Link: Web Security Academy Content: Teaches the basics of Web Application Security, so far SQL Injection, XSS, OS command injection and File Path traversal. Comes with small labs. Career: Penetration Tester but I recommend it also for everyone interested in security Level: Beginner Price: Free
The description from the originial website: “Welcome to the Web Security Academy. This is a brand new learning resource providing free training on web security vulnerabilities, techniques for finding and exploiting bugs, and defensive measures for avoiding them. The Web Security Academy contains high-quality learning materials, interactive vulnerability labs, and video tutorials. You can learn at your own pace, wherever and whenever suits you. Best of all, everything is free!”
For tracking and doing the labs you need to create an accout.
I found the explanations and the labs very suitable for beginners and I think it is a great starting point for web application security.
The team behind it is the same that is behind the Burpsuite and the famous Web Application Hackers Handbook (consider buying it if you want to go deeper into the topic):
The Web Application Hackers Handbook Authors: Daffy Stuttard, Marcus Pinto Content: The standard book about hacking Web Applications, goes into depth about the most important topics. Authors also created the BurpSuit. Career: Penetration Tester Level: Good for beginners, but also useful for experienced penetration testers Buy at Amazon U.S. Buy at Amazon Germany
Most people starting a career in IT security have a huge interest in topics like hacking, programming, system administration, networking and so on. When you apply for a junior position, employers normally expect basic skills and huge motivation. In this article you can find some useful resources for learning the basic skills that are useful for all career paths in IT security. More specific articles for specialized career paths like penetration tester, DFIR expert, malware expert and so on, are about to follow.
If you have any ideas or suggestions for additional useful courses, please feel free to leave a reply in the comment section below or just add them to your personal training list.
I suggest to look for suitable courses or certifications, to set yourself a goal and make a plan how to reach your goal.
If you want to read how I started my career in IT security have a look here.
In this section you can find some examples for learning basic programming, more specialized examples follow in the career path sections.
All in One CompTIA Network+ Author: Mike Meyers Content: Coverage of the CompTIA Network+ certification exam objectives, goes into the topics in depth. I liked the questions after each chapter. Came with a CD with an exam simulator long ago, now the content is online. Career: All Level: Beginner Buy at Amazon U.S. Buy at Amazon Germany
You may consider to do the certification for the CV.
The Cuckoo’s Egg Decompiled Course Content: Highly recommended course by Chris Sanders, teaching the basics of attacking and defending networks through the lens of the famous “The cuckoos Egg” book by Clifford Stoll. Career: All Level: Beginner Price: Free
Mike Meyers’ CompTIA Security+ Certification Passport Author: Dawn Dunkerley Content: For preparing the CompTIA Security+ Certification this book is recommended. It covers every topic from the exam and also includes review questions as well as a practice exam. Career: All Level: Beginner Buy at Amazon U.S. Buy at Amazon Germany
You may consider to do the certification for the CV.
Introducion to Cybersecurity Content: Short non technical introduction course for everyone who is curious about cybersecurity. Explains the basic concepts from a higher level. Career: All Level: Beginner Price: Free or with certificate
A lot has been written about certifications and whether you should have them or not. For me it is pretty simple, certifications helped me finding jobs and improving my career.
As a penetration tester I made OSCP and OSCE, for getting a bit more into DFIR I made the CHFI certification. At the beginning of my career I did CompTIA Network+ and Security+ for learning and prooving my skills. At some companies it is simply a door opener. I know enough people who never certified and are great at their jobs and also don’t have problems making a good career.
But of course there are other ways to show your motivation:
have projects or a blog that are showing your skills
have you found vulnerabilites? write them down in your CV
found something great? consider to give a talk at a conference
maybe you are a great CTF player?
don’t forget your personal network
Besides that, what certification you want to do strongly depends on your career path and the budget. SANS courses & certs cost a ton if you have to pay for yourself and are mainly useful if you want to go into DFIR.
On the other end there are certifications from EDX or coursera that are cheap but of course not that recognized. Certifications from securitytube are also worth a look.
After all it is the mix of certifiations, courses, experience, personality, connections and so on that enables your career.
Career Path, Labs: Penetration Tester Challenges: Penetration Tester, Forensics, Malware Level: All
Until now I never realized that hackthebox also offers free accounts, so I decided to test it and write a short post.
After a challenge here you can create your login. With the connection pack for openvpn it is possible to connect to the labs with a Kali machine (or any other Linux I guess), easy.
With the free account you can solve challenges and active machines.
Active machines For owning systems and users there are flags that are stored in files on the machines, for example:
The labs remind me about the OSCP labs, and lots of people are using them for training before the OSCP certification (which might be a good idea, though I did not) or to get an impression about the labs and the exam.
For more information and getting an impression about owning boxes look here, lot’s of walkthoughs for retired boxes.
At the time of this writing 20 machines were online, with different OS versions (Linux, Windows, BSD) and different scenarios. I had a closer look at some boxes and solved one so far in a couple of hours.
The lab looks really fun, and I would recommend it for everyone who wants to train and learn hacking.
Challenges The challenges also look quite good, i had a look but honestly, I am much more into owning. Here are the categories for the challenges:
For solving for example the Stego challenges, you download a file with a hidden message and have to find it. I was surprised that there are also some Forensics challenges, I will defilnetly have a look into those too.
Conclusion This is definetly a great playground for everyone who is into solving challenges and pwn boxes. I am not sure if hackthebox is good for total beginners, there are no big explanations or tutorials for the machines or what is to do. There are the official forums with hints and some websites offering more in depth explanations, although the rules say that this should not be done, and somehow as an OSCP taker (“Try harder”) this feels like cheating. With the VIP membership you also have the retired machines with walkthroughs.
