If you’re reading this, then that’s a good sign. By now you’ve probably realized that there is a little more to being a hacker than just typing some code into an editor and pointing it at a system to break in. There are many facets to hacking, most of which never show up in movies or on TV for the simple fact that it wouldn’t make for interesting viewing.
So let’s get down to the basics.
How do I Become a Hacker?
First, you need to realize that this is not something you can just pick up overnight. It takes time and patience, as well as an open mind to new possibilities and ideas. You might think this is some kind of wizardry that can only be done by the elite, but you would be wrong.
Hacking is based on logic and deduction. Following instructions without question will not get you very far in life these days, let alone as a hacker. Imagination and creativity are also key elements to hacking, or anything for that matter.
So, how do you become a hacker?
First of all, read everything you can about hacking.
There are plenty of books available on the subject, and many magazines will have articles in them concerning various aspects of hacking. The more information you have at your disposal, the better. That doesn’t mean you should take everything as gospel truth. Keep an open mind and think for yourself.
If you have access to a computer, get some hacker software. There are many different programs available on the Internet that when used properly can help speed up the learning process. You do need some kind of hardware to go along with this, however; it’s no use just learning how to do it on paper.
Read: Best Books to Learn How Computers Work
Another important asset in your arsenal of knowledge is information, and lots of it. A good place to start with this is at the library, where you can borrow books and magazines about hacking and related topics. The more you read and learn, the better off you’ll be. If possible, subscribe to a hacking magazine, which often have source code for various hacking programs.
The most important thing about being a hacker is knowledge and experience. Without these you will not get very far. And they are never wasted – even if it turns out that you don’t want to be a hacker, the more knowledge and experience you have, the more valuable you will be to your employer. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with hacking and breaching security systems for legitimate purposes. There’s a lot of information out there on the net and elsewhere, so it’s pretty much up to you as to what kind of hacker you want to become.
Who can Become a Hacker?
Hacking is not limited to just some people. It doesn’t matter what age you are or who you are – everyone can learn how to hack. There’s nothing magical about it, so anybody with enough patience and desire will be successful at hacking. Of course, there might be problems along the way since it’s not always easy to understand everything about hacking, but that’s a minor problem compared to what you will learn. Trust me.
The first step – software and hardware
You might have already heard of some of the better known hacking programs or other related tools for other tasks. I’m going to cover them here and give an idea of what they are used for. There’s a lot of software available for you to use, but I’ll only list the ones that are considered must-haves.
Here, I will discuss some hardware you might need or want to use with your hacking software. Even if you don’t feel like building your own hacking system, you might still find some of this information useful in your future endeavors.
What can I do with my hacking tools?
Now that you know what kind of software is available and the type of hardware needed to run it, let’s look at what you can actually do with it. Remember that hacking is not limited to just one thing. There are an infinite number of possibilities in what you can do once you know how to hack, so there’s no way I could cover them all in this article.
When you get more advanced with hacking, some might want to get into network security and eventually specialize in it. That means that such a person would have to learn the ins and outs of every type of operating system available – Windows, Linux, OS/2, Palm OS, etc. This requires a lot of work and is not for everyone.
The Dangers Lurking Ahead
There are some risks involved in becoming a hacker. You might want to be very careful about whom you meet on the Internet and where you go. There are a lot of people who claim they can teach you how to hack, but in reality have bad intentions and might try to rip you off or even give your information to the authorities. You’ll have to weigh these possibilities by looking at what you’re being offered and what’s being said before deciding if it’s safe or not.
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Advantages and Disadvantages
In this section, I’m going to point out the advantages and disadvantages of being a hacker. By now, you probably know that hacking can be done in different ways by different kinds of people. Some are more dangerous than others, so it’s up to you to decide how far you want to go with your hacking endeavors. If nothing else, it might make for interesting reading to see what you’re getting yourself into.
The biggest advantage of being a hacker is that it’s fun. You get to do things that most people can only dream about, whether they are good or bad things. It beats the hell out of working at some 9-to-5 job where all you do is push papers all day. You get to meet lots of other hackers and even learn how to hack systems without being caught.
The disadvantage of hacking is that it can be dangerous if you’re not careful, especially if you do it for the wrong reasons or break into systems that are protected by sophisticated security software.
As mentioned before, criminals might try to steal your identity. And once your name is known by the wrong people, you might have trouble getting a job or in some cases be thrown in jail for breaking into systems where information of a sensitive nature is stored.
