How it started

[Record scratch] How did I get here? Well, remember how I asked you to grab your cup of coffee/tea? Now's probably a good time to do that as we are about to unpack an entire lifetime in a few or so lines of text. Don't worry though; here's a TL;DR that bypasses storytime

The early days

I remember the first time a PC ever made it into our home. Pretty exciting time, I must say! You've finally plugged everything in, got the 'Computers 101' briefing, and before you know it, you're listening to the sweet, sweet jingle that plays during the Windows installer. Life's good

Next thing you know, you're staring at a copy of Sub7. "What the heck is that?", you ask. Soon enough, you realize what you're looking at is a potentially dangerous piece of software that can be absolutely abused and misused by anyone in possession thereof. For me, personally, I believe this is where it all started

As I mentioned earlier, I'm a very curious individual by nature, and tech is a treasure trove for the keen-eyed. There are just way too many possibilities right at the tips of your fingers at an affordable cost. If you ask me, I'd much rather look into space as well because it is the ultimate treasure trove of curiosities, but..Well, that never came to pass, so here we are

If you, too, remember the early days of Windows, you surely recall that wallpaper titled "Inside Your PC", or something along those lines. It was like a picture of a motherboard or some such, and I loved it! "How did they come up with this stuff?", I'd ask often myself. To manufacture something so small that's capable of producing all these possibilities...That's just wow. I knew what I had to do; I set out to chase this dream growing up, trying to learn all I can about it, until it was time to decide what I wanted to do "when I grow up"; I chose Dentistry. Pretty anti-climactic, amirite?

Don't get me wrong, this was a 100% autonomous decision on my part, and it was a split against studying Computer Science. They say that it's no use crying over spilt milk, and you know what...They're absolutely correct. Everything that ever happens does so for a reason. That reason might manifest or make sense instantly, some time later, or simply never at all. I believe every decision I've ever made in my entire life has either directly or indirectly led me to where I am now, and I don't regret a thing. Actually, that's not entirely true. I do regret wasting time when I shouldn't have, but hey...Better late than never, right? So once again, here we are

Boredom, Butterflies, and Buffer Overflows

I get bored very easily. I am always looking for something to do; anything. It's around 2006-2008, the internet's full of new things; MySpace, Facebook, all these websites, forums, videogames...It's awesome! "What if, instead of going through every platform to do one thing, we had everything in one place in the form of a 1st-person game-like..thing? Basic idea was having this "virtual reality" platform where you get to roam around as a "player", and visit whichever place you want on the internet. Little did I know back then that this would later become the "Metaverse". I knew, roughly, what I wanted to do, but I didn't have the strength know-how to do it. I wanted to code, and that's all I ever wanted at that time. Out of boredom sometime way later, I'd try to learn C#. Microsoft had some wonderful courses back then, so I tried to learn using those. First time around, I'd finish up to 80% of the course, only to ditch it for a good few months. I'd try again, and manage to go through even less content. And again, until I just gave up

Fast-forward some time, I hear about this language everyone's talking about; Python. Python this, Python that...What's with all the fuss?
Oh, a relatively simple, yet powerful language that anyone can learn, you say? Where do I sign?

I started learning Python on and off sometime around 2014-2015. That was a key moment in laying some groundwork for what would follow. Fast-forward some more, and it's 2018-2019. I am in China, teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) to youngsters. Remember, dear reader; I did say this was going to be a collection of mostly disorganized information; no backsies now. So, I teach English in a country whose language I know of as much as the next toddler does; not much I can do in terms of, well, things to do. You can almost imagine how utterly bored I'd get. Thankfully, however, I had access to unrestricted high-speed internet. I'd go on to spend my time trying to learn more about Python, so I took another course. When I was done with the course, I obviously still got bored because neither did I put it to practice, nor had a real use case for it. Suddenly, I remember seeing ads (not in China) for a certain training company, offering courses that teach "Kali Linux". I remember getting tired of them pushing their ads all the time to the point I'd think "OMG shut up about Kali Linux already!"

