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Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch: Skills Needed, Steps to Become an Ethical Hacker

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20th Jun, 2023
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Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch: Skills Needed, Steps to Become an Ethical Hacker

Look at the following instances:

Do you notice a common theme in all of these incidents? 

All of them indicate the rising threat of hackers and cyber-attacks. As we get more digitised, we become more vulnerable to such malicious elements. It’s a constant onslaught because as we fortify our cybersecurity measures, hackers and similar organizations develop more advanced methods to break through them. 

Are you interested in combating this problem? If so, then a career in ethical hacking would be perfect for you. Ethical hackers are cybersecurity experts who help people and organizations in keeping hackers away and save them from cyber attacks. 

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This article will throw light on how you can learn ethical hacking from scratch so you can start right away and pursue a career whose demand is constantly on the rise. 

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What is Ethical Hacking?

Before we begin talking about how you can learn ethical hacking from scratch, we should first understand what it is. 

Ethical hacking, also known as pen testing or penetration testing, is the authorized or legal act of breaking into an organization’s information system. An ethical hacker is a professional who breaches an organization’s network or system security to find its weak areas, vulnerabilities and potential attacks. 

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In ethical hacking, you focus on testing the cyber defences of the organization through legally breaking into them. The organization permits an ethical hacker to test their cybersecurity implementations. 

You should know that no system, website, organization or device is beyond hacking. An ethical hacker can break into any system with the right tools and skills. They do so, to find the weak areas of the system’s cybersecurity implementations. 

By identifying the vulnerabilities of the system, the ethical hacker can suggest improvements about the same. This way, it would remain safe from malicious hackers. 

Ethical hacking defends national security by protecting sensitive data about the country. It also protects individuals’ privacy by reinforcing their cyber defences.

An ethical hacker undergoes professional training and earns certification in this field to learn the necessary skills. Another name for ethical hackers is white-hat hackers while hackers that break into a system without authorization or with malicious intent are called black-hat hackers. 

There are also grey-hat hackers who penetrate an organization’s cyber defences without their permission and suggest improvements for a price. Keep in mind that ethical hacking is legal while the other two aren’t. 

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What Skills Do you Need to Become an Ethical Hacker?

If you want to learn ethical hacking from scratch, you must learn about the necessary skills for this role. We can divide the fundamental skills needed to become an ethical hacker into two categories:

  • Hard skills
  • Soft skills 

You should have an extensive understanding of computer systems and IT technologies. The prominent hard skills for an ethical hacker are: Database skills, security concepts, virtualization, web applications, advanced TCP/IP, cryptography, networking skills & concepts, familiarity with Linux, and Wireshark. 

On the other hand, some essential soft skills to become an ethical hacker are problem-solving skills, creative thinking, analytical skills, persistence, and communication skills. 

Along with these skills, you must also have excellent programming skills as you’d be working with different programming languages. 

In terms of demand, the most sought-after skill among ethical hackers is Network Management / Administration as those professionals earn 60% more than the industry average. Similarly, ethical hackers with Computer Security and IT Security & Infrastructure skills earn 10% more than the industry average. 

Keep in mind that ethical hacking is a highly skill-specific field and your pay would depend largely on your expertise and professional experience. 

Programming Languages for Ethical Hacking

In order to excel in cybersecurity, technical knowledge is crucial. While many professionals in cybersecurity do not possess coding skills, having some coding knowledge can increase your career prospects. Acquiring proficiency in certain programming languages can help you recognize the strategies used in cyber attacks and protect yourself from harmful hacking attempts.

Certain programming languages are highly beneficial for ethical hacking. If you plan to learn ethical hacking from scratch, it is important to gain some understanding of these languages:

Python

It is crucial to learn Python & ethical hacking from scratch since it is widely used in the field of hacking, particularly in exploit writing. You will use Python as the primary language used in hacking programming. It is mostly used to write hacking scripts. Since Python has a massive community and various libraries, automation scripting and prototyping becomes easier with Python. If you want to identify vulnerabilities in a system, you can also use Python socket programming. 

PHP

Hypertext Preprocessor, or PHP, is commonly used by website developers as a server-side programming language. It is also a tool of choice for hackers in Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. These attacks aim to disable a website and render its applications inaccessible to users. 