The choice is yours in what kind of hacker you want to become. What are you waiting for? Get out there and start learning!
Roadmap for Success as a Hacker
- Learn everything you can, and make friends with other hackers. (You might be able to get a job through them, even if your skills aren’t yet good enough for a real job.)
- Try to find a mentor. This is someone who has been where you want to go – maybe even succeeded! — and can teach you the tricks and skills they learned on the way there.
- Do things that will get your name known. Publish interesting hacks. Publish code and comments and documentation that helps other hackers do neat things with their systems and tools. Write articles for magazines, newsgroups, discussion lists, books… anything to get your name known.
- Practice, practice, practice. Watch others who have been successful to see how they work – take everything from them that you can use without being too obvious about it.
- Keep a journal of things you learn and do, so that if it’s hard to get a job later on, people will know what your qualifications are.
- Learn as many programming languages as you can. This seems to be the easiest path into systems and network hacking, but it’s not strictly necessary.
- Keep track of what you learn – how to do things, why things work the way they do, and especially what really neat tricks other hackers have published lately. Take notes like a fanatic. If you’re at all like me, you’ll probably forget 95% of what you learn unless you write it down.
- Don’t be a prima donna – be willing to help out the other hackers in any way they need. Be patient with those who are new and trying hard; everyone had to start somewhere, and they may not be trying as hard as you think.
- Develop an attitude of caring about others and sharing what you can, rather than getting ahead at all costs. Hackers are human beings; treat them like one.
- Learn to write – clearly and well. Read good books on writing (Stephen King’s On Writing is a good guide for novelists, and I hear that Scott Adams’ Guide to Writing Dilbert Comics is good for humor writers).
- Hackers tend to be introverts. To make friends easily, develop your extrovert side. This will help you network with other hackers more effectively – they’ll see you as one of them rather than as an outsider. You might join or start some social group, where hackers can get together informally to chat and show off what they’re doing.
- Be careful with money. Don’t be stupid with credit cards, either – too many of us have ended up in real financial trouble because of our hacking habits. Hackers are usually bad at managing money – it’s best to avoid having to do it.
- Hackers tend not to have a lot of money, so you might want to develop alternate sources of income as well – through consulting or contracting work, for example.
- Learn the business world as good as you can. Most hackers don’t know much about business culture and etiquette, and some who’ve learned the hard way have gotten burned because of it.
- If you’re thinking of starting your own company, learn about business plans and how to run a company. It’s easy to spend all the money you’ve got just getting started, especially if there are other people involved who don’t really understand what being a CEO or founder entails.
- Don’t get into debt – it’s very hard to hack when you owe people money that you don’t have.
- Hackers can get hate mail, death threats, and abuse from other people who are threatened by the power of technology. Be prepared for this; if you make too much commotion about it, you’ll only advertise the fact that you’re a hacker. Even if you’re just’starting out, learn how to protect yourself from this kind of thing – either by not letting abusive people know what your address is or by having someone else who can help you deal with it if it happens.
- Be cautious about releasing too much information about yourself and your family. People may try to use this information to coerce you into doing things, or simply take advantage of your naivety.
- Develop a sense of humor – not only will it help you deal with people who are out to get you, but it’ll also let you more easily recognize trouble when it comes, so you can avoid it efficiently.
- Don’t take this too seriously – have fun! Hackers are people who do what they do because they enjoy doing it, or at least find it exciting or rewarding. Work hard to stay in that mindset when things get difficult.
- Don’t break the law. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get carried away and find yourself doing something you know is wrong. The “hacker ethic” isn’t necessarily the same as what society generally classes as ethical or acceptable behavior, though not all hackers are outlaws (and not all outlaws are hackers).
- Learn how computers work – don’t just hack them. Understanding computing theory lets you go much further than simply being able to type or use a mouse.
- Hackers are generally more intelligent than most people, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually smart. If you want to write some really good code, learn how your brain works – this will help you understand why hackers do what they do the way they do. It’ll also help you figure out how to work with other people more effectively – most hackers are terrible at dealing with other people who don’t understand what they’re doing, including managers and corporate bureaucrats.
