In an age where technology is integrated into almost all spheres of human beings’ lives, cyber-security is becoming a major concern.
Data breaching by persons with malicious intent commonly referred to as black hat hackers have caused companies huge losses and even compromised the security as well as the privacy of the affected persons.
But, hacking into a computer’s security system doesn’t necessarily have to be for malicious purposes.
As a matter of fact, hackers can work for organizations, tech firms, and banks to secure their IT systems by finding vulnerabilities in their computer and network systems. So, how can one become a successful hacker?
Generally, hackers have different educational backgrounds with some having four-year IT-related degrees while others are self-taught.
However, it also requires a certain level of creativity as well as problem-solving skills to make a good hacker.
To understand more on how to be a proficient hacker, let’s look into the necessary skills one must have.
Learn How to Program
Hacking involves communicating with a computer and giving it new instructions different from the already existing ones. In order to communicate to a computer in a language that it understands, you need to learn how to program.
Python is the recommended programming language to start with thanks to its simplicity and excellent development platform.
Despite being a beginner friendly language, python is powerful and offers flexibility enabling you to work on large projects.
Additionally, this dynamic programming language allows for rapid development allowing hackers to script their on-demand hacking programs on the go.
Java, on the other hand, is best known for its broad usage especially in Android operating systems.
Due to its wide usage, it, therefore, stands as an important coding language that every hacker should learn.
The best thing about Java is that it has fewer dependencies compared to other coding languages, meaning that it can run on any platform that supports Java.
C and C++ languages are closely related, such that learning one of the two languages will make it easier to comprehend the other one.
Although C is very efficient and uses your computer’s memory sparingly, you will be required to do a lot of low-level management of your computer’s resources manually.
This makes the C language bug prone and time-consuming since you will have to spend quite some time debugging your code.
Other programming languages worth mentioning include Perl and LISP. Perl is used in a variety of web pages and system administration; thus, even if you want to learn to write it is necessary to learn how to read it.
As for LISP, it may not be mandatory to learn it, but it does give a hacker enough experience to make him a better performer.
Basically, learning how to program is similar to learning how to write in a good natural language; you need to keep reading and writing code regularly to horn your skills.
Learn to Use and Run UNIX Operating System
While Microsoft Windows is the most commonly used operating system, it is a closed system that is distributed in binary.
This means that you cannot read nor make changes to its code, which makes learning how to hack on a Microsoft machine impossible.
For this reason, UNIX, which is a multiuser operating system, is a highly recommended operating system when learning how to hack.
Besides being used in 80% of mobile devices UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems are used by a majority of web servers, which makes it a must learn for aspiring internet hackers.
Linux, a UNIX-like operating system, is the favorite open source OS among novice as well as experienced hackers since it can run simultaneously with Microsoft Windows on the same machine.
In addition, Linux gives you an infinite amount of control, allowing you to manipulate the system so as to perform the way you want it to.
This OS can be downloaded online or through a local Linux user group which will also assist you to install it. But if you are new to Linux, you might consider using Ubuntu, which is a distro of Linux, or its better variants- Xubuntu and Kubuntu.
Besides Linux, there are other UNIX-like operating systems such as the BSD systems, with the most common ones being FREEBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and DragonFly BSD.
It is also possible to use Mac OS X since it is partly open source, but you are likely to hit a lot of walls and have to depend on Apple’s proprietary code.
However, it is important to note that UNIX operating system particularly Linux is preferred by many hackers simply because it contains hacking and cracking toolsets that make exploiting the vulnerabilities of a system’s security an easy job.
As such, this does not expose you to the real task of hacking since your work will just be manipulating already designed tools rather than building the tools yourself.
While such kind of hacking may be good enough for beginners to get them started on hacking, if you want to advance your skills it will require you to gain an intimate understanding of the system you want to hack.
For instance, if you want to hack a Microsoft Windows computer, you cannot do so using MAC OS.
Master the Web and Networking Concepts
With more people having access to the internet compared to the last two decades, firms and organizations have developed web-based applications that users can use to interact online in order to interact with them.
A poorly written code for a web application can be exploited by black hat hackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data and web servers.
Mastering HyperText Mark-up Language (HTML), equips you with necessary skills to counter security threats on web servers or web applications as well as look for vulnerabilities.
To help you learn HTML, you can start by building a home page and try to put as much content in it as you can, right from images to design components all of which are coded in HTML.
You can write a simple HTML project on a notepad and then upload to a browser and see it translated.
