Why programming skills are essential for pen-testers

Why programming skills are essential for penetration testers

 

Some security professionals across the world would say that one does not need to learn coding to hunt for bugs in web applications. In fact, some experienced security professionals would go even further to suggest that entry-level positions in cybersecurity and hacking does not require extensive knowledge of programming.

Although this holds true to some extent, a career in hacking and pen-testing web applications demands in-depth knowledge in programming.

 

Where do many researchers go wrong?

In case of Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks, for instance, researchers report the bugs by triggering an alert. This clearly does not call for advanced understanding of programming. 

But they may lack the skills to exploit the same bug to create a javascript code so as to steal cookies or leverage the XSS bug to carry out other malicious activities. 

Inspired by such bounty hunters, beginners in the field assume that all they have to do is fire up Burp Intruder, add a list of payloads, and prompt an alert on the browser to earn a quick buck. 

 

Why do you need to learn programming in security testing?

Understanding the application:

Awareness and proficiency in programming can help a researcher understand an application’s infrastructure and the implementation of its many functionalities. Once you are familiar with the workings and technicalities of web applications, even entry-level programmers can certainly outsmart amateur coding enthusiasts. 

 

Attack automation:

Hackers use tools such as Nmap, Metasploit, Amass, etc. to automate enumeration and exploitation processes. Automation of enumeration attacks saves them a lot of time and effort. By learning how to code, you are also opening yourself up to vast knowledge, which can guide a beginner to build such tools on their own. Apart from that, while pen-testing, a programmer at some point will have to write a code that can exploit a vulnerability; for instance, when you have to pass the current timestamp along with a request, you need to automate it using coding. This requires that you are well versed with programming.

 

Conclusion

Programming is said to be the future of innovations, and a necessary skill to master. Therefore, a security professional should undergo training and have adequate knowledge regarding programming. Anyone pursuing a career in penetration testing should consider programming as an essential part of their occupation. It does not merely set you apart from peers, but also gives you a competitive advantage over them. 

 

Happy Automation!