- If you want to be seen as a member of the hacker community, learn how to act like one – there is such a thing as hacker etiquette, and following it will make you generally more effective at getting what you want. It’ll also prevent other hackers from giving you a hard time about the way you behave, which is especially important if your behavior is different to theirs – remember that there are many kinds of hackers.
- Above all, be nice! Help people out, share your knowledge, try to be as non-exploitative as you can, and don’t rip people off. This tends to cause problems for hackers down the road – it’s a good way of getting a bad reputation. On the other hand, being nice isn’t going to stop people from trying to take advantage of you if they think they can.
- If you’re in a position to give back to the hacker community, consider what contribution you could make – don’t just expect it to be given to you! Being a good network citizen and helping out where you can is important and appreciated, and will generally get people willing to help you when it’s your time to need assistance.
- If you’ve never done any programming, don’t assume you can’t – many hackers are self-taught in the sense that they started out knowing nothing about computers and/or programming, but they soon picked it up by finding out how to do things for themselves. Looking at other people’s code is a good way of learning what makes it tick.
- If you’re trying to get into hacking and having trouble, be patient – it can take time for people to notice that there’s anything interesting about you. The more effort you put in, the more likely this is to happen, and it’ll also help give you a better idea of whether or not hacking really is what you want to do.
- In case you didn’t guess from the above, hacking is a learning experience. You won’t necessarily know what’s going on at first, but if you look hard enough and keep trying new things, eventually something will click.
How to be successful as a hacker?
Step 1: Read RFCs and do CTFs
Reading IETF-RFC documents is a great way to become a successful hacker. Although the acronym reads Postal Request For Comments, the document dump has been distributed for free online in a vain attempt to cash in by giving you advice that can be gleaned from RFC 2635, “How to Design a Secure System.” All you need to do to get started down the path towards becoming a successful hacker is write your own RFC, like this one for example (and yes, I’m serious about this).
CTFs (Capture the Flags) are the best way to learn hacking. Participating in CTF competitions will give you the skills you need to make it as a hacker, and the experience of building your own CTF platform will give you an advantage over other hackers. If you don’t want to do that, get someone else to set up a CTF for you (Like GXPN did). You can even try simulating a hacking competition with CyberPatriot.
Step 2: Make a website full of 0day and post it to PasteBin.com
What’s a hackers job without the latest collection of 0days you can download from Pastebin? I mean, it’s better than writing an RFC, but it still sucks when you don’t have any 0days (zero days). Start by reviewing this article on Pastebin.com about how to best use PasteBin.
Step 3: Open your Metasploit shell
First off, download Metasploit — you can get it for free at Rapid7’s website. Then, open the downloaded file and take a look around! You’ll probably see something that says “Terminal.” That means you can open your Metasploit shell, so do that. Next, type “help.” If you don’t know what else to do at this point, just keep typing “help” over and over again until it says something about a database connection error or use — help -u for a list of the basic options. Now you’re ready to hack!
Step 4: Get your own vulnhub VMs
If you want to get started hacking, you’ll need to get some virtual machines you can hack on. You can find vulnerable VMs on Vulnhub, which has an extensive collection of ’em. Note that these are not labs – they’re meant for hacking in a safe environment. There’s no risk of getting caught here!
I recommend starting with the Beginner CTF (CTF-Beginner) VM by Muhammad Tahir, which you’ll find on Vulnhub. It’s great for new hackers because it has just enough vulnerabilities to keep you busy but not so many that you get overwhelmed. If you run into any problems, check out the tutorial on how to hack VMs.
Step 5: Learn assembly
Assembly is fun! The best way to learn assembly is by writing shellcode in it, which you’ll want for your Metasploit exploit. You can try out some assembly tutorials like this one for x86 that will teach you all the basics. Once you understand assembly, try writing some shellcode that will reverse engineer itself. That’s what I did when I wrote my first assembly language program!
Step 6: Hack with your friends!
What’s a hacker without their friends? If you don’t have any hacking buddies, find some! You can meet people in IRC channels, on hacker forums like HTS or IRC, and even at real-life meetings for your local hackerspace. You can also meet new people by finding a common enemy to hate together! Try starting a flame war against another hacking group.
Step 7: Get certified
Like I mentioned earlier, you need certifications to be successful as a hacker. Honestly, I don’t think it matters which certs you get — most hackers will tell you any of them are worth the paper they’re printed on (that’s not true at GXPN, where we actually care about proper security). Try getting a reverse engineering or exploitation cert if you want to impress other people and make up for all the terrible things you’ve done in your hacking career.
