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How Did Our Core Members Get Started in Pentesting?

Not many people grow up thinking they'll end up a pentester. So how did the members of Cobalt's Core get their start?

It’s hard to imagine that anyone grows up thinking “I hope I can make a living out of pentesting one day.” Most start out bug hunting and then make the transition to pentesting. Cobalt’s Core is made up of individuals who ended up pentesting. Our Core consists of over 300 highly vetted pentesters who come from over 75 different countries. 

Would you believe us if we told you that one of our Core Member’s interest in pentesting started because of the fourth Die Hard movie?

Prateek Gianchandani, who has been a part of the Core since 2019, watched the movie in high school and the concept of an all-out cyber warfare attack intrigued him. 

“Curious to understand the technicalities behind it, I took some screenshots from the movie that pointed me to nmap,” he said. “ And once I started playing around with the tool and read the book “Gray Hat Hacking my curiosity only continued to grow. 

Gianchandani started reading InfoSec material online and then was offered the opportunity to work on an IDS (Intrusion Detection System) with one of the best-reputed security researchers from India. This led him to conduct research at the University of Texas at Arlington on Timing Analysis attacks. 

For Core Member Harsh Bothra, his start came from playing video games. 

“My curiosity began back in 2012,” he said. “I was playing games and attempting to modify them.”

Bothra said he wasn’t familiar with the term “hack” at the time but as he was modifying pieces of software it drove him to research ethical hacking. In his words, it was a way to both protect and become familiar with the intricacies of various technologies. 

Bothra has been a member of the Core since 2020 and has become a Cobalt Core Team Lead. 

Dhiraj Mishra and Valerio Brussani both got their start while in college. Mishra studied information technology and Brussani computer engineering. 

“In a particular lecture I was introduced to the book "Cryptography & Network Security" by Atul Kahate,” Mishra said.  “One of the chapters talks about 802.11ac, which is a wireless networking standard in 802.11. Meanwhile, a friend of mine just whispered to me how exciting it would be if we could "hack" others' WiFi.”

Mishra then went on to try and hack his school’s wifi, after much egging on from his classmates, he ultimately failed and that only fueled his curiosity. Now Mishra has been a part of the Core for a little over a year and has been very active in the hacking community by leading training at conferences. 

For his part, Brussani who has been with the Cobalt Core for over two years started his career developing web and mobile applications but after some time his attention shifted more towards cybersecurity. 

“This transition towards a focus in security—specifically ethical hacking and pentesting—became both exciting and challenging because it allowed me to flex my problem-solving capabilities,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed solving challenging puzzles, and I believe finding a bug is similar to this.”

This passion led him to obtain an MSc degree with an emphasis in cybersecurity. 

For other members of the Core, pentesting was the result of natural curiosity from their careers. 

Alex Moraga worked in corporate IT and was involved in deployments and was a server/network administrator for some of the top 5 banking environments in the world. His work with that made him interested in learning more about how networks functioned. 

“Between 1994 and 1996, I discovered Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which was an early form of chatting with other people through a client/server networking model,” Moraga said. “This resource introduced me to attacks like 0day, Ping of Death (a peer-to-peer modem connection), and System Port Opens, that would lead me on a path now known as pentesting.” 

This interest led him to switch gears and focus on pentesting. He’s now been at Cobalt for six years. 

From Die Hard to studying computer engineering in school, our pentesters come from very different walks of life. Although their backgrounds are so varied, these pentesters do share one thing in common: the ability to provide best-in-class pentests to our customers. 



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About Shelby Matthews
Shelby Matthews is a Community Content Associate at Cobalt. She works on content created for the Cobalt Core and content that is about them. More By Shelby Matthews
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May 11, 2022