There are many ways to define what is hacking. The simplest definition of hacking is an act of gaining unauthorized access to any kind of data in a computer or a system. The system could be a server, desktop, laptop, network, mobile phone or tablet. It could be a database or some files. The data could pertain to anything, from financial information to passwords, any type of documents to personal identity among others. Hacking is outlawed all over the world. It is another matter that hacking is used in statecraft by most nations on the planet. Ethical hacking is legal.

Introduction to Hacking

In simple words, hacking involves identifying the weakness in networks and computer systems. Such weaknesses can be used to get access to the network or the system. A common example of what is hacking is using a password cracking program or algorithm to get access to a locked account. A standalone computer that is not connected with other systems can only be hacked physically. A computer or any system that is connected to a network can be hacked from anywhere. Physical access to the system is not necessary. Since most computers today have to be hooked to wired or wireless networks and they are invariably connected to servers, the entire premise of how to hack has undergone phenomenal changes in the last two decades.

Hacking can have one objective or multiple purposes. Traditionally, the objectives of hacking have been data theft, financial fraud and invasion of privacy. Today, hacking has become much more complicated. Not all hacks are on the face and obvious. Many hacks apparently have no definitive objective. The truth is the accessed data is put to use, just not in the simplest of way such as using a stolen credit card for an online purchase. 

What is Hacking | Who is a Hacker | Types of Hackers

Hackers Exposed Book

Any person who finds a weakness in a network, system or server, usually all of these and gains unauthorized access is a hacker. Hacking may be powered by algorithms. Hackers use their expertise in computer security. Seasoned hackers have their own programs that are not available to others for the purpose of gaining access to specific types of systems. The same algorithms do not work for all kinds of systems or networks.

There are a few types of hackers. The only legal form of hacking is ethical hacking. Anyone who practices ethical hacking is known as an ethical hacker or white hat hacker. An ethical hacker finds weaknesses in systems not to steal and misuse the data but to alert the owner of the infrastructure that their resources can be hacked. Ethical hackers are essentially testers and experts in cyber security. They play a pivotal role in preventing and solving cybercrime. Ethical hackers are on payrolls of major corporations and even government agencies. They constantly test the vulnerability of all systems, networks and servers. They perform what is known as penetration testing & vulnerability assessment.

The exact opposite of an ethical hacker or white hat hacker is the cracker or black hat hacker. This kind of hacker is basically a cybercriminal. He or she hacks for personal gain. Such hackers also work as career criminals. They offer their expertise and services to those who have vested interests. In such cases, the black hat hackers get paid for a job. They may or may not use the stolen data or the illegal access for any direct personal gain. The payment for the job is their profit. Crackers or black hat hackers routinely target corporations, banks, social networks and database servers across industries. Black hat hackers violate right to privacy and many other laws.

There are four other types of hackers. A grey hat hacker is a kind of a mix of black hat and white hat hackers. A grey hat hacker may or may not have criminal intention. A hacktivist is hacker and activist. Such hackers have a specific mission. The mission could be religious, social, cultural, political or financial. Hacktivists hack to spread a message. They may also have an endgame planned. Script kiddies are a type of hackers but they are not deft enough. They are usually unskilled people who accidentally get access or use existing tools that have not been made by them to hack. Script kiddies cannot hack properly secured systems. Then there is phreaker, who is a hacker exploiting weaknesses in phones. Phreakers do not hack computers or servers. They target telephones and the telecommunication networks.

Introduction to Cybercrime | Types of Cybercrimes

Cybercrime is the unlawful use of networks, computers, servers and other systems to carry out illegal acts such as stalking, bullying and spreading viruses and malwares among others. Conducting electronic transactions without authorization, stealing and selling data, compromising privacy of an individual and entrapment using means of hacking are categorized as cybercrimes.

Cybercrime is not limited to computers, servers and networks. Telephones, especially smartphones, messaging and chatting services or other applications can also be used for hacking and any specific type of cybercrime.

Common cybercrimes are computer fraud, violation of privacy, identity theft, stealing and sharing of copyrighted information, electronic funds transfer, online money laundering, debit and credit card fraud, denial of service attack and spam among others.

Overview of Ethical Hacking

There are many ways to find out how to hack or how to become a hacker. But unless you have any intention to commit any cybercrime, you are perhaps aspiring to become an ethical hacker. Ethical hacking is an extremely rewarding profession and career right now. While ethical hacking has its challenges and the job can be quite demanding, the financial reward and the personal satisfaction can be truly gratifying.

Ethical hacking finds flaws in systems so they can be fixed. Ethical hacking prevents an actual hack and hence protects companies and individuals. Ethical hacking also protects governments with their proactive testing and assessment of cyber security. Information is the contemporary variant of oil and before that gold. Anyone who has access to sensitive information can trade it rather easily and this not only becomes a profitable venture but paves the way for many kinds of crimes. Ethical hacking is not only crucial for balance in the cyber world but also to prevent and solve cybercrime. It is one thing to have some idea of how to hack and a completely different ballgame to know exactly how a hack can happen or has happened. Ethical hacking is the countermeasure to black hat hackers or crackers.

