Primarily, hacking was used in the “good old days” for leaking information about systems and IT in general. In recent years, thanks to a few villain actors, hacking has taken on dark connotations. Conversely, many corporations employ hackers to test the strengths and weaknesses of their own systems. These hackers know when to stop, and the positive trust they build earns them a large salary.
If you’re ready to dive in and learn the art, this article will share a few tips to help you get started!
Before You Hack
1Learn a programming language. You shouldn’t limit yourself to any particular language, but there are a few guidelines.
- C is the language that Unix was built with. It (along with assembly language) teaches something that’s very important in hacking: how memory works.
- Python or Ruby are high-level, powerful scripting languages that can be used to automate various tasks.
- Perl is a reasonable choice in this field as well, while PHP is worth learning because the majority of web applications use PHP.
- Bash scripting is a must. That is how to easily manipulate Unix/Linux systems—writing scripts, which will do most of the job for you.
- Assembly language is a must-know. It is the basic language that your processor understands, and there are multiple variations of it. You can’t truly exploit a program if you don’t know assembly.
2Know your target. The process of gathering information about your target is known as enumeration. The more you know in advance, the fewer surprises you’ll have.
1Use a *nix terminal for commands. Cygwin will help emulate a *nix for Windows users. Nmap in particular uses WinPCap to run on Windows and does not require Cygwin. However, Nmap works poorly on Windows systems due to a lack of raw sockets. You should also consider using Linux or BSD, which are both more flexible. Most Linux distributions come with many useful tools pre-installed.
2Secure your machine first. Make sure you’ve fully understood all common techniques to protect yourself. Start with the basics — but make sure you have authorization to attack your target : either attack your own network, ask for written permission, or set up your own laboratory with virtual machines. Attacking a system, no matter its content, is illegal and WILL get you in trouble.
3Test the target. Can you reach the remote system? While you can use the ping utility (which is included in most operating systems) to see if the target is active, you can not always trust the results — it relies on the ICMP protocol, which can be easily shut off by paranoid system administrators.
4Determine the operating system (OS). Run a scan of the ports, and try pOf, or nmap to run a port scan. This will show you the ports that are open on the machine, the OS, and can even tell you what type of firewall or router they are using so you can plan a course of action. You can activate OS detection in nmap by using the -O switch.
5Find a path or open port in the system. Common ports such as FTP (21) and HTTP (80) are often well protected, and possibly only vulnerable to exploits yet to be discovered.
- Try other TCP and UDP ports that may have been forgotten, such as Telnet and various UDP ports left open for LAN gaming.
- An open port 22 is usually evidence of an SSH (secure shell) service running on the target, which can sometimes be brute forced.
6Crack the password or authentication process. There are several methods for cracking a password, including brute force. Using brute force on a password is an effort to try every possible password contained within a pre-defined dictionary of brute force software
- Users are often discouraged from using weak passwords, so brute force may take a lot of time. However, there have been major improvements in brute-force techniques.
- Most hashing algorithms are weak, and you can significantly improve the cracking speed by exploiting these weaknesses (like you can cut the MD5 algorithm in 1/4, which will give huge speed boost).
- Newer techniques use the graphics card as another processor — and it’s thousands of times faster.
- You may try using Rainbow Tables for the fastest password cracking. Notice that password cracking is a good technique only if you already have the hash of password.
- Trying every possible password while logging to remote machine is not a good idea, as it’s easily detected by intrusion detection systems, pollutes system logs, and may take years to complete.
- You can also get a rooted tablet, install a TCP scan, and get a signal upload it to the secure site. Then the IP address will open causing the password to appear on your proxy.
- It’s often much easier to find another way into a system than cracking the password.
7Get super-user privileges. Try to get root privileges if targeting a *nix machine, or administrator privileges if taking on Windows systems.
- Most information that will be of vital interest is protected and you need a certain level of authentication to get it. To see all the files on a computer you need super-user privileges – a user account that is given the same privileges as the “root” user in Linux and BSD operating systems.
- For routers this is the “admin” account by default (unless it has been changed); for Windows, this is the Administrator account.
- Gaining access to a connection doesn’t mean you can access everything. Only a super-user, the administrator account, or the root account can do this.
8Use various tricks. Often, to gain super-user status you have to use tactics such as creating a buffer overflow, which causes the memory to dump and that allows you to inject a code or perform a task at a higher level than you’re normally authorized.
- In Unix-like systems this will happen if the bugged software has setuid bit set, so the program will be executed as a different user (super-user for example).
- Only by writing or finding an insecure program that you can execute on their machine will allow you to do this.
9Create a backdoor. Once you have gained full control over a machine, it’s a good idea to make sure you can come back again. This can be done by backdooring an important system service, such as the SSH server. However, your backdoor may be removed during the next system upgrade. A really experienced hacker would backdoor the compiler itself, so every compiled software would be a potential way to come back.
10Cover your tracks. Don’t let the administrator know that the system is compromised. Don’t change the website (if any), and don’t create more files than you really need. Do not create any additional users. Act as quickly as possible. If you patched a server like SSHD, make sure it has your secret password hard-coded. If someone tries to login with this password, the server should let them in, but shouldn’t contain any crucial information.
How can I hack if I’m a kid?wikiHow ContributorIt’s not about how old you are, it’s all about the skills you have. Start learning programming languages as soon as possible and you’ll be on your way to hacking.
