The success of the procedure lies in the hand of security experts with the right kind of penetration testing certification.
Penetration testing is one of the most common methods to effectively evaluate a computer, network, web application or other assets for potential vulnerabilities that could lead to cyberattacks. However, the success of the procedure lies in the hand of security experts with the right kind of penetration testing certification.
The high success rate of pen testing comes from the testing process being conducted in two ways — manually and automated with the help of tools — to ensure that no vulnerabilities are missed. For this, the pen tester needs to be equipped with basic knowledge, skills and experience so they can increase the overall system security.
6 Best Penetration Testing Certification Programs
Many organizations offer different kinds of penetration testing certification programs, so make sure the quality and the content fit your goal. Here are some of the options that are valued in the industry:
1. Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)
From the Information Assurance Certification Review Board (IACRB), this globally recognized program is the beginning step for individuals interested in the field of penetration testing. It focuses on developing the basic knowledge and skill set and the certification is valid for four years.
The topics covered under this certification program are network protocol attacks and reconnaissance, wireless security flaws, penetration testing methodologies, Unix, Linux and Windows exploits, and covert channels and rootkits, among others. Candidates need to score 70% or more in the 2-hour exam containing 50 multiple choice questions. The certification is priced at $499. You can apply for the exam offline, online or on a proctored basis for groups of 10 candidates. Candidates don’t need previous working experience to qualify for the certification, but possessing some knowledge provides an added advantage.
2. CompTIA PenTest+
This intermediate-level penetration testing certification is offered by CompTIA, a popular security certification provider. Along with basic penetration testing knowledge, the exam also evaluates management skills, such as conducting pen testing procedures on cloud and mobile-based environments, in addition to desktops and servers.
The exam focuses on five domains, including pen testing tools, planning and defining the scope of testing, designing attacks and exploits, reconnaissance and vulnerability detection and reporting.
Candidates need to get a minimum of 750/900 and complete the test within 165 minutes. It’s valid for three years and is priced at $359. You can attend the exam offline, be proctored online, or attend one of the testing centers.
3. GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN)
For experts, this penetration testing certification offered by GIAC makes sure the pen tester has in-depth knowledge and expertise regarding advanced pen testing methods. They should also be able to design complicated attack methods from scratch that will display specific vulnerabilities, a step which also assesses their skill in translating security flaws into business risks.
The topics covered in this exam include advanced fuzzing techniques and stack smashing, crypto for pen testers, Python, Python scripts and Scapy for pen-testers, network manipulation and client exploitation and escape, to name a few. This certification is targeted toward application developers and security professionals in network pen testing.
Candidates need to score 67% with 55 to 75 performance-based questions in the three-hour exam. It’s valid for four years and is priced at $1,999.
4. Certified Red Team Operations Professional (CRTOP)
If you’re looking for an expert-level penetration testing certification for a career progression to the Red Team, CRTOP is for you. The exam assesses your ability to manage the wider scope of testing and the involvement of various company stakeholders when conducting the procedure.
Some of the topics covered under this exam include physical/digital reconnaissance techniques and tools, red team testing methodologies and reporting style, mapping and detection of vulnerabilities and social engineering attack methods.
Candidates are required to score at least 70% for 50 multiple choice questions. It’s valid for four years and is priced at $499 for individuals and $399 for on-premises proctored exams.
5. Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT) Master
This expert-level penetration testing certification is offered by the EC-Council and tests your skills with three levels against a multi-layered infrastructure with in-depth defence controls. Candidates need to simultaneously focus on gathering data when exploring different networks and web applications and the kind of attack methods to be used.
Some of the topics you will be evaluated upon are operating system vulnerability exploits, SSH tunnelling, multi-level pivoting and web server and app exploitation (SQL injection, local and remote file uploads, etc.).
The 18-hour certification exam attempts to show how candidates make critical decisions under pressure. It needs to be taken every year and is priced at $250/year.
6. PWK and Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
For attempting this penetration testing certification exam, candidates will first need to finish the course on “Offensive Security and PWK” (Penetration Testing with Kali Linux). It’s an expert-level certification that depicts the expertise and knowledge of the candidate in pen testing.
Some of the concepts that come in handy are bash scripting, buffer overflows, locating public exploits, etc.
Candidates need to sit through a 24-hour evaluation within 120 days after the completion of the mandatory course. There’s no renewal required and it’s priced at $999/$1,199/$1,349.
These are some of the most popular penetration testing certifications that make security experts ready to deal with different kinds of penetration testing exercises.
Ankit Pahuja is the marketing lead and evangelist at Astra Security, and has been finding vulnerabilities in websites and network infrastructures for years. He also has worked in cybersecurity and is an active speaker on security issues. You may follow him on Linkedin or @getastra onTwitter.