How to become a Hacker?

There are two ways you can become a hacker. You can read hacking books, learn programming languages, hone your coding skills, expand your understanding of security systems and then try your luck at hacking. Alternatively, you can sign up for one of the ethical hacking courses available at many virtual universities. You can also learn about hacking and become an ethical hacker through traditional educational institutions.

There are many basic requirements before anyone explores how to become a hacker. You should know a few programming languages. This does not happen overnight. It takes years to master C, C++, Python, Ruby, Perl and PHP. You will also need to know bash scripting and assembly language to know how to hack. How to become a hacker is a generic quest. Knowing how to hack a particular target is a specific quest.

You must know enough about the target for a successful hack. Hacking is not just about identifying the weakness in a system or network and then exploiting it. A hacker must secure their own system, use clever ways to test the target so as to ensure the actual attempt is successful, the steps taken should also be covered so the hack cannot be traced back to the hacker and there are other situational challenges that must be dealt with.

The Best Hacking Books

Knowledge is the foundation of hacking. Technical skills, evolving awareness and thinking on the feet are essential traits of a hacker. There is no dearth of hacking books available widely but only a few are truly worthwhile. The realm of hacking is as much about technicalities as creative probabilities. Patience, requisite skills and imagination separate the great hacker from the average ones.

The most helpful hacking books are “Ghost in the Wires” by Kevin Mitnick who was the most wanted hacker in the world and later turned to ethical hacking, “Hackers Exposed” by Fernando Azevedo, “Red Team Field Manual” or RTFM by Ben Clark, “CISSP All-In-One Exam Guide” by Shon Harris, “Practical Malware Analysis” by Michael Sikorski and Andrew Honig and “Metasploit” by David Kennedy, Devon Kearns, Jim O’Gorman and Mati Aharoni. There are many other hacking books. You should read “Social Engineering” by Christopher Hadnagy, “Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C” by Bruce Schneier, “The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing” and “The Code Book” by Simon Singh.

The Finest Ethical Hacking Courses

Beginners can check out the Udemy course “Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch”. The course is comprehensive and is good for those who do not have a background in penetration testing or other forms of hacking and white hat practices. You do not have to be a trained or experienced hacker for this program. But of course you should be familiar with the popular languages and operating systems. The program covers penetration testing of networks and web applications, getting access and post exploitation.

Udemy has scores of ethical hacking courses. There are a few dozen free programs as well but the paid courses are more effective. Check out “The Complete Ethical Hacking Course”, “Learn Website Hacking / Penetration Testing”, “Hacking in Practice: Certified Ethical Hacking MEGA Course”, “Build an Advanced Keylogger using C++ for Ethical Hacking”, “The Definitive Ethical Hacking Course”, “Hacking For Beginners”, “IT Security and Ethical Hacking”, “Ethical Hacking & Cyber Security Course”, “The Complete Nmap Ethical Hacking Course” and “Ultimate Ethical Hacking Boot Camp”

“Cybrary – The Art of Exploitation” is a good free course. The ethical hacking program is for intermediates. The program covers butter overflow, vulnerability and exploitation. Coding experience is essential for this course. It is an on-demand program. EH Academy has a “Complete Cyber Security & Hacking Course”. It is suitable for aspiring hackers, beginners as well as intermediates. The ethical hacking program addresses basics of white hat practices. You would get to learn the basics and be introduced to ethical hacking. The course provides a guide to set up a lab and to get started with ethical hacking, beginning with gathering information. “Offensive Security – Metasploit Unleashed” and “Cyber Degrees – Cryptography” at the University of Maryland are two more popular courses on ethical hacking.

How to Hack?

Hacking is a skill based action. Knowledge, infrastructure and resources play a vital role but at the end of the day it is the expertise of an individual that makes all the difference. Every experienced hacker knows how to hack but only a few can hack into just about any server in the world. Most hackers will fail to penetrate the safest networks. What people learn about denial of service attacks, servers crashing or networks compromised in the press are not overnight developments. The hackers who bring about such massive operations to succeed invest months preparing for the mission. They have to learn everything about the system, network or server they are targeting. It is otherwise impossible to succeed.

Hacking is a constantly evolving concept and the practice also transforms dynamically as pros come up with new techniques. How to hack must also respond to changes in security systems. Cyber security has never been more effective. This does not imply hacking is no longer possible. The techniques used by hackers are also being improved at the same time. It is true that state of the art security systems are making hacking harder but this also means the hackers who succeed will be tougher to trace and counter. Ethical hacking is poised to be one of the most flourishing careers in the twenty-first century. If you are passionate about hacking, then you should seriously consider a career in ethical hacking.