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RE: What is being a pen tester really like?
From: "Paul Melson" <pmelson () gmail com>
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2006 14:05:19 -0400

-----Original Message-----
Subject: Re: What is being a pen tester really like?

Also to add my 2c.
The people that Paul described are the ones we don't want around and they
are not "pen-testers".

I don't want this to get turned into a flamewar, and I realize that many of
the people on this list feel as though my "candid dialogue" on the subject
is attacking them because they work as pen testers.  I'm not.  But I do
think it would be disingenuous to talk about being a pen tester without
talking about the nature of the market.

Based on my experience, it's not an issue of the individual performing the
test's skill level.  It's an issue of where their employer has positioned
their services.  If you want to be mad at somebody, be mad at the customers
that don't want to (or can't) shell out the dollars necessary to pay for a
very thorough assessment.

In more aggressive organizations, they  don't make it thought the
technical interview session for the 
actual pen-test positions.

In my experience, companies that hire pen-testers for internal purposes are
the exception.  From an HR perspective, it doesn't make sense to hire top
dollar talent that will only be productive on a part-time basis.  It makes
more sense to purchase a scanning tool or outsource the work entirely, which
is what most companies do.  

Or did you mean that the companies that perform pen-test work for multiple
customers have tough hiring processes?  I'd like to think you're right about
that one, but there is certainly a dearth of evidence to suggest that it is
not happening everywhere nor is it necessary.

A 12 year -old can run a scanner, it takes a little more to discover an
unknown problem for a company 
that has not released a product or a financial organization that is
developing applications that are not 
public.  Probably not going to get an out of the box scanner that will
find these.

I agree with your statement 100%.  However, web (or any) application
assessment work is typically out of scope for most network pen-test services
and comes with a higher price tag for the customer because of the time and
skill necessary to perform those tests.

I hate to be cynical about it, but even the big name security consulting
companies out there use Nessus or Retina and charge thousands of dollars for
each scan and pretty report.  It's a matter of profitability.  Trying to
distinguish between genuinely skilled pen-testers and the script-kiddy
scanners is like the old discussion about the meanings of the terms "hacker"
and "cracker."  Sorry folks, that horse has left the barn.  They're all
"hackers" and we're all just pen-testers to the rest of the IT industry at
large.


PaulM


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