Networking and web servers go hand in hand since they work as a collaborative system; case in point, Apache httpd is a computer network commonly used in web servers.
Therefore, every hacker ought to have extensive knowledge of how the networks are created in addition to knowing the differences between different types of networks.
For instance, understanding TCP/IP and UDP protocol enable you to exploit vulnerabilities on the World Wide Web.
Although there exist tools such as Nmap, which are used by hackers to identify vulnerable web hosts, you must have a good mastery of networking basics to use such a tool.
How skillful a hacker is determined by his ease to hack a computer system with minimum or no detection.
In order to conceal your activities as a hacker, you need to learn cryptography. Additionally, to hack an encrypted computer system, you must learn the strengths and weaknesses of the used cryptographic algorithm.
Some of the common attacks used by hackers to decrypt encrypted messages include; Brute force attack-this kind of attack uses an algorithm that tries to guess all the possible combination of plaintext, which is then compared against the original cipher.
The Dictionary attack is another type of attack that uses a wordlist to find a match of the plaintext or key and thus it is mostly used to crack encrypted passwords.
Lastly, the rainbow table attack compares the ciphertext against pre-computed hashes to find a match.
Hackers create encryptions using four major algorithms namely; MD5, SHA, RC4, and Blowfish.
MD5 which is an acronym for Message-Digest 5 is similar to Blowfish, is used to encrypt passwords as well as check data integrity.
Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA), is used to generate representations of a message, while RC4 is used to encrypt internet communications.
Apart from learning the cryptography algorithms, as an aspiring hacker, you should also take part in challenges for decrypting encrypted messages.
As much as this article advocates for ethical hacking, the importance of learning other skills used by black hat hackers cannot be overlooked since it may help one not to fall victim.
One such example of skills used by black hackers is Social engineering. Basically, it involves gaining the trust of a computer system user and manipulating that trust to gain access into their system.
First, a hacker will familiarize himself with the users to gather information about his them, either through talking directly to the user or from publication if the planned attack is on a company.
The hacker will then use the acquired information such as pet names, birth-dates or name of organization founder etc., to exploit the weaknesses in the target system.
Phishing is another common technique used by black hat hackers; it involves trickery by impersonating a genuine website and then asking the unaware users to confirm their credentials.
This technique is used to gain personal data such as credit card information or gain access to a user web application that requires logging in.
Along the stated skills, a good hacker should also have other additional skills such as;
As a hacker, your main task is to provide solutions to unsolvable cybersecurity problems. As such, you should be able to think analytically and diagnose problems accurately to come up with solutions.
To develop this skill, you need to commit yourself to many hours of practice as well as contributing to open source projects.
Experimenting a lot will also give you adequate exposure to security problems and thus ignite your brain bring up solutions.
You can start by downloading virtual lab applications such as Oracle, which gives you a platform to experiment on.
To be able to hack into a computer system, it requires a hacker to come up with unique ways to counter the existing security protocols of the system.
You need to think artistically and leverage your computer skills so as to hack a system. Creativity can be inspired by engaging in activities that require mental discipline and reading a lot on anything related to hacking.
For beginners, learning how to hack can be frustrating at times especially when you fail to understand certain concepts.
It will require you to keep on practicing, despite all the failed attempts, until you master the skills. Besides, hacking takes many years of practicing and reading to reach advanced levels, so don’t be in a rush.
Now that you are already familiar with the essential skills needed to become a hacker, it is important to stress that you have to build a good reputation so as to attract prospective employers. You can achieve this by;
Writing open-source software
As a way of contributing to the hackers’ community, at some point in your career, you should write programs that are capable of meeting a wide range of needs and give them away for free. This goes a long way into showcasing your skills and may also serve as reference work to your potential employers.
Test and debug open-source software
The debugging phase is the most time-consuming phase for many software developers. Using your skills debug software for open-source developers will expose you to new challenges thus further improving your skills as well as creating a network with people who might help you later on.
Publish useful information
Once you reach the advanced level hacker, it is always a good idea to collect and publish useful information on cybersecurity.
In turn, you will have made a huge contribution to the dynamic field of computer system security.
Generally, cybersecurity is a broad term that consists of a multitude of niches within the information technology and security industry.
From digital forensics, malware detecting to software auditing, all these require a person with some certain level of skills in security mechanisms of a computer.
The tips above will guide you on the necessary skills that you must have to become a successful hacker who can be trusted in securing computer system of organizations and firms.