With the COVID-19 pandemic, more organizations adopting digital solutions every day. Today, billions of people are using online services, including banking, shopping, and e-government. Internet is an essential part of our lives and it is getting more and more important every day. The digital transformation caused by the pandemic shows us how cybersecurity is important once again. The transformation both attracts hackers, who are trying to benefit from the situation illegally, and professionals who are trying to specialize in the cybersecurity field to stop illegal actors. The never-ending battle between these two sides is getting fiercer nowadays.
If you are inexperienced and want to be a part of this never-ending battle, you can take a look at our list to improve yourself. Some of these steps can look exhausting and may require expertise in various different fields, they are necessary to be a successful hacker. In the digital world, change is inevitable and every hacker should improve themselves and their methods to be able to exist in the cybersecurity field. We should also warn you, you should be responsible with your skills and avoid illegal ways for your own personal benefits.
And don’t forget, although the term “hacker” is mostly associated with illegal activities, it is not always necessarily illegal. To better understand the situation, first, let’s take a closer look at the hacker types and their motives.
Types of hackers
As we mentioned above, there are various types of hackers with different motives and skills. It would be wise to decide your motive what are you going to do with your technical abilities before learning them. Let’s take a closer look at hacker types first:
Black hat hackers use illegal ways to benefit themselves. Mostly they try to find unauthorized access to networks to steal funds or information, destroy or change data. Once they have stolen the data, they can sell it on the black market or use it as a ransom against the company. A black hat hacker can easily ruin an organization’s reputation by violating data privacy. They can also steal credit card information to transfer funds to their personal accounts. Black hat hackers can work independently or can be hired by rival companies. Since it is an illegal method, we wouldn’t suggest any of our readers trying this criminal way.
White hat hackers are also cybersecurity experts who look for vulnerabilities for organizations with authorized access. The organizations give white hat hackers to hack the system. White hat hackers aim to find the vulnerabilities before any black hat hacker does. White hat hackers test systems to identify weaknesses and report them back to the organization to let them fix them. White hat hackers are hired by organizations to test their systems and improve their defenses.
Gray hat hackers fall between black hat and white hat hackers. Most of the time, they aim for personal gain. They also test the organization’s defenses without permission and if they can find and vulnerability, they contact the organization to let them know about the issue. Most of the time they expect a reward from the company for helping them. However, if gray hat hackers let the public know about the vulnerability or use it for their own benefit, it makes them black hat hackers. There are also some gray hat hackers for experimenting only without any expectations.
Red hat hackers share similar motives with white hat hackers. The difference is, red hat hackers, act like vigilantes to stop black hat hackers. Instead of reporting black hat hackers and their activities to the authorities, red hat hackers target black hat hackers until they cease their attacks. Red hat hackers can also disclose black hat hackers’ identities publicly if they can manage to find them.
Script kiddies are mostly amateurs using the software they found online to hack the systems. Most of the time they aim to get attention and use simple methods, such as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, which means flooding an IP address with excessive traffic, that can be solved easily.
Hacktivists are hackers that aim to attack organizations or government websites with an intention to protest an issue. They can take down a company’s website to protest it, or steal data from a governmental network for political or social gain. Most of their acts are also illegal and can lead to serious consequences.
Most state-sponsored hackers’ acts can be considered espionage activities. These hackers are sponsored by their governments to steal information from or sabotage other countries’ networks. Since they only report to their own governments, they are one of the most secretive hacker groups.
Technical knowledge required to be a successful hacker can be intimidating, especially if you are inexperienced in the field. However, keep in mind that every prestigious hacker was once as inexperienced as you. You should also keep in mind that not only technical knowledge is enough, in the cybersecurity field, but new technologies and methods are also introduced every day, so the learning never ends. It also requires being able to find creative solutions for problems and thinking out of the box sometimes.
Programming languages are one of the most important tools for hackers. Depending on your specialty, you may need to focus on a single programming language, however, if you can improve yourself in various different languages, they will help you find different weaknesses or even create tools to test for vulnerabilities. Here are some of the most popular programming languages that can be useful for hackers.
C and C++
C and C++ are some of the most popular high-level cross-platform programming languages. These two languages are essential for hackers because they let them write or edit their own shell codes, exploit, and root kits. These languages are also important for reverse engineering.