Step 8: Hack with Metasploit!
If you want to be a successful hacker, you need to practice with the latest version of Metasploit (currently 4.13). While this latest version has some huge new upgrades like Meterpreter over SSH, I recommend using Meterpreter over HTTP with PowerShell for beginners. That’s because Meterpreter is very easy to use, so it will help you learn the basics of Metasploit.
You can configure your attacks to have less alerts using –show-settings or -S, and then change them after you successfully compromise a host by setting the SCRIPT option in your exploit. If you don’t want to write shellcode, you can use –os-pwn or -O when using Meterpreter to do all the work for you. You can also upgrade an existing Meterpreter session in memory by typing “getsystem” in your Meterpreter shell, which is great for privilege escalation.
Step 9: Learn hacking tools!
Hacking tools are our friends, so you should become best buddies with them right away. You can find a complete list on OSVDB, but I recommend starting out by learning about Nmap and Wireshark. Nmap has an easy-to-use command line interface that will help you scan for open ports and determine which services are running on the host.
Wireshark is a great sniffer that can capture all kinds of packets, but if you’re just getting started I recommend using Tshark to dump out your packets, so you can read them in Wireshark later.
Tshark is like Wireshark, but with less features except it’s free! You can also use tshark to do cool stuff like password sniffing and injection attacks at the same time, which will make you a true hacking ninja in no time.
Step 10: Learn about Windows privilege escalation
The best way to learn about Windows privilege escalation is to download the metasploitable VM I mentioned earlier. The latest version of Metasploit now has some great Windows privilege escalation modules, so try breaking into that VM and then compromising the host!
Step 11: Make friends with a hacker group!
Even if you don’t have your own hacking buddies, there are plenty of other hackers around the world just waiting to meet you. Joining a hacking group will enable you to learn from people who have been doing this for a long time and help you become more successful as a hacker. Try to find a hacking group that follows the philosophy of CTF365 which focuses on learning instead of just shooting other hackers down!
Step 12: Learn about intrusion detection systems!
Intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) can be fun to play with. One of the best places to start is by getting a copy of the open source Snort and learning how to use it. You can set up your own lab like I show in this post, or you could try configuring it on a VM like I show in this post. Once you’ve done that, you can start learning about some of the different IDS/IPS rules and how to write your own!
Step 13: Learn more programming skills
Hacking isn’t just about knowing how to search online or use tools, it’s also about knowing how to build things. If you want to be a successful hacker, I highly recommend learning Python. While C is the best language for hacking, it’s also one of the hardest, so you should probably start with Python. There are plenty of great resources on YouTube like this course that will help you get started. Once you understand what’s going on under the hood in Metasploit, you should try building your first Metasploit auxiliary module, exploit, or post-exploitation script.
Step 14: Learn about cryptography
If you want to be a wizard at password cracking, you’ll need to learn some cryptography as well as how to use hashcat and John the Ripper. One great way to learn about cryptography is by reading the hacking guides on KoreLogic’s website. I also recommend playing around with hashcat and trying to crack some simple password hashes using this guide.
Step 15: Get certified!
Hacking isn’t real hacking unless you get certified, so you should definitely go for EC-Council’s CEH certification. Just remember that it’s not about proving that you’re better than other hackers, it’s about having fun and learning cool stuff! Once you’ve got your CEH, why not try getting some of the other certs like EnCE, CHFI, or even the CISSP.
Once you get all this down, there are plenty of other things you can learn, but that will have to be a guide for another time!
Popular Certifications for Hackers
You can check these certifications if you are willing to be successful as a hacker:-
- Kali Linux Certified
- Metasploit Pro
- Shellcoder’s Certification
- CompTIA Security+
- GXPN Bootcamp certifications (GNX-IV, GNX-VM, GNX-O)
- FACE Hax0r certification
- CEEK Hackerspace Badge
How to Learn Hacking for Free
Learning hacking can be challenging, especially if you’re doing it on your own. You might have to spend time hunting down free resources online or even shell out some cash in order to get the necessary training materials, depending on where you live and what specific field of hacking you want to learn more about.
It’s time to tap into your inner cyber-sleuth!
Whether you are a student looking to break into IT or someone looking for a way to supplement your income, hacking can be extremely lucrative. By investing in some quality courses and dedicating yourself, you can become an expert at hacking in no time.