For your career hands-on and solving challenges is a very important part, so I recommend: sign up.
A new job Because I was interested in Incident Response and wanted to specialize more in the field of penetration testing I applied at a CERT in one of the 30 biggest DAX enlisted companies in Germany. The environment was of course completely different to consulting companies:
more long-term thinking
not much overtime
more administrative work
more time for in-depth work
As in every job there are some advantages but also some disadvantages, but the advantages predominate for me.
More specialization I was lucky that it was possible for me to attend lot of training and learning on the job. At this time my plan was to specialize in the field of exploitation. Among the training I did was:
“Tactical Exploitation and Response“ by Attack Research
Internal Incident Response Training
SANS Sec 660 with GXPN certification
“Windows Kernel Exploitation” by Hacksys (higly recommended)
But it became different … than it was planned by me, which is not a bad thing. I did a lot of Incident Handling and later I was involved ramping up a vulnerability management system. While the latter is not that interesting for most people working in penetration testing, I learned a lot about companies politics and also management, which helped me a lot within my personal development. Because I traveled mainly to Asia I could also get Chinese lessons at work, which is a great thing.
Promotion After about three years I was promoted to a technical lead position in the Red Team of the CERT with some new duties:
Ensure that all provided services (Pentesting, Vulnerability Management and so on) work properly
Adjusting with the other CERT teams and management
Conducting job interviews
Organizational tasks (yes, writing excel sheets)
About the new position I sometimes have discussions with other professionals. One thing is that I definitely shifted away from technical stuff. On the other hand it is possible to influence the direction for the future, for example what should be in focus for the next time. By job descriptions and job interviews you can find suitable people for your team and so on. Important for me is not to loose the connection to the hands on work, so I like to be involved here too. But being also involved in some management tasks also gives the opportunity to self improvement and training on a non technical level. If you do not like these tasks you better continue you technical career, which also gives you opportunities for improving and developing.
Conclusion Besides all things I learned from a technical point of view (Incident Response, Trainings etc.), the more important lesson for me was and still is what I can learn from a management point of view and the personal development. Sometimes the attitude and the political thinking is more important than the technical knowledge for improving things in a big company, I try to find a way where I can combine both.
Two important take aways:
The exploitation trainings in that depth were not necessary when I look back at this time. It was no total waste of resources, but choosing more careful and adjusting your learning goals is always a great idea.
After staying for 18 and then 17 months at the two jobs before it is a good idea to stay a bit longer at the new job. Changing jobs too often might look bad on your CV. Also staying for a longer time is also opening new perspective (when you are on the right company).
That concludes the career article series from my personal point of view (so far) and I hope you enjoyed reading and that my experience is also helpful to other people and especially to beginners in the field.
My first job The first job as a penetration tester was pretty exciting for me. I was lucky to have many collegues that engaged very much with the newcomers, and for the beginning everyone got at least three workshops lasting 2-4 days, if I remember correctly. The OSCP prepared me pretty well to the thinking of solving the day to day problems on the job. The job was at a consultancy company that mainly is doing penetration testing engagements in Germany. During that time I also started researching about antivirus evasion (in my free time btw). I most consultant jobs time on the job is short. For me that was a huge advantage, I was able to do web app testing in short time. Besides learning from colleagues I also read some books like The Web Application Hackers Handbook, The Shellcoder’s Handbook and Network Security Assessment. I had my first presentation (in German at the Backtrack Day 2013) about antivirus evasion, which made me very proud of course. During the first job that lasted 18 months I also visited the CCC Congress twice, had several chances to conduct interesting pentests (mostly web and mobile) and did an interesting online course (Malicious Software and its Underground Economy: Two Sides to Every Story). Because I liked the hole exploitation topics I made the SLAE certification, which was a lot of fun and I highly recommend, also for preparing the OSCE. Now there is also a 64 Bit version.
My second job I learned a lot and had great colleagues, but for me it was time to move on to my second job as a penetration tester, where I had the chance to travel more and to work for clients on site. Further I had the chance to do some Digital Forensics and Indident Response (DFIR) under the condition I do any certification, so I choosed the one the looked easiest for me, that was the CHFI (Certified Hacking Forensics Investigator). I would not necessarily recommend it, but at this time it helped me improving my career and also to do some forensics and incident response work. For the preparations I bought “The Official CHFI Exam Study Guide”. For gaining more in depth knowledge about forensics I attended a course at the University of Applied Sciences Albstadt-Sigmaringen about data storage forensics. Besides the work I continued my research on antivirus evasion and gave a talk at the Deepsec conference 2014 (“Why Antivirus Software fails“). Also I had the chance to speak at public and closed events from my employer and started to visit the OWASP chapter Cologne. For education and to get from professional to expert level I decided to make the OSCE certification. That was a blast for me. I never had such a challenging time in my career and I fell through the first test and had to take a second shot. The OSCE is highly recognized especially in the Red Team and Exploitation community. Like the OSCP for me it is not about teaching certain techniques, but training the right attitude you need for breaking stuff (Try harder). I was glad when I got the famous mail from offensive security after the second exam. After 17 months on that job I took my chance and hired at a CERT, this will be the story for part 3.
Conclusion & some notes
be grateful for the knowledge and support of friends and colleagues – sometimes I forget to say this… so to everyone who helped me during my career: thank you!
when it is time to move on, move on, after all it is about business and your personal development
Giving talks gave me the great opportunity to network in the community and also to improve self esteem and public speaking
Be flexible, I moved for each job in the IT security field
for more networking I started to use twitter
Don’t give up, “Try harder”, the motto by offensive security also applies to searching for jobs and many more lessons in life, this attitude helped me also with my research
Working at a consultancy company is helpful, since it teaches you to be effective (time and costs), you learn to deal with pressure