TryHackMe vs. HackTheBox

 I wrote a blog article a while back about why I chose HTB over THM.  I have to confess something to you.  

I have had a change of heart.

I know. I know.  How dare I change my mind!?

The team over at THM have been working hard to differentiate themselves from HTB, to the point that in my personal opinion THM has surpassed HTB and HTB is doing some catching up.

Just so you know this is all personal opinion stuff.  I have used both HTB and THM, so I feel confident in how I feel on the topic.


1. Simple To Get Started

UI is straight forward.  Once you have either signed up with a free account or you have decided to pay the affordable monthly fee (more on this later) the main landing page or "Dashboard" is extremely easy to navigate and logical to figure out what to do.

In the picture below you can see total users, current rank when the picture was taken, current streak (this picture has 180).  Additionally you can see the "Learning Path" where my current activities are displayed and to the right my day-to-day number of questions I have accomplished

Continuing down the same page, you can see on the right "New Rooms" that have been released.  Your current "Level."  "Friends" you have connected with and  "Skills Matrix" which is visually mapping out your progress

Why do I like this UI?  It's just straightforward.  It's intuitive and easy to navigate.  I hate UIs that you have to fumble around in order to do the basic actions that you signed up for.

If you are curious to try out different aspects of cyber security you can access the "Learn" page.

After this select "Search" and now you can filter by the kind of challenge you want to face.  So SIMPLE.

2. Simple Progressions and Micro Wins

This is the big take away from THM that sets it apart from HTB.  THM has progressions that are simple to grasp and every little action literally helps you towards moving on.  Take the picture below for example.  This was taken from a basic networking room in THM.  When you answer the questions in each "Task" you get a check mark.  Each question answered gives you "points" that are added to your level that we saw earlier.  As you answer more questions your score increases, pretty straight forward.

HTB does not do this.  I literally spent months working through various rooms answering questions hacking boxes only to still be a "noob."  I had accomplished complicated tasks in HTB to only have the word "noob" thrown in my face.  No thanks!  At least in THM everything I do helps my position. 

Which is also another nice thing.

It's incredibly motivating to see your rank increase.  To know that of the almost 2 million players you are in the top 1% kind of feels nice.

3. Cost
THM is cheaper than HTB.  I subscribed to both for a year.  I paid about $90 for THM compared to $260 for HTB.  WOW.  Only to have HTB refer to me as a noob despite having completed over 20+ machines user and root flags obtained. No Thanks.

4. Barrier to Entry
You know what? I have had a change of heart on learning.  I use to admire jumping into the deep end and struggling till you got it.  There are aspects of this that I like, but arbitrarily making things brutal doesn't serve anyone.  HTB is unnecessarily difficult out of the gate.  THM warms you up so that in time you are accomplishing the exact same thing as you do in HTB.

5. HTB Playing Catch Up
What!? How can this be?  If you go and check out HTB you will see that they have added their own academy.  I tried it out, but again the barrier to entry was steep.  On numerous occasions I answered questions correctly only to discover that their was a very minor syntax error (THM catches your syntax errors fyi).  Also there is a paywall.  Honest to goodness I want to poke my own eyes out when I get to a paywall. THM has a paywall, but if you sign up for the premium the whole bloody website opens up to you!

I honestly think that HTB relished is the fact that they had a "challenging" service that really tested peoples skills.  This is true, their machines are hard and you do learn a lot.  However sometimes people don't have 6 hours to sit down and hack, sometimes we only have 20 minutes here and there.  THM has expertly deciphered how to motivate people. 

6. Upload Your Own Creations
You can upload your own challenges so that your friends can try them.  Can you get points from this and it impacts your hacker score? You bet!  Thanks.  You can upload whole VMs!  It is so simple.

7. King of The Hill
You can compete live with other hackers around the world.  Stressful, but fun.


1. Diving into heavy stuff can be harder to find
One thing HTB has going for it is that it does not mess around when it comes to challenge level.  Even easy machines on HTB are brutal sometimes.  (Although seasoned CTF fans will debate this).  If you are well accustomed to HTB and try out THM you will almost assuredly feel like you are playing with the little kids at the playground.  However if that is your attitude you would probably enjoy King Of The Hill (KOTH) on THM.

2. Losing Track of what you were working on
This one might just be me, but sometimes I join so many rooms that when I search through available rooms to work on I realize that I had actually started a room months back.  The tracking on what you have started is a little lacking in verbosity, but this is a minor issue fo rme.

Final Thoughts
If you have read this far then you have picked up that I have landed in one camp.  THM has figured out how to motivate users.  They provide an environment that is fun and rewarding and doesn't leave you feeling like crap because you have never heard of something.  I look forward to getting my 365 streak and finally getting one of my challenges approved for public consumption!

Hey check out my YouTube channel

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