A Beginner’s Guide to Computer Hacking, Basic Security, and Penetration Testing
Author: John Slavio
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT IS HACKING AND COMPUTER SECURITY?
VARIOUS TYPES OF HACKING
TYPES OF ATTACKS
COMMON ATTACKS AND THREATS
HIDING IP ADDRESS
HACKING AN EMAIL ADDRESS
What is hacking? The dictionary definition of hacking is the following: the practice of modifying the features of a system to accomplish a goal outside of the designer’s purpose. “Hacker” refers to a person who practices hacking in more than a sporadic fashion. Hacking has a negative connotation, which means that people generally connect it with a negative experience. When you think of hacking, you probably think of someone in a dark room breaking into someone else’s computer and sending them some picture of a skull before their computer shuts down. However, there is more to hacking than this.
History of Hacking
MIT, an organization in the 1960s, had a group of computer geniuses who worked with some of the most difficult programming languages. They were not doing anything illegal or unethical. They were using their intelligence to create new programs and change current programs and understand even the most difficult programing languages. True hackers are those who are pioneers in searching for new ways to do things. They love to learn new information and can remember the most intricate details.
Further down the road, in the late 1960s, UNIX was invented. UNIX is a widely used, multiuser operating system with a pre-programmed operating language that makes it easier for non-computer geniuses to understand. In 1970, the computer programming language, known as C, was invented to be used with UNIX. These two tools together work to help everyone be able to hack. ARPANET was then created to connect government offices and computers. Their system and way of doing things was later what evolved into the internet as we know it.
In the beginning, being known as a hacker was a complement. It simply meant that you knew how to push a computer to its programming limits. You were an intelligent being who could get around the rules.
In the 1990s, hackers began to take a turn. They realized that they could use their knowledge to get around systems and into places they should not be able to access. Kevin Mitnick was the first hacker arrested in 1995. He was charged with wire fraud and illegal possession of computer files that were not meant for him to see. He reportedly stole corporate secrets and broke into the nation’s defense system. He pled guilty and now tours and even speaks at keynotes.
What is computer security? It is the attempt to prevent theft of computer files and the safety and privacy of users. Sometimes, safety comes in physically prohibiting access of hardware to certain individuals. Other times, this includes protecting your computer against viruses when it is online. Programs can be purchased to warn your computer when it reaches a dangerous website. These programs also conduct periodic scans that can alert you if there is malware on your computer.
Today’s Idea of Hackers
Not all hackers are like Kevin Mitnick. Many hackers are constantly seeking the weaknesses in the constantly improving computer safety, as was discussed above. Hackers regulate the electronic communication that is becoming such a pertinent part of our society. Hackers not only find the problems but also propose solutions which can then be incorporated into computer security. Many times, hackers can give our computer developers help when it comes to improving your computer’s safety.
However, there are hackers who fit the stereotype. They will use their knowledge to steal files. Educating yourself on their methods will help you be more prepared to fight them off, should someone try to enter your computer system and steal your information.
Last of all, you may be aware of some illegal software known as warez. Those who distribute this software are not necessarily hackers, though they can be. You should stay away from this software. While there are some hackers who can cause destruction like you might have seen in a movie, many of them are actually helpful and are trying to improve the electronic world. To learn more about the different types of hacking, continue on to chapter two.
Hacking can be broken down into three main categories, but we are going to break them down into six categories to be even more specific. After we talk about the types of hacking, you will learn a little bit about a few different motivations or reasons why people might hack.
There are three different hat types to describe three of the types of hacking. Black hat is the stereotype hacker. These types of hackers have negative intentions and are also known as crackers. Sometimes, black hats have someone behind them paying them to do something; other times, black hats simply break into the system for their own gain. Black hats are usually professionals who have extensive knowledge in programming areas such as computer networking, network protocols, and systems and programming. They understand a majority of the operating systems and are able to read the programming languages and script them.
Additionally, black hats are well versed in the hacker tools that you will learn about in chapter four. A black hats reasons are far from ethical as stated above, and he does not care about leaving the software or computer in an untouched state. These hackers are very good at leaving little trail as to where they came from. Spy hackers would fall into the black hat category as spy hackers are generally entering a computer to steal information from it.
White hats are the “good” guys. They aren’t breaking into computers for unethical reasons or to steal data. A white hat usually has just as much knowledge as a black hat when it comes to the computer world including computer networking, network protocols, and systems and programming. They also understand programming languages, can write programs, alter programs, and destroy programs.
The only difference between a white hat and a black hat are the intentions. Black hats do it for money or for themselves. White hats are usually working with an organization to protect the organization against black hats. White hats are often employed to conduct periodic assessments of the security of the company’s system. They also conduct penetration tests. When they find weaknesses, they work to strengthen the network so that the company’s files will be safe from black hats.
Just as the name implies, grey hats are somewhere in the middle. They are really acting maliciously, yet neither are they trying to help an organization. Grey hats normally have a typical job and hack in their spare time. They have expansive knowledge in the area of computer programming, though the level of knowledge ranges, depending on the length of experience a grey hat has. Grey hats typically break into computer systems that they should not enter, but they do not do so to destroy the system. They just break in for the fun of it.
Technically, they are not hurting anyone. Sometimes, they even expose the weaknesses of the system to the company, and the company can protect themselves against a more malicious break-in. Some of these hackers may shut down the computer system, once again, just for the fun of it, but most are not harmful. These hackers are ones who might leave a fun note on the computer or in the system just to let the company know that they could enter, but they generally don’t cause any harm, making them fall in a grey area of ethical behavior.
This type of hacker is an amateur. They are not typically versed in programming and use downloaded or bought tools to break into systems. Their success ranges depending on their experience. The intentions of these hackers can range from ethical to unethical. Think of script kiddies as children who aren’t done cooking yet. You’re not quite sure yet how they will turn out.
Hacktivist don’t necessary have an unethical end result in mind. They are simply going about their goal in the wrong way. Hacktivists want to bring attention to political matters or figures. They use their hacking skills to post persistent ads or information in a system. They may be working with the political figure or cause, or they might be working individually.
Last of all, you have the phreaker. Phreakers don’t work with computers; they hack into telephone systems. Once in, they make multiple telephone calls without having to pay for them. This type of hacker is obviously acting illegally, and they have been used sporadically by business or organizations that need to make multiple phone calls but do not want to pay for the bill.
As we discussed, being a hacker can be a completely ethical position where you go to work every day or it can be a hidden, black-market job where everything you do it illegal. Obviously, black hats cannot be condoned for what they do, and I could never recommend you use any programming knowledge you have to that end. However, it is good to be aware of the different types of hackers.
Being a white hat is a noble profession, and you can use the information in this book to learn more about hacking and the tools you need to understand in order to become successful in the profession. Continue reading in chapter three to learn about the types of attacks that hackers may attempt to use on your computer or at your business.
There are three main types of attacks that hackers use to enter a specific computer or a network system. The three categories are malware attacks, password attacks, and denial of service attacks. Sometimes, a hacker will use multiple types of attacks linked together to completely infiltrate a system. Being aware of these types of attacks will prepare you for avoiding them. In chapter five, we will go over the most common types of attacks, how to recognize them, and what to do if you come across one.
Malware shares the same base as software, because it is essentially the same thing but with different intentions. Software contains a program for your computer that will teach your computer to perform certain tasks. Some software may contain programs for you to use. Malware performs tasks and sets up programs on your computer, but they are programs you do not want. Malware programs typically serve a third party’s interests.
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