Hacker Stories

Hacker Story - Abida

I would have never believed if someone told a 12-year-old me that I would spend my life glued to screens, chasing the thrill of finding vulnerabilities. I would have never believed it at all…

The Beginning

While growing up, dealing with my father’s death was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. As a child, I often felt like something was missing in my life, and I struggled to understand why my family was different from others. I didn’t have the same guidance and support that many of my friends had, and it was a constant challenge to navigate through the ups and downs of childhood without a strong role model. Despite these challenges, I was determined to persevere and make the most of my life. 

I had always been interested in medicine and technology, and I dreamed of becoming a doctor one day. However, I quickly realized that my family didn’t have the financial resources to support my dreams. This was a difficult pill to swallow, but I refused to let it hold me back.

Instead, I turned my attention to other areas that interested me, and as a curious person, I eventually discovered a passion for cybersecurity. After my brother was the victim of a scam (and the influence of the movie Hackers), I became determined to learn more about how to protect myself and others from similar threats. I began researching and learning as much as I could about the field, and I eventually found a university in my city that offered a Bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity.

Chasing Your Dreams of Becoming a Hacker

One book that had a particularly big impact on me was The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook. It was a great technical read, and I was so captivated by the insights it offered into the world of hacking and the ways in which web applications could be exploited. 

I also found the Bug Bounty Playbook v1 to be incredibly helpful, as it provided practical tips and strategies for finding and reporting vulnerabilities. In addition to reading about cybersecurity, I also made a point to gain hands-on experience by downloading vulnhub boxes and playing capture the flag (CTF). At this point in time, there’s an abundance of well-regarded resources for learning about cybersecurity including “PortSwigger’s Lab,” “TryHackMe,” “PentesterLab,” “HackTheBox,” etc. These platforms offer a variety of challenges and exercises that allow users to test their skills and learn new techniques.

In 2019, when I found my first bug in a vulnerability disclosure program, I spent hours analyzing and poking around the application, and it wasn’t long before I discovered a bug. To my surprise, the bug allowed me to gain unauthorized access to the system, and I knew that I had found something significant. I immediately reported the issue to the program and was thrilled when they recognized and rewarded me with a bounty of $200. I was all over the moon! It made me even more determined to continue learning and improving my skills.

After completing my degree in cybersecurity, I was eager to put my newly acquired skills to the test. I knew that the best way to do this was to gain some hands-on experience, so I began searching for internships and entry-level positions. It wasn’t long before I landed an internship at a startup, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a talented and passionate team. The internship was a great learning experience, and I was grateful for the opportunity to work on real-world projects and to get a taste of what it was like to work in the tech industry. Later I was offered a full-time position as a security engineer.

Since then, I’ve moved on to work as a security analyst at one of the MNCs, and I’ve continued to hone my skills and knowledge in this field. In addition to my full-time job, I also work as a contract-based pentester with Red Sentry. I’ve been fortunate to work with an amazing team here, and I’ve enjoyed all the pentest projects along the way.

Overall, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in my career so far, and I’m excited to see where the future takes me. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity, I highly recommend gaining hands-on experience through internships, VDP/RDP’s, labs and entry-level positions. With hard work and determination, you, too, can achieve your goals and make a difference in the world of cybersecurity.

Key takeaways

  1. Challenges and hardships are a part of life but it’s possible to overcome challenges and succeed.
  2. Gaining hands-on experience through internships, bug bounty programs, and capture the flag, is essential for building skills and knowledge in the cybersecurity field.
  3. Hard work, curiosity and determination are important qualities to have not just in your career, but also in life.

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Andres Pena
Security engineer, developer and economist
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