Breaking into computer systems which once was a pastime for geeks, has become a full-fledged career option. Ethical hackers are in demand from government as well as private sector. Ankit Fadia, well known ethical hacker and independent computer security intelligence consultant tells Piyali Mandal how hacking can be a rewarding career option. Excerpts:
How far is hacking an acceptable career option in India?
Ethical hacking is a career option worth exploring. In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in the number of cyber crime cases on the Internet. Hacking email accounts, stealing and intercepting sensitive data, abusive emails, trojan attacks and espionage are some of the many concerns that have started affecting email users. All these threats have increased the demand for ethical hackers who test security systems and look out for critical vulnerability, albeit for a good purpose.
Are their formal courses available?
Usually, companies hire geeks and train them. But there are courses available and any engineering graduate can select between a six months and a one year Post-Graduate Diploma programme. One needs to be computer savvy and gadget friendly to be in this field. One should have keen interest in the Internet and have basic knowledge of networking and programming to stay updated. After pursuing a course in ethical hacking, students can join organisations as security analysts and grow to becoming Chief Information Officers.
Are ethical hackers in demand?
Currently, there is a huge gap between the demand and supply of ethical hackers in India. This is because there is a shortage of skilled people, poor pay packages and growth opportunities. According to NASSCOM, demand for ethical hackers is estimated at over 77,000 in India every year. Against this, India produces only 20,000-25,000 ethical hackers. So there is a big gap to be filled.
Which sectors require them?
The demand for ethical hackers is coming mostly from the government agencies. People have woken up to realise the importance of cyber security experts especially after the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008; Chinese cyber attacks on different countries and bomb blasts in different parts of India. Also, organisations including banks, hotels, airlines, telecom companies, IT and IT enabled services companies, outsourcing units, retail chains and Internet firms are seeking ethical hackers to check for vulnerability within their own systems.
How attractive are the pay packets?
Though it is a matter of pride to be able to help the Indian government, the projects are not as financially rewarding. In the private sector however, starting salaries in India range between Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4.2 lakh per annum and can go up to 32.5 lakh per annum.