As you may already know, WordPress is the most popular CMS on the web. Considering it is a PHP-based CMS, PHP is one of the most popular server-side script languages. It is possible to write an application with PHP to make the server vulnerable, intentionally or not. Thus, if you want to improve yourself in web servers, PHP is a must.
HTML is a programming language that allows developers to create web pages, as you may already know. Web pages that include login forms or any entry methods are using HTML codes to create that page. So to be able to find any vulnerabilities or bugs in a such web page, learning HTML is essential.
SQL is used to communicate with the database, where all the data is stored. Methods like SQL injection can allow an attacker to delete or steal the stored data. Thus, it is vital to find the weakness in the SQL code to be able to fix it before a black hat hacker does.
Python is gaining huge popularity among hackers in recent years, because of its flexibility, ease of use, and libraries. Python allows users to create automation tools and scripts for troubleshooting and memory management. It is also an easy-to-learn, open-source, and object-oriented language that supports database access.
UNIX and UNIX-based Linux distributions
UNIX is an operating system designed to provide good security. Since UNIX is completely written in C language, it is easier for C programmers to learn UNIX commands. Using UNIX commands is also essential for hackers and it is possible to hack a system with UNIX commands. Today, UNIX-based operating systems are popular among hackers. The most popular UNIX-based operating system is Kali Linux and Parrot OS specially used by hackers. Ubuntu, which is also a UNIX-based Linux distro, can be more suitable for beginners. Some of the most popular UNIX-based operating systems are:
Learning networking concepts is essential for understanding how the internet works. You can start with OSI layer models, which is the basic information. Then you can understand how TCP/IP and UDP protocol works since they are prone to be exploited. Fortunately, there are tons of lessons and documents online for beginners about the concept. In advanced levels, you should understand subnet, LAN, WAN, VPN. You should also be able to write commands to do an HTTP request. Most hackers are using HTTP gateway to be able to breach the security to gain unauthorized access or privilege escalation.
Nmap is also a popular tool among hackers to identify vulnerabilities. To be able to use Nmap effectively, you should understand networking essentials first. Once you are confident with concepts and terminology, you can learn how to use Nmap from online sources.
Cryptography aims to provide communication security in the presence of third parties. To be able to do that, the data is encrypted with algorithms that use complex mathematical equations and then decrypted back into the original version. Cryptography is very important for the confidentiality of the data, the integrity of the data, and authentication. Since most websites are using SSL recently, it is important for a hacker to understand SSL and how the encryption and decryption methods work. However, most of the time it may also require mathematical knowledge to be able to create a program that can decrypt a ciphertext.
Experiment and documents
We all know that it can be confusing to turn theoretical knowledge into practice. So, if you want to test your skills, it might be a good time to create a virtual machine and start experimenting. In most cases, the virtual machine will not allow and software with malicious intent to harm your system. At this point, you can test the things you have learned with the current versions of websites or software. You can create a website and try to find vulnerabilities or create a tool that tests for vulnerabilities.
You can also check the latest hotfixes and the vulnerabilities they have patched. It might be beneficial for you to try installing and outdated software and try to find the known issues. There are also many security companies that publish detailed documents and report about the vulnerabilities they have found. As we mentioned before, in the cybersecurity field, learning never ends.
Challenges and open-source projects
Once you are confident with your skills and ready for a hands-on approach, you can try yourself in hacking challenges. Some companies allow hackers to check the vulnerability of their products and most of the time they also offer rewards or available cybersecurity positions. Most challenges require hackers to breach the company’s security system and take control.
There are also tons of open-source projects launched by non-profit organizations that are waiting for contributions from cybersecurity experts. These projects can be a single website, or something really big, such as Mozilla or a Linux distribution. These organizations have a global vulnerability database, where you can post your findings. It doesn’t only help the organization, but also allows you to improve your reputation and meet fellow cybersecurity experts.
Finding a vulnerability in an up to date software can mostly be done by cybersecurity experts who are really experienced. If you can find a vulnerability, after alerting the organization, you can write and publish a detailed vulnerability report with a detailed proof of concept. This is one of the most prestigious publications a hacker can do.
- Awesome Hacking Resources: A collection of hacking / penetration testing resources to make you better!