Since PHP is a server-side language mostly used in building websites, as an ethical hacker, knowing this programming language will help you analyze web hacking methods. You can leverage PHP to design server hacking programs that can detect and thwart malicious activities.

JavaScript

You will use Javascript for penetration testing and web hacking as an ethical hacker. This programming language can track user activity by incorporating external elements. Hackers often use Javascript for cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks to inject harmful scripts into websites through web browsers. By sending these malicious scripts as segments of JavaScript, hackers can gain access to sensitive information such as cookies and data. 

A deep understanding of JavaScript will enable you to identify vulnerabilities within a system. With Javascript, you can uncover weaknesses in web applications and use JavaScript to read saved cookies and perform attacks like cross-site scripting.

SQL

Relational databases use Structured Query Language (SQL) to query, organize, add, delete, insert, and update information. Although it is not a traditional programming language, it is often used by hackers to restrict queries, steal sensitive information, and launch web-based attacks. 

Hackers can exploit SQL injection vulnerabilities, bypass app security measures and access sensitive data. A skilled, ethical hacker is familiar with various solutions, such as bind variables, input validation whitelisting, and escape. Understanding the structure of a database through knowledge of SQL is crucial in defending against SQL injection attacks. If you want to learn hacking from scratch, add SQL to the list of programming languages you want to master since it will help you predict, identify and prevent SQL database-related attacks.

Ruby

Ruby is known for its versatility as a programming language, especially for web development and hacking into complex corporate systems. It is commonly used for crafting exploit code and is the foundation for the popular Metasploit framework. For an ethical hacker, sufficient knowledge of Ruby proves to be extremely valuable.

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How to Become an Ethical Hacker?

Now that you know what skills you should learn to become an ethical hacker, let’s discuss how you would learn them.

Becoming an expert in so many domains such as IT security, cryptography, and database can be quite challenging. It can get overwhelming for any student, which is why the best way to go about this process is by taking a course.

Taking a cybersecurity course would be highly beneficial for you if you want to learn ethical hacking from scratch. It would give you a structured curriculum to learn from so you can study in a planned and timely manner. This way, you can plan your career more effectively as well.

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Conclusion

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If you want to learn ethical hacking from scratch, it would be best to take a cybersecurity course. We recommend checking out the course we have shared above. 

upGrad’s Advanced Certificate Programme in Cyber Security will teach you all the necessary skills and subjects you need to become a professional. You’ll get to learn directly from industry experts through live video sessions. The course gives you IIIT Bangalore alumni status and access to work class faculty members.

On the other hand, if you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, you can let us know by dropping a comment below. 

Profile

Rohan Vats

Blog Author
Software Engineering Manager @ upGrad. Passionate about building large scale web apps with delightful experiences. In pursuit of transforming engineers into leaders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the act of protecting digital data by minimizing risk of cyber attacks. Information risks can include unauthorized access, use, disclosure, interception, or destruction of data. Data can include but is not limited to the confidential information of the business or individual users. Cybersecurity strategies include using security controls, such as firewalls, encryption, and identity and access management tools to protect electronic information.

2What are the drawbacks of learning cyber security?

Learning cyber security has a few disadvantages. One is that learning all of the numerous components of cyber security can be overwhelming. There are multiple specializations available, and new weaknesses and threats are found on a daily basis. Another disadvantage is that cyber security is a field that is continually evolving. By the time you graduate, what you learned in school may be outdated. Furthermore, finding a job in cyber security, especially if you have no prior experience, might be challenging. Although the field is quickly expanding, there aren't enough skilled specialists to fill all open opportunities.

3What are the drawbacks of becoming an ethical hacker?

The most significant disadvantage of becoming an ethical hacker is the time commitment. An ethical hacker must have a thorough understanding of how networks work as well as how to exploit weaknesses in order to be effective. They must also be able to communicate effectively with others in order to pass on knowledge about potential security flaws and how to address them. You should also be passionate about information security and keep up with the latest security trends. Being an ethical hacker, on the other hand, can be costly. To test networks and uncover vulnerabilities, you'll need the right tools and software. Finally, you must be willing to collaborate with businesses and individuals to improve their security posture. However, the advantages of becoming an ethical hacker outweigh the disadvantages. Ethical hackers can aid in the improvement of network and system security, thereby protecting businesses and their customers.

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