Sunday, May 22, 2011

School of Hacks - Part 1

Programmer's aid
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I began this series for a blog and podcast called Mr. Cracker:

You never ask, “How do I become a hacker?” and you never say “I am a hacker.” Nowadays, you will run into countless YouTube Videos and blogs regarding “hacking.” I’m glad to hear Mr. Cracker’s first few episodes focused on what is a hacker and how does one hack. However, there are many stories that can be credited for tainting the term, like an incident in Los Alamos in 1982.

Webster’s dictionary defined a hacker as an expert at programming and solving problems with a computer. Hackers have otherwise been known as computer geeks or computer wizards; up until the word was tarnished by ruthless wizards that illegally gained access to systems and tamper with information. To this day, the word hacker is used to describe these geniuses that can force their way into an operating system and manipulate data. The term hacker derived from the reference to programmers “hacking away” at the bits and bytes. Since it takes an experienced hacker to gain unauthorized entrance into a secure computer to extract information and perform some prank or mischief at the site, the term has become synonymous with “cracker” or “blackhat”, a person who performs an illegal act. A technical professional that is paid to break into a computer system in order to test its security is called “Pentester” for Penetration Tester.

True hacking, is a culture of these programmers and pentesters that understand code and network security. To become one, is to be called one by an expert. If your friends proclaim you a “hacker” because you brute forced into an account in front of them, unless you wrote the algorithm, you are nothing but a “script kiddie”. If you wrote a program that is useful to the network security and you shared with the community and pentesters or system admins recognize your talent, then you are on your way.

But what is the way, you may ask. I will have to say, it’s a long way. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen after reading this article of listening to every Mr. Cracker’s podcasts. Yet, there are certain steps you must follow, and I will elaborate in the articles to come. Let me get you started with the basics. A Hacker is a Programmer. Yes, not a MSCE or a CCNA but a programmer. Programming is a THE fundamental skill for hacking. I am a programmer. I began developing software over 10 years ago. I’m not the best, but I recommend you start by learning a language called Python. DO NOT start with a GUI based programming language like Java, or even Visual Basic or C#. Start with Python ( for two reasons. One, it’s free and powerful and two, it works on multiple platforms, i.e Windows or Linux. The importance of Linux is for another subject. Stick to semi-colon languages “;” like Perl and PHP, the object will be to move onto C and C++. It is best recommended in this subject that you learn or know all of the mentioned: Python, Perl, PHP, C and C++.

Utilize documentation provided on their site to learning Python. You would have to teach yourself in the next few days, months or years to be strong at that language. Then you can move onto another language, and it would become easier to learn once you understand data structuring and variables, etc. Hacking is the ability to use those languages and applying them to solve your problems. As you learn, keep in mind you are practicing how you think and you’re not really focusing on a particular language.

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