Want to learn hacking and cybersecurity? Follow these 10 steps to kickstart on your hacking career
Hacking! The term has glamourous connotation for some while others view hackers with contempt. Hacking was mainly used in the “good old days” for getting information about systems and IT in general. Over the years it has got a negative connotation due to few hackers who are also cyber criminals.
If you leave aside the cyber crime part, hacking is a very respectable field with top dollar being paid to top grade ethical hackers. Most of the tech companies hire hackers to test the strengths and weaknesses of their own system and software. These hackers know when to stop, and the positive trust they build earns them a large salary.
If you are ready to jump in and learn the art, below are a few tips that will help you get started!
Question yourself: Why do I want to learn?
Hacking does not mean interrupting a website or breaking into someone’s email accounts. While cracking is malicious, hacking is about how to usefully deploy systems and involve in a specific style of programming.
Nowadays, hacking is normally used to include data breaches, system cracks and malicious attacks, but you need to ask yourself — is it really worth the risk? If you are truly interested in programming and systems, then ethical hacking could prove to be a lucrative career choice — for the right reasons.
What is hacking?
Hacking is much more than using software to brute-force a password, or hiring a botnet to launch DDoS attacks against a website for the fun of it or cracking your media streaming kit to download shows for free. It is about solving problems and finding answers, whether in the IT field or otherwise.
As said above, hacking is a romanticised term for many. This is due to movies where the protagonist can crack anything from White House servers to ISS spacestation by punching in a few keys. There are some who view hackers with contempt but top hackers generally evoke respect among the online fraternity. Moneywise, hacking offers many career options that include a range of software issues from exploit development to network defence. However, hacking is about finding the answers to your own questions and the hunger to put in very long hours to find that evasive bug in the code.
While there is no set guidelines to learn hacking and cybersecurity, but to start off with you can learn more on different programming languages, job opportunities, skills, and join hacking and cybersecurity community groups.
Before you commit yourself, there are lot of questions you may want to ask yourself and also learn a few terms such as are you interested in networking, or penetration testing, or the security of mobile applications, or bug bounties? You will be able to follow your passion, if you have a common idea of where your own interests lie.
Choosing the correct programming language
You shouldn’t limit yourself to any particular language. But you need to learn the programming language before you start prodding around. The important factor here is interest. If you become bored, you are likely to become irritated and give up your efforts. Be it any programming language such as Python, C++, Perl or any other language, the important thing is know the basics that also gives an idea of operating systems such as Windows and Unix, as well as networking. This will help in fundamental understanding to bind everything together at a later stage.
Getting the right tools
What operating system are you using, and why? Research different tools and systems normally used by those in cybersecurity while you are learning programming or working on a project. For instance, the open-source Linux build Kali is a popular option — as it comes pre-loaded with hundreds of tools for use in the ethical hacking field.
You can run this along with other systems, such as Windows or Mac. However, using a virtual machine to run Kali on Mac can lead to problems due to Apple’s code and permissions, such as an inability to use the internal wireless adapter. It is recommended to use this situation only as a way to learn Kali and workarounds methodically.
Kali also has a Android version and since Android is ruling the landscape, it would do you a host of good if you concentrate your bug finding venture on smartphones.
Be a part of a project or sign up for a course
Most youngsters want to take up hacking but dont know where to start. As said above, most of them think hacking happens at a click of fingers but it is not so. You have to put in lot of hours to get your hacking targets right. Websites such as Coursera and Udemy are a good place to learn these basic skills, you can also sign up for a course for the same. Depending on how to learn best, taking a step-by-step course with tutorials could be the way forward, or otherwise, find a project.
Hacking, patches, improvement, and mods are all interweaved through understanding a programming language or an operating system. So take up something that interests you whether it is streamlining and creating a program, or creating a gaming mod, or fixing a security issue, or joining community competitions offered by groups such as Hackthissite.org.
Hacking, Learn what to avoid!
One of the keys in hacking is to draw a thick dark red line in what you can to and what you wont do. Once you have learned some newly-acquired skills and rearing to show it off, you may want to slow down. Avoid getting tangled with authorities at any cost. Learn about your own country’s rules on ethical hacking and cybersecurity so that you do not overlook the illegal elements in your activities. For instance, slipping into a corporate network without consent is not legal.
Also some companies may not like you looking at their code while many have specific terms and conditions on how you should go about bug finding in their codes. Almost all tech companies fret at hackers going public with their vulnerabilities without informing them and you may not like to make a big tech company your enemy. Maybe, it will offer you a job with a big fat paycheck. So, it’s better to be safe than never!
Hacking is about choosing the right path and you need to specialise. You cant go about hunting for desktop vulnerabilities one day and switch on to finding Android vulnerabilities on the nex. If you really want to become a specialist, then do not limit yourself to just learning a programming language. There are a huge range of topics and subjects that you should research and learn about, including learning about the essential fundamentals.
Learning about hacking history, the Metasploit framework, online security and privacy, social engineering, Shell, and databases are only some of the areas you should explore.
Be a part of bug lovers community
Sharing helps and in hacking, sharing is often the key to success. The open-source community always welcomes people who have a good knowledge of computers, operating systems and programming and love to solve problems and think creatively. A great place to start is GitHub, which is not a wonderful way to meet other hackers, developers and both professionals and enthusiasts but also is a good way to polish your skills and have a hand in enhancing coding and streamlining.
Choosing it as a career
The decision is left to you. You can hack purely for the love of it and hopefully contribute to software development or projects for the good of all and research, or you could go down a path that may land you with fines and jail. After following this road, if ethical hacking is still something that you want to follow, then your skills are in definitely in hot demand that you get a fun job to enjoy along with a decent paycheck.
Remember hacking pays well but stick to being on the right side of the law at all times.