terms of challenge?

Freelance pentesters engage in various types of pentesting, each with its own unique challenges. The most common types include:

Web application penetration testing

Freelancers often encounter web application pentesting jobs, as organizations rely heavily on web applications for their online presence. Web app pentests assess the security of internal or public-facing applications. The demand for these types of pentests is high due to the constant threat of cyberattacks targeting web apps.

Mobile application penetration testing

With the rise of mobile apps, freelance pentesters may also come across mobile app pentesting opportunities. These jobs require familiarity with tools used to analyze mobile apps for security flaws. While not as numerous as web app pentests, developing skills in this area can be beneficial for freelancers.

Network penetration testing

Occasionally, clients may require on-site pentests, specifically focusing on network vulnerabilities. Network pentesting aims to identify weaknesses within network infrastructure to prevent unauthorized access. While these projects may be less frequent, they provide valuable experience for freelancers.

Forensic and incident response assessments

Freelance pentesters may come across jobs that involve forensic investigations or incident response. These tasks are less common but highly valuable. Conducting forensic analysis to recover data or investigating incidents of fraud can be rewarding for those with the necessary skills.

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Freelance penetration testing presents its own set of challenges and rewards. While it may not be suitable for beginners or those new to the field, it is an appealing career path for pentesters seeking flexibility and variety in their work. Developing a strong foundation of skills and experience through internships and gaining expertise across multiple domains is crucial for success in this field.

Freelance pentesting requires a mindset that embraces curiosity, adaptability, and a deep understanding of how attackers operate. With the right combination of skills, experience, and the passion to constantly learn and improve, freelancers can thrive in the world of penetration testing.