Where to start hacking?


When I decided to start my journey, I have been already in the industry for ~7 years, working full time as a Software Tester. I began to think about what the future might bring and how can I stay competitive in the job market. With more and more companies moving towards using just Test Automation for testing made me afraid that it might be hard for me to find something interesting in a couple of years. Explaining that you can’t substitute manual testing with just TA became an everyday struggle. It was tough to convince stakeholders that you need the combination of both. So the feature looked bleak, and doing just TA was not my thing : ) That is when I stumbled upon some posts talking about the rising need for Security Experts, and I thought hacking sounds pretty cool ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Where should I start?

One of the first questions that came to my mind was, where should I start? There are so many resources online it can be pretty overwhelming, to be honest. Let’s go one by one, and let me tell you what helped me start my journey.


As I am a person that needs some kind of “carrot” to move my butt, I started by looking into different certifications. My reasoning was pretty simple. By studying for the certification, I would follow the official course, gain knowledge and have a clear direction of where I should get. And as a reward, I would get a certificate that could help me prove what I know. One downside of certifications is that they are pretty expensive. If it weren’t for my company willing to pay, I would probably choose a different approach.

Another problem is which certificate to choose from. There is a multitude of them to choose from, and you can see the quite comprehensive list under this link.


Certified Ethical Hacker Certification

Having looked around the internet I have decided to start with Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) by EC-Council.It is a respected certificate that teaches you how to think like a hacker and goes through the main concepts of software security, security threats, and attack vectors. The course covers practical lab experience and a theoretical part, where you listen to the video. When I was doing it (2018), the exam itself consisted only of the theoretical part, finished with proctored 4h exam with 125 multiple-choice questions. Since then, they have added a 6h practical exam, for which I am currently preparing.

I think I was quite ok starting certification, however, it is quite expensive. In addition, to the course and exam cost, you have to pay 80$ membership fee a year to keep it. The certificate is only valid for 3 years unless you can get enough points that demonstrate you are still on top of your game. I can’t say my full opinion about what I think about the new labs for the practical part yet. However, for what I have done so far, I must admit they are pretty dull. I have already tried some other websites that teach about hacking (I will elaborate more below) that were way more engaging. The CEH labs showcase a lot of tools, but they give you all the answers. There are screenshots for everything, and I caught myself losing attention and being overwhelmed with the number of different tools without really learning to use them. Plus you can’t copy anything to the insides of their lab. Meaning, that I have to type all super long commands I would normally just copy. It drives me crazy!

Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional Certification

The next certificate I turned my attention to was Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) by ISC2. This certificate is a security specialist certification that is heavily built around the security concepts where you have to understand how they apply in the real world. It includes the best security practices, auditing, and authorization into each phase of the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). It is a 4h exam with 175 multiple-choice questions. It requires you to understand what you have studied quite well because most answers are correct, but only one is the best : )

This one is also valid for 3 years but I find getting points that allow to extend it is easier than CEH. It is integrated with HackTheBox website, giving you credit each time you successfuly hack a machine.

HackTheBox website

HackTheBox website is an amazing hacker playground where you can try your skills in hacking vulnerable machines. They offer both free and VIP access (10$/month). They provide retired machines with many walkthroughs available online and new active machines giving you points, so you can earn badges : )



TryHackMe website

TryHackMe website is the best hands-on learning tool I have found. Similar to HackTheBox, it offers free and VIP access (10$/month). They provide special rooms covering a variety of security topics with a hands-on approach. I like it because each room has some theoretical introduction about the subject, links in case you would like to read more about it, and the demonstration of tools you would need to use to complete the room. You need to go through all of it and then answer the questions; some of them ask about the theory you have read, and some require you to actually do tasks on a machine and find a hidden flag.

If you are new to security, I can’t emphasize how fantastic this website is. It’s excellent and very engaging.



For now, those are all the resources that came to my mind, but I will systematically add new things I will stumble upon!