If you hacked a game to get a higher level, would that be considered illegal?wikiHow ContributorIt depends on what kind of game it is. If it’s local, it shouldn’t get you banned and it’s not illegal. If it’s online, it may get you banned, and though it’s not really considered illegal, you could still possibly get into trouble. If you’re cheating/stealing purchases made with real money, yes, it is illegal. So be careful.
What happens if I hack illegally?wikiHow ContributorIf you get caught and are in America, you can be sentenced to federal prison for five to 10 years.
Where can you get started practicing hacking?wikiHow ContributorSearch for “hacking practice” and you’ll find several websites set up for legal hacking practice. If you don’t know any programming, however, you should focus on those skills first.
How many programming languages do I need to learn to be able to hack?wikiHow ContributorSure, you can code malware in Ruby, password cracker in Python, buffer overflows in C, but you need to understand the logic behind it. The logic is all yours and that is what is important. So, forget about learning coding, first learn how to think logically to exploit the gaps, insecurities and lazy errors.
I forgot my Mac computer password, how do I hack my way in?wikiHow ContributorOn a Mac (OS X 10.7+), hold down Command + R on startup to enter Recovery Mode. There will be a screen that says “OS X Utilities”. Go up to the Utilities toolbar and click on “Terminal”. Type in “resetpassword” and a screen will come up saying which hard drive the user whose password you want to reset is on. Just select your internal hard drive then select the account you want to change. Type in a new password (write it down!) and confirm it. Just restart your computer and you should be able to login to your account with the password you created. If your Mac is running Snow Leopard or below, just use the restore disk that came with your computer.
What do you do if you’re a beginner?wikiHow ContributorDo you know how to code? If not, start with that. Otherwise, read blogs about hackers, try to find a new bug in the software.
What if you don’t know any coding or anything specific? How will I know if someone is hacking into you?wikiHow ContributorNotice any changes. Look for new suspicious files and check your browser history. Also consider running your antivirus.
How can I hack a PC without knowing a programming language?wikiHow ContributorYou can’t. You would have to know a programming language in order to hack, you need to start with the basics, coding. Then you could move on to the most important things, like covering your tracks.
What if I hack my own computer, is that illegal?wikiHow ContributorNo, you are doing so with your permission, so it’s not technically “hacking.”
- Unless you’re an expert or a professional hacker, using these tactics on a popular corporate or government computer is asking for trouble. Keep in mind there are people a bit more knowledgeable than you who protect these systems for a living. Once found, they sometimes monitor intruders to let them incriminate themselves first before legal action is taken. This means you might think you have free access after hacking into a system, when in fact, you’re being watched, and may be stopped at any moment.
- Hackers are those who built the Internet, made Linux, and work on open source software. It’s advisable to look into hacking as it’s quite respected and requires a lot of professional knowledge to do anything serious in real environments.
- Keep in mind, if your target is not doing their best to keep you out, you won’t ever become good. Of course, don’t get cocky, don’t think about yourself as the best of the best. Make this your goal: you must become better and better. Every day that you didn’t learn something new is a wasted day. You are all that counts. Become best, at any cost. There are no half-ways, you must give fully of yourself. As Yoda would say, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
- Although it’s great that there are many legal, safe training grounds available for anyone, the sad truth is that you won’t become even mediocre if you don’t perform potentially illegal actions. You can’t become anyone if you won’t find real problems on real systems, with the real risk of getting caught. Keep that in mind.
- Remember, hacking is not about breaking into computers, getting a well-paid job, selling exploits on the black market, nor helping anyone compromise secure machines. You’re nothere to help the admin do his job. You’re here to become the best.
- Read books discussing TCP/IP networking.
- There is a major difference between a hacker and a cracker. A cracker is motivated by malicious (namely: money) reasons, while hackers attempt to retrieve information and gain knowledge through exploration – (“bypassing security”), at any cost and in any way which may not always be legal.
- Practice first by hacking into your own computer.
- If you aren’t confident with your skills, avoid from breaking into corporate, government, or military networks. Even if they have weak security, they could have a lot of money to trace and bust you. If you do find a hole in such network, it’s best to hand it to a more experienced hacker that you trust who can put these systems to good use.
- Never do anything just for fun. Remember it’s not a game to hack into a network, but a power to change the world. Don’t waste that on childish actions.
- Be extremely careful if you think you have found a very easy crack or a crude mistake in security management. A security professional protecting that system may be trying to trick you or setting up a honeypot.
- Although you may have heard the opposite, don’t help anyone patch their programs or systems. This is considered extremely lame and leads to being banned from most hacking communities, and if you would release a private exploit someone found, this person may become your enemy. This person is probably better than you are.
- Don’t delete entire logfiles, instead, just remove only the incriminating entries from the file. The other question is, is there a backup log file? What if they just look for differences and find the exact things you erased? Always think about your actions. The best thing is to delete random lines of log, including yours.
- Misusing this information may be a local and/or federal criminal act (crime). This article is intended to be informational and should only be used for ethical – and not illegal – purposes.
- Hacking into someone else’s system may be illegal, so don’t do it unless you are sure you have permission from the owner of the system you are trying to hack or you are sure it’s worth it and you won’t get caught.
Things You’ll Need
A (fast operating) PC or laptop with a connection to the Internet
A Proxy (optional)
An IP scanner