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Learning pen testing

Hey there. A few years back I developed an interest in penetration testing (ethical hacking) and I asked about it on a few tech forums. The general reply was that learning a few programming languages was essential, and it was not possible to be proficient in pen testing without that.

So I started with Python, and moved on to C++, then Perl. I then learnt Ruby (what a colossal waste of time that was), and then just recently (few months back) I learnt C and SQL. I am sufficiently proficient in the languages, but now I've hit a dead end.

I tried analyzing the exploit codes on security websites, but they nearly always have sections missing to prevent newbies from using them, and I can never understand the full code because of that. I have tried finding pen testing guides on the net, but they're either ridiculously outdated or downright wrong. Pen testing classes in my area cost upwards of $2000 which I cannot afford (I can't afford a tenth of that, I'm a student right now). So basically I'm stuck.

Do any of you have any suggestions? I don't want to join a hacker group (I did join one, but it didn't work out well).

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