Ethical hackers and penetration testers are both extremely important cyber security professionals, without whom the digital world continues to remain in terrible danger. Both of these professionals fall under the offensive branch of cyber security and are very much similar in every sense. Most of the people use ethical hacking as a term that is synonymous with penetration testing. However, there is a slight yet significant difference between the two. Read more to find out how ethical hackers differ from penetration testers.
First things first, if you are into cybersecurity, you must have heard of Certified Ethical Hacking and Licensed Penetration Tester. CEH and LPT, as they are called, are both quite popular and highly demanded certifications provided by EC-Council. As you might already know, the former is a certification for white hat hackers and the latter is for pen-testers. In that regard, they both stand at different levels of competence, syllabus as well as eligibility. As far as ethical hacking is concerned, it is the first step in the staircase of offensive cybersecurity. Penetration testing, on the other hand, is at the more advanced stages of offensive security.
Now coming to the main difference between an ethical hacker and a penetration tester, an ethical hacker breaches into an organization with the aim of finding all security vulnerabilities whereas a penetration tester tries to exploit vulnerabilities in specific systems to assess how much damage could be done to the organization in case of a cyber attack. In other words, you can say that the difference between penetration testing and ethical hacking is that of ‘specific’ and ‘generic’.
Ethical hacking is an umbrella term that consists of penetration testing. An ethical hacker is trusted with almost all the IT systems of an organization whereas a penetration tester is given the responsibility of a particular system. Thus, it is clear that penetration testers are more specialized in their skill than ethical hackers. Even in their training, penetration testers are taken through a rigorous and hellish experience to teach them how to penetrate into the most secured systems and networks and gain privileged access in order to drop the payload, while tweaking scripts and thinking on their feet simultaneously. Meanwhile, ethical hacking training deals with various methodologies, techniques, and tools used by hackers and teaches students how to hack their targets using different attack surfaces.
Apart from the work, the certifications are also different in both disciplines. EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker is a widely recognized certification, now mandatory in many organizations to get a job as an ethical hacker, but the Licensed Penetration Tester certification is an even more coveted certification that can cement your place as an elite pentester worldwide. In fact, just recently, EC-Council has dissolved its ECSA and LPT course into a single new program called CPENT or Certified Penetration Testing Professional.
Payscale and examinations
Lastly, coming to the pay scale and the certification exams, the average salary for an LPT certified individual is USD 86,000 whereas the average salary for a Certified Ethical Hacker is USD 90,000. As far as demand for these certifications goes, ethical hacking certifications are in more demand than penetration testing. The exams for both these courses differ a lot in their intensity. The penetration testing exam is a strenuous 24-hour experience that tests your skills to the very core. The ethical hacking exam, on the contrary, is 4-6 hours long.
Apart from the above-mentioned differences, you should also know that to become a penetration tester, you must know ethical hacking as penetration testing is a small yet magnified part of the same.