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[Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

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don

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Post Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:15 pm

[Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

Seems like we've been doing a lot of course reviews. We see a number of questions in our forums about training in all of its forms and how best to spend your own or your company's money. Hope this kind of content helps.

With this in mind, here's a deeper look into the online training offered by The Hacker Academy. Many thanks to Tony for the time and effort. As always, let us know what you think of not only the review but also the training.

[Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum


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Review by Tony L Turner CISSP, CISA, GIACx4, OPSE, VCP, ITIL-F

The Hacker Academy (THA), with their online ethical hacking curriculum, fulfills an integral training need for security professionals. There are many training programs available today that teach tools and techniques for hacking. Some are better than others or suited to slightly different specializations such as web, network or wireless pen testing, but most of them are presenting very similar content. The problem is that most of these programs offer static content. By that I mean that the material does not change frequently, and the student is forced to find ways to stay current on new techniques. I think most of us would agree that it is a requirement in this field, but it can be very expensive and time consuming constantly going to conferences, trying to sift through Twitter or the hundreds of blogs for that useful tidbit. THA seeks to address that very problem with constant updates to the content by adding modules at an alarming rate. The cost is very reasonable at $95/month or $995/year with no contract required.

The format of the course includes web-based videos of the content, a lab component for each module, additional reading from external sources, comments sections for the module to interact with other students and instructors, and virtual machines for the attack platform using Backtrack 4 and various target VMs.  Instructors are real-world professionals such as EH-Net columnist Mike Murray, Mike Bailey, Daniel Frye and Jeremy Conway. THA’s Online Curriculum consists of two primary sections, Ethical Hacking and The Cutting Edge.



Don
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lorddicranius

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Post Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:35 pm

Re: [Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

This is the review I've been eagerly awaiting :P  Thanks tturner for taking the time to put this together.  I took the course for a test drive for a month and agree with most everything here.  My one big complaint is the lack of student interaction.  I found that most people would comment on the videos as they were doing them, get answers to the questions they had, then move on and never look back.  This leaves people who are just beginning talking with other people who are just beginning; they don't get the wisdom and experience from people who understand the content because they've moved on to other videos.  I requested that some sort of forum or something be setup for easier (IMO) interaction amongst students.  And I can understand that this can be seen from a certain perspective as being spoon fed, but I learn things and grasp concepts easier when I'm able to bounce questions/ideas off of other people, usually those who are more experienced in that specific subject.

Other than that though, as Tony had pointed out in his review, I really liked the "Mind of a Hacker" module and the Cutting Edge modules looked like some great topics.  The instructors are top grade and I look forward to the updates that are coming down the pipe from them.
Last edited by lorddicranius on Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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El33tsamurai

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Post Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:40 pm

Re: [Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

How does this course compare to hacking dojo?
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lorddicranius

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Post Thu Jun 30, 2011 3:37 pm

Re: [Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

HD = Hacking Dojo
THA = The Hacker Academy

Content:
- HD - Think martial arts training...The material is laid out so that you are taught certain content at each level.  You test (written and practical exam) into the next level.
- THA - You get access to all the material at once.  As tturner said in his review, there's core material and cutting edge.  Core to give you the basics, cutting edge to touch on newer concepts.
- My thoughts: I'm in the HD Shodan class at the moment.  I'd say the beginner material is comparable to the one months worth of material I saw at THA.  HD doesn't have material comparable to THA's "The Mind of a Hacker" though, which is a really cool module to help you understand the mindset, not just when it comes to security, but just the mindset in general.  I can't speak to the caliber of the upper level material of HD as I'm not there yet and I didn't watch any of the upper level material at THA, but at quick glance it seems THA may have the edge with their "cutting edge" material updates.

Teaching method:
- HD has weekly classes where you're taught a specific topic by the instructor live via Skype and a desktop sharing app
- THA you're taught topics through prerecorded videos
- HD also offers prerecorded videos for each topic taught by the instructor available on a wiki for viewing in between the weekly classes
- My thoughts: While videos are nice, I really like having a live instructor...and with HD you get both.

Student interaction:
- HD has a discussion forum, students chat in a chat group with other classmates around class time via Skype.
- THA - You leave comments beneath each video topic, much like how you would reply on a blog post.
- My thoughts: As I said in my previous post, I like the type of interaction that discussion forums invite.  Saying that, there isn't much action on the HD forums and most students bail after the live class.  THA is laid out like a blog, so you're left with chatting via video comments.  Which unless a person wants to go back to previous videos to check the comments, you're usually left with students on the same level as yourself.

Instructors:
- HD - One instructor and one assistant instructor when he's not able to make class.  Read Thomas Wilhelm's bio here (click on "about the instructor).
- THA - A few instructors who put together the content for the videos.  Bios are linked here.
- My thoughts: Both courses have top level instructors.  Pentesters, authors, etc...

Contacting instructors:
- HD - Contact is usually made via email or on Skype.
- THA - You can leave comments on videos, but it's better to contact via email.  An email will get you an appointment setup to talk to an instructor via email, phone, instant messenger.
- My thoughts: HD only has one instructor, so it can be a little difficult trying to get a hold of Tom as he has a pentest job during the day, teaches college classes and has a family.  I never tried to contact the THA instructors, but I'd imagine that it's a bit easier to get a hold of somebody as they have a few of them.
Last edited by lorddicranius on Thu Jun 30, 2011 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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El33tsamurai

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Post Thu Jun 30, 2011 3:40 pm

Re: [Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

Thanks, great input man.
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tturner

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Post Sun Jul 03, 2011 10:46 am

Re: [Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

I'd like to add, that since I wrote this review the following modules have been added at THA:
  • Introduction to Reverse Engineering *NEW
  • Reverse Engineering: Low Level Software Introduction *NEW
  • The Reversing Process Introduction *NEW
  • The Legality of Reversing *NEW

As far as getting in touch with THA, here has been my experience. When things are slow in the security conference world, response is very good. THA staff are responsive and attentive to your needs. However, the inverse is somewhat true as well, but then again that's what you are paying THA for.

I'd also like to address the comment someone made to me via PM about the lack of certification. I for one am thankful THA did not go that route. I think there's enough hacking certs out there already. Besides, a monthly content update does not really lend itself to a structured certification where you take large blocks of content based on a common contextual grouping and validate understanding. Core material perhaps, but even that is constantly evolving.
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SephStorm

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Post Sat Jul 09, 2011 4:18 am

Re: [Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

I was very supprised to see this review, and even more so when I read it. I had seen THA website, and while it was interesting, I always wondered about the quality. The videos on the public website have that voiceover from a guy who sounds like HE is skeptical. I was even more skeptical when I found a copy of a free very weak book along the lines of "how to become an uber hacker" book online with the THA logo on it. (to be clear, the original I had seen previously did not have the logo on it.

However, it appears that looks can be deceiving. I am interested in this especially with the section with an introduction to programming. Perhaps I can look at THA after I finish the GCIH and CPT.
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dynamik

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Post Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:53 am

Re: [Article]-Course Review: The Hacker Academy Online Curriculum

Anyone interested in this should listen to this episode of PDC: http://pauldotcom.com/2011/02/thursday- ... ay-mu.html

Honestly, I was really eager to give this a shot after listening to them talk about it, but the review sounds like it would fall short of my expectations. The guys running it are certainly knowledgeable, so hopefully they get the kinks worked out over the next 6-12 months.
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