Certified Ethical Hackers make “hacker” a good word again

Back before computers and computer networks were ubiquitous a “hacker” was someone who liked to tinker with computers to see how they worked. More recently, “hacker” in common, albeit not entirely accurate, usage has become something of a bad word, applied to all manner of cybermiscreants, including full-out cybercriminals.


But there is a new kind of hacker in town. They’re Certified Ethical Hackers and their role – and often their well-paid job – is to thwart bad-guy hackers by working with organizations to identify and address network and system infrastructure vulnerabilities that could be exploited.


Certified Ethical Hackers become certified by passing the exam offered through the EC-Council, the international professional body that oversees the Ethical Hacker program. They also take a physician-like pledge to do no harm. Passing the test is no easy matter; it takes hours and includes more than 100 questions. The test covers knowledge of topics such as malware and denial of service attacks; hijacking web servers and apps; hacking wireless networks and mobile devices; evading firewalls and other protective systems; cryptography; and more.


That’s high-demand knowledge, yielding high-demand skills, for a high-demand field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 32 percent for security analysts through 2028, “much faster than the average for all occupations.” PayScale.com reports that Ethical Hackers earned a median annual income of $85,000 in May 2020.


Ida Ngambeki is an assistant Professor of Computer and Information Technology whose research at Purdue University focuses on cybersecurity education. Here are her Top 3 reasons for earning Certified Ethical Hacker credentials:


The baseline certification allows security professionals to demonstrate their mastery of the constellation of skills needed to detect and respond to threats.
The training helps security professionals stay up to date with advances in cybersecurity generally and penetration testing specifically, both fields that tend to change rapidly.
Certified Ethical Hacker certification is an approved Department of Defense Directive 8570 certification, which is required for many job classifications.


Plenty of self-study options exist, but Ngambeki suggests taking a Certified Ethical Hacker exam preparation course, which offers opportunities to learn from instructors and fellow students and labs that provide hands-on experience applying your gained knowledge. Ngambeki also suggests taking practice exams to get accustomed to the format and pace of the exam.


Purdue offers a Certified Ethical Hacker Course{link to landing page} specially designed for online learners and taught by faculty in Purdue’s highly ranked cybersecurity programs. For more information visit online.purdue.edu.

About The Author

Greg Kline's picture
Kline writes about technology for Purdue University and is a former technology columnist and talk show host for newspapers and public radio.