I caved in. I started learning about Kali Linux. It was then that I started questioning everything I'd been doing online. Growing up, I'd always believed in the "inherent goodness of people". Boy, oh boy, have I been so naive.

You really think someone would go on the internet and lie?

Why, yes. They lie, lie, and then lie some more. As it turns out, that prince who promised you infinite riches was really just someone looking to make a quick buck off your personal information. The US Treasury does not hand out freebies. Everything's made up, and the points don't matter.

"Hold on a minute...It's all just a facade and everyone's evil?", I hear you ask. No, it's not all doom and gloom. Just like there are some whose sole purpose of existence is to make life hell for everyone else, there are also those who put up a good fight for what's right. I don't know about you, but I'm here for a good time, not for a long time. I'd rather leave a good mark that actually helps anyone than lead a purposeless life for a quick buck that disappears before it's even conceived. That being said, let's fast-forward some more

It's 2020, and I'd just come back from a quick trip to Japan. Pissed I couldn't finish what I started in China, royally pissed I couldn't start what I wanted to start in Japan as an outcome of the former not happening. I'm sitting there, looking for what to do next with my life, when I remember I'd done that course on Kali Linux. The internet's dark and full of terrors, and it could use all the help it could get, so I decided to go back full-circle. I started looking at different training providers, and roughly made a plan of action

I'm going to get X, Y, Z, then OSCP certified. I went for X certified, studied for Y, completely ditched Z, then decided to have a crack at PEN-200/OSCP

Late 2021, and I'm not entirely happy with Y. That's when I decided to stop wasting what little time I had and go with OffSec. I finally made the purchase, and started right away

Enter PEN-200

I've finally made it here. I have this PDF, and it contains all the information I'd need to pass the exam. I also have a tight 3-month window to finish everything, so no time to waste. Generally speaking, I don't like to ask that many questions, or any at all for that matter if possible. I decided to go it alone for the most part, even though I knew there was an amazing support network on OffSec's Discord server. In doing so, I forced myself to go out there looking for answers. Whenever I got stuck on anything, there was always a search engine to the rescue, and so many bad hot takes out there. I knew there and then that not only would I have to find the answers I seek, but also filter the resources I'd stumble upon based on quality

In teaching, there are two ways to deliver a piece of information: you either lead the person to finding answers (which are already out there) on their own, or you spoon-feed it to them. OffSec does the former, and in my humble opinion, I believe it's an extremely effective method of content/concept delivery. If you're given all the information at once on a silver platter, there's a very high chance you'll either forget about it, or take it as-is without ever questioning why or how it came to pass. This is what I loved about OffSec's methodology; the effort you exert trying to understand how things work really pays off if understanding is what you're after. If you're after the certificate and gg, by all means; go ahead and memorize the entire content front-to-back, but good luck ever being good at what you do. Anyone can read a walkthrough on performing SQLi attacks, but how many actually understand what's happening under the hood?

Picture this: you're an OSCP who landed a decent job somewhere reputable, and on your first task, you launched a kernel exploit on a production system without reading the little disclaimer that goes a little something along the lines of

This is a dirty exploit that has a 50% chance of BSODing the target

Let's think about the consequences for a moment. Time is money, and bringing a client's prod down, however momentarily or long that might be, is definitely not going to fly without consequences. For starters, you'll make a whole lot of people angry. I don't know whether you like being yelled at, or get a professional hit where it hurts, but hey...It's up to you at this point. Do you want to be a glorified keyboard smasher, mindlessly trying everything until something sticks? Or do you want to be good at what you do?

This is where PEN-200 shines. You are supposed to have a pretty good idea about what you're doing so you don't risk damaging your client's assets, your own company's reputation, and your own self-esteem in the process. The course pushes you in that direction should you get the point behind why it's delivered the way it is

I started out copying and pasting things mindlessly, and that has definitely not done me any good. The more mistakes I made, the more I realized how much of my approach and thinking I needed to change. It was thanks to this course that I managed to change my ways, and it's been amazing ever since