Cybersecurity specialists are the wizards that are capable of hacking the mainframe. At least that’s what we are told by the movies. However, have you ever thought how the hacking skills could be monetized in the real life without doing anything illegal? If you were doubting if the penetration testing is a path work taking, this article will help you to understand how you can make money from hacking.
There is always a way how you can use your talent in a legal way. As the cybersecurity skills are on demand, the opportunities are endless. Hackers do earn money in different ways. After building a solid skillset, it is a matter of preference how you want to make your living.
Method #1 – Participate in Bug Bounty Hunting
By participating in the bug bounty programs you could earn some serious money. Companies, such as Apple, could pay you up to 1 million dollars for a critical vulnerability. In reality only a small amount of hunters do earn enough money from the bug bounty programs for a living. If you have no experience with the bug bounty hunting.
If you want to become a hunter my website is pretty much dedicated for it. Slowly build up your skills, practice the learned concepts, and participate in public programs in your free time. After you are earning some bucks, and are being invited to the private programs, you might consider switching to it full time.
However, most of the ethical hackers treat the bug bounty hunting as a part time job and aren’t making enough money to quit the job. However, there are superstars that are earning hundreds of thousands dollars annually.
Payouts from some of the companies for critical vulnerabilities might be tens of thousands of dollars. For example, like this one.
While finding that one vulnerability might take months, and it might be wasted time if nothing is found, success stories shows that one can make a living from this.
Method #2 – Get a Job in the Cybersecurity Field
Getting a cybersecurity job can be extremely rewarding. With the cybersecurity specialists shortage worldwide, anyone with enough experience could get a well-paid job.
However, the keyword here is “with enough experience”. Entering the field might be challenging. Even having the well-respected certificates, such as OSCP, might not land you a job. What is also worth having in mind, if you do not have experience in IT, jumping straight into the cybersecurity is a bad idea.
Before switching to the security, you must have solid IT knowledge, be able to understand networking, web applications, programming, and many other things. If you want to be able to find the security flaws, at first you should understand how does the software works. Without that you won’t be a successful specialist.
Ethical hacking is often about the unique perspective. If you are capable to find security vulnerabilities that no one had identified, you will be rewarded. And you will be rewarded well. While the hacking mindset could be learned, if want to get in only because of the money, you won’t succeed.
According to the Glassdoor, average salary for the penetration tester, is over 107 000 USD.
While this is the salary you can expect in the US, and the pay will probably be lower in the other countries, being a penetration tester is still a very rewarding career.
Method #3 – Create Cybersecurity Content
With the cybersecurity industry booming, there is a demand for a high-quality cybersecurity content. Many people do want to enter the field, and are looking for a way to start. While there is already a lot of great content created, definitely not everything is covered. You can always find a subtopic that lacks educational content.
If you want to make money from hacking, you can choose different forms of content creation:
- Make educational videos on YouTube. Later, monetize them with ads
- Create your own blog. Bughacking.com is an example how the cybersecurity focused blog might look like
- Create courses and sell them. Platforms. such as Udemy already have different cybersecurity courses.
To take an inspiration, these are some of the known content creators of ethical hacking and cybersecurity:
- STÖK is a YouTuber that creates hacking content. He hosts bounty Thursdays live sessions where covers news of the bug bounty hunting. He perfectly finds a balance between informativeness and entertainment.
- Farah Hawa is an example that you should not be an expert to create a cybersecurity content. She is learning along the way and is teaching the things that she’ve learnt.
- TCM Security Academy creates paid educational courses and certifies the penetration testers.
While your beginning might be hard, and this is not a fast way how to make money from hacking, you will slowly build your audience. At the same time, you will be creating a portfolio, that might help you to land new clients.
Method #4 – Become a Freelancer
Just like you can be a freelance developer, you can be a freelance hacker. You might offer different cybersecurity services:
- Penetration testing
- IT consulting
- Red teaming
- Risk assessment
- Helping companies to recover after a hack
When it comes to offering the services, there are various platforms, such as Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer. You have a choice on what type of projects you want to work. There is a need for a penetration testing of a specific website, that might take you up to a week to finish. And there are big companies that has a lot of work to outsource and has projects running that would take months to finish.
I am not saying that it is easy to get these big clients, but everything is possible. If you have experience and can prove that you have the needed skills, you will definitely find a job. Being a freelancer has its own perks. While you can’t always predict how many gigs you will have, you will have the freedom to choose projects you want to work with. If you are willing to switch from a full-time job to hacking freelancing, do it slowly, and build up the number of clients before quitting your job.
Method #5 – Engage in Criminal Activity (Spoiler Alert: You Will Get Caught and This Does Not Pay It Off)
I’ve added this method ironically, as this is definitely not the way to go. I do not encourage any form of illegal hacking, neither does anyone from the cybersecurity community. Not only this is not morally accepted, but in reality, this does not even pay it off. And I will explain you why.
Participating in a criminal activity requires a deep knowledge of the cybersecurity. Not only that, you must understand how to stay anonymous, and how not to get caught.
It requires such a tremendous skillset, that being on the dark side simply does not pay it off. With these excellent skills you would be able to get a highly paid prestigious job as a cybersecurity specialist in an international company.
And on the contrary, being the bad guy, you would constantly live in a fear, as the big guys, such as FBI, might come to you one day. And it does not matter if you do not live in US, they can come to you, and you would be extradited to the US to stand a trial. Many such cases had occurred in the past. As an example, Russian hacker was extradited from South Korea to the US for a trial.
With the big salary and extra perks that a legal job would provide to you, being criminal does not sound so tempting. And on contrary – ready to microwave your laptop at the middle of the night, being extra paranoid, not being able to tell your activity to anyone, and not trusting anyone.
Simply. Not. Worth. It.
TL: DR – without the excellent skills, you will get caught soon, and won’t earn anything. With the skills you might live for a while without getting caught, but compared to the career in a respected international company, being on the dark side is not worth it.
This is an industry just like any other. There are different ways how to make money from hacking – 9 to 5 job is not the only option. You might become a freelance hacker, might participating in bug bounty programs, create educational content, or just organize trainings. Cybersecurity is an area with a lot of opportunities, especially nowadays. The shortage of specialists and growing number of cyber attacks requires businesses to invest more. And this means more opportunities for the workers.
Highly passionate about cyber security (penetration testing, bug bounty hunting, cybersecurity in general), and blogging. I am experienced in vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, various security audits, had worked with various clients, most of them were in finance sector. Currently holder of CompTIA Security+, CEH, CEH Practical, and CEH Master certificates.