So you want to be an ethical hacker?

So you want to be an ethical hacker?

Author: Mike James

Ethical hacker

How to start your career in cyber security.

With large companies and government organisations increasingly under threat from hackers, there’s a growing demand for highly-skilled IT experts to help prevent attacks. Mike James looks at the world of ethical hacking and explores how to start your career in cyber security.

What is a computer hacker?

A hacker is someone who tries to break into computer and network systems without permission. They may be looking to steal data, spread viruses or carry out other cyber crimes.

So what is an ethical hacker?

Ethical hackers are employed to test their employers’ IT systems and detect security breaches and weak spots. Companies can then take steps to keep computer networks and systems safe and secure from unlawful hackers.

Sounds interesting? Let’s take a look at what you need to become an ethical hacker…

Qualifications and experience

Ethical hackers often start out with a degree in computer science, information security, maths or a similar subject, and go on to take additional IT security qualifications.

Work experience in a tech or network support role or network engineer position is also helpful.

Other necessary skills include a good understanding of networks, programming languages, operating systems and databases.

Some commercial experience of penetration testing – one aspect of ethical hacking which looks at how easy it is to break into your company’s computer system in a controlled way – is an added bonus.

Personal qualities

Just like any job in the IT industry, ethical hacking requires a raft of soft skills and personal attributes. These include:

  • Excellent problem solving skills, including street-smart thinking
  • Sound judgment and common sense
  • First-rate communication and organisational skills
  • Ability to stay cool under pressure
  • Ability to see things from a hacker’s point of view


Mike James is a Brighton-based tech writer. He writes for a range of companies and organisations including Redscan penetration testing, as well as leading online and print magazines. Mike specialises in cyber defence and the best practices for implementing new technologies into internet businesses. 

His buzz animal is a Black Bear.
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Find out more

Understand the basics of online security with The Open University’s free OpenLearn course, Introduction to Cyber Security.

Take a look at more information on cyber security careers. 

SANS is a leading provider of cyber security training and a supplier to many multinational companies, military bodies and governments, including the UK government.