In this post, we will share with you our top 5 recommendations on how to learn hacking for free. So let’s get started!
Our first recommendation is a one-week course called Hacking: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Start Learning How To Hack (Hacking, How To Hack, Penetration Testing) by Udemy.
At over 30 lectures and 9 hours of content, it is one of the most comprehensive beginner programs out there on how to hack from home!
You can access all these lectures as well as practice exam questions for $10 through Udemy.
Let’s move onto another great course called Cybrary: Basic Penetration Testing & Ethical Hacking Course – Essential Security Skills For Networking Professionals – FREE by Cybrary.
This course is designed to help anyone interested in learning more about penetration testing, including network security professionals. Once again, it comes packed with over 40 lectures totaling more than 10 hours of content that have been hand-picked to provide students with actionable information necessary to start their careers as ethical hackers.
Students have plenty of opportunities throughout each lecture for hands-on training plus quizzes and certification exams upon completion. The best part about Cybrary is that everything offered through their platform is completely free!
Finally, if your schedule doesn’t allow for online lessons, then check out Wireshark Certified Network Analyst Study Guide: Exams 1Z0-808/1Z0-809/1Z0-810 3rd Edition by Christopher Parker.
This guide was created specifically with Wireshark Certified Network Analyst exam preparation and review in mind. All of Chris’ notes are short but very dense, making them ideal for last minute study sessions before test day.
Also, tips like time management strategies, concentration tactics and critical thinking exercises help candidates pass the exam even when they think they have nothing left to give.
Similar to our other recommended reading choices above, Wireshark Certified Network Analyst Study Guide is available at Amazon for $12 new.
When it comes to how to learn hacking for free, you can’t go wrong with any of our top picks. They’re what we would call the essentials of hacking tutorials.
Now that you know what tools and guides to use, you need something practical to do.
To fill your time with useful activities, consider checking out our 4th Recommendation: Cybrary: Hacker Basics for Absolute Beginners by Cybrary. This course is a four-week guided tour through the basics of hacking, providing in-depth coverage on Linux and Wireshark Lab Essentials as well as general computer security concepts. And best of all, it’s all absolutely free!
Next up is our 5th and final recommendation: Cybersecurity Courses by FutureLearn. This site contains over 20 crash courses that cover topics like programming, cybersecurity and data science.
And best of all, they’re all absolutely free!
If you have time to invest in one course only on how to learn hacking for free, we recommend Cybersecurity Courses on FutureLearn as your best option as it’s quite detailed and covers many key topics related to cybersecurity and hacking with multiple perspectives. You can gain a solid foundation of security knowledge by taking all 6 modules.
You can check some of YouTube videos to learn hacking.
How can I learn hacking?
You need to become a hacker yourself. The best way to do this is by learning from others, but it has been proven time and again that you must teach yourself, as nobody else will be able to learn for you. It might seem daunting at first, but it will get easier as you learn more.
Is hacking illegal?
Hacking is not illegal in most countries around the world, but what you do with your skills might be considered so depending on where you live, who you hack into and why. Because of this, it’s important that you don’t act stupidly or without thinking.
Who are good hackers to learn from?
There are many people who have put their valuable information online, so they can be considered good sources of knowledge. Just keep in mind that not all of these people are honest, so you might need to watch out for scams and other dangers when looking into the hacking scene.
Can I get in trouble for hacking?
You can get in trouble if you connect to networks or computers without the owner’s permission, but using your skills for good will decrease the risks. Helping people and organizations with their security is a great way of repaying the community, and sometimes even becoming famous.
Thanks to Khan Academy and others, it’s easier than ever to learn how to hack without spending a dime. There are many YouTube channels that teach coding, including Mark Lassoff’s Talk Python To Me and some of Jeremy Tregunna’s videos.
If you’re serious about learning how to hack, you can also sign up for free online courses such as Introduction to Computer Security on Coursera or Andrew Trask’s Introduction to Cyber Security on edX.
You can even download top tools like Metasploit completely free of charge from SourceForge. All these resources make it possible for anyone with an internet connection and computer access to learn everything they need in order to become a hacker.
So get out there! And don’t forget to share what you’ve learned by answering questions in Quora, Reddit and other forums where people might be looking for help getting started with hacking. Even if all you do is link them back to your own tutorials, every bit helps. Happy cracking!