How To: The Essential Skills to Becoming a Master Hacker

The Essential Skills to Becoming a Master Hacker

Many of my aspiring hackers have written to me asking the same thing. "What skills do I need to be a good hacker?"

As the hacker is among the most skilled information technology disciplines, it requires a wide knowledge of IT technologies and techniques. To truly be a great hacker, one must master many skills. Don't be discouraged if you don't have all the skills I list here, but rather use this list as a starting ground for what you need to study and master in the near future.

Image via Shutterstock

This is my overview list of required skills to enter the pantheon of this elite IT profession. I've broken the skills into three categories to help you go from one rung to the other more easily—fundamental, intermediate, and intangible skills—and have included links to related articles on Null Byte for you to get acquainted with.

The Fundamental Skills

These are the basics that every hacker should know before even trying to hack. Once you have a good grasp on everything in this section, you can move into the intermediary level.

1. Basic Computer Skills

It probably goes without saying that to become a hacker you need some basic computer skills. These skills go beyond the ability to create a Word document or cruise the Internet. You need to be able to use the command line in Windows, edit the registry, and set up your networking parameters.

Many of these basic skills can be acquired in a basic computer skills course like A+.

2. Networking Skills

You need to understand the basics of networking, such as the following.

  • DHCP
  • NAT
  • Subnetting
  • IPv4
  • IPv6
  • Public v Private IP
  • DNS
  • Routers and switches
  • VLANs
  • OSI model
  • MAC addressing
  • ARP

As we are often exploiting these technologies, the better you understand how they work, the more successful you will be. Note that I did not write the two guides below, but they are very informative and cover some of the networking basics mentioned above.

3. Linux Skills

It is extremely critical to develop Linux skills to become a hacker. Nearly all the tools we use as a hacker are developed for Linux and Linux gives us capabilities that we don't have using Windows.

If you need to improve your Linux skills, or you're just getting started with Linux, check out my Linux series for beginners below.

4. Wireshark or Tcpdump

Wireshark is the most widely used sniffer/protocol analyzer, while tcpdump is a command line sniffer/protocol analyzer. Both can be extraordinarily useful in analyzing TCP/IP traffic and attacks.

5. Virtualization

You need to become proficient in using one of the virtualization software packages such as VirtualBox or VMWare Workstation. Ideally, you need a safe environment to practice your hacks before you take them out in real world. A virtual environment provides you a safe environment to test and refine your hacks before going live with them.

6. Security Concepts & Technologies

A good hacker understands security concepts and technologies. The only way to overcome the roadblocks established by the security admins is to be familiar with them. The hacker must understand such things as PKI (public key infrastructure), SSL (secure sockets layer), IDS (intrusion detection system), firewalls, etc.

The beginner hacker can acquire many of these skills in a basic security course such as Security+.

7. Wireless Technologies

In order to be able to hack wireless, you must first understand how it works. Things like the encryption algorithms (WEP, WPA, WPA2), the four-way handshake, and WPS. In addition, understanding such as things as the protocol for connection and authentication and the legal constraints on wireless technologies.

To get started, check out my guide below on getting started with wireless terms and technologies, then read our collection of Wi-Fi hacking guides for further information on each kind of encryption algorithms and for examples of how each hack works.

The Intermediate Skills

This is where things get interesting, and where you really start to get a feel for your capabilities as a hacker. Knowing all of these will allow you to advance to more intuitive hacks where you are calling all the shots—not some other hacker.

8. Scripting

Without scripting skills, the hacker will be relegated to using other hackers' tools. This limits your effectiveness. Every day a new tool is in existence loses effectiveness as security admins come up with defenses.

To develop your own unique tools, you will need to become proficient at least in one of the scripting languages including the BASH shell. These should include one of Perl, Python, or Ruby.

9. Database Skills

If you want to be able to proficiently hack databases, you will need to understand databases and how they work. This includes the SQL language. I would also recommend the mastery of one of the major DBMS's such SQL Server, Oracle, or MySQL.

10. Web Applications

Web applications are probably the most fertile ground for hackers in recent years. The more you understand about how web applications work and the databases behind them, the more successful you will be. In addition, you will likely need to build your own website for phishing and other nefarious purposes.

11. Forensics

To become good hacker, you must not be caught! You can't become a pro hacker sitting in a prison cell for 5 years. The more you know about digital forensics, the better you can become at avoiding and evading detection.

12. Advanced TCP/IP

The beginner hacker must understand TCP/IP basics, but to rise to the intermediate level, you must understand in intimate details the TCP/IP protocol stack and fields. These include how each of the fields (flags, window, df, tos, seq, ack, etc.) in both the TCP and IP packet can be manipulated and used against the victim system to enable MitM attacks, among other things.

13. Cryptography

Although one doesn't need to be a cryptographer to be a good hacker, the more you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each cryptographic algorithm, the better the chances of defeating it. In addition, cryptography can used by the hacker to hide their activities and evade detection.

14. Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering enables you to open a piece of malware and re-build it with additional features and capabilities. Just like in software engineering, no one builds a new application from scratch. Nearly every new exploit or malware uses components from other existing malware.

In addition, reverse engineering enables the hacker to take an existing exploit and change its signature so that it can fly past IDS and AV detection.

The Intangible Skills

Along with all these computer skills, the successful hacker must have some intangible skills. These include the following.

15. Think Creatively

There is ALWAYS a way to hack a system and many ways to accomplish it. A good hacker can think creatively of multiple approaches to the same hack.

16. Problem-Solving Skills

A hacker is always coming up against seemingly unsolvable problems. This requires that the hacker be accustomed to thinking analytically and solving problems. This often demands that the hacker diagnose accurately what is wrong and then break the problem down into separate components. This is one of those abilities that comes with many hours of practice.

17. Persistence

A hacker must be persistent. If you fail at first, try again. If that fails, come up with a new approach and try again. It is only with a persistence that you will be able to hack the most secured systems.

I hope this gives you some guidelines as to what one needs to study and master to ascend to the intermediate level of hacking. In a future article, I'll discuss what you need to master to ascend into the advanced or master hacker level, so keep coming back, my novice hackers!

Cover image via Shutterstock

80 Comments

It's epic, that someone with skills like you, makes tutorials for beginers just for good karma and "thank you".

I'm glad you appreciate it.

beyond awesomeness!!!! you sr absolutely ROCK!!!!

do know.. someone or a person who in the "ANONYMOUS" group...??

Anonymous is just an idea that a lot of people share.
Anyone can be a part of Anonymous.
There's a YouTube video on this topic. Just search for something like "What is Anonymous" and it should pop up.

Great! Thanks otw
Can you make a tutorial about hacking pc games?
Like if i want to get a lot of money in a Facebook game.
Please

In my mind doing what you want means hacking Facebook databases. Facebook is one of the most visited sites, which means it's one of the most securised. I would say it is impossible (that's not impossible but I think there are not many people who can do this)

Or whom want the whole FBI behind their backs because a stupid game, right?

Thank you OWT, excellent article.

If a student does not know where he is at how can he know where to go. I like that you even broke it down to "when" you could feel confident to hack.

Oh I do want to add, a bit of knowledge of the law. And How to become totally anonymous.

OTW

Thank you so much..

EVIL GENIOUS

OTW
i know this not is a quistion to the "guide."

When i need some help from the master in IT, i have been banned in a facebook game "war commander" how can i unban myself again?

im sure some other guys in here, are wondering the same.
Please reply thanks

Dude just..........
srry if im rude, but thats stupid question.......
1) dont think that kali linux is developed to make cheat engines in games. its a penetration testing system...

2) youre talking about Facebook... You cant just hack one of the biggest websites in the world....... I dont even think that Anonymous could do that...

3) you can just make a new fb account.

4) you can make a script that tries to hack facebook on windows. You dont even need kali linux.... And at last im pretty sure it will work just as "well" #impossible

hope this helped you.

what? It was a quistion to you occupytheweb "IT master."
did you know how to unban people that had been banned from games?

(I hope you can tell me how, or say no i dont know)

Thanks :)

He is trying to say. Yes it could be done, but it's facebook, there are thousands of hackers trying to hack them to get the bounty that facebook offers. So odds of you at your skill level. You see what I mean right?

nice post
thx for the info

Amazing post, i loved it. I've been reading your tutorials for a while now and they`re great. I came here to congratulate you and ask for a post about ways of getting ip addresses over the internet, i mostly find blogs talking about sites that provide this kind of service.

Thanks Andre! Glad you enjoyed this post!

Can you be more specific as to what you are looking for?

I would like to know if there`s a way to monitor traffic in a website to get the visitor ip or how i can get someone ip after establishing a connection with that person (document transference). I`ve seen some cases of people who got ips trough forums but i dont know if this is possible without the use of websites like iplogger.

Any sniffer on the site will give you the IP. Also, tools such as pof will give you the IP , the OS and the browser. Check out my article on pof 3.0.

OTW

Thanks Shayan and welcome to Null Byte!

It's probably the most intresting topic that I've ever read. Thanks a lot.

Isn't languages like PHP or C++ required as well as the script languages? I'm learning them along side the internet security subjects.

Glantur:

Welcome to Null Byte!

Every language you learn will be useful to you as a hacker. Generally, hackers write scripts to do repetitive tasks such as scanning, etc. so scripting languages are essential. Other languages are great, but necessary.

OTW

Hi There Mr OTW hope you are well.

i have quick Question for you buddy....IS THERE A WAY OF BYPASSING IOS ACTIVATION SCREEN USING THIS GREAT TOOL OF OUR KALI LINUX?

I just created an account especially to say 'thank you' to you for all your articles I've read sofar. You have special skills in explaining tech stuff so not-tech people easily understand it: chapeau :-)

Great page Mr.OTW it'll help me if u give a link to learn the basics of "registry" and "setting up network parameters "

Vinay:

I'll be doing an article on using the registry for forensic purposes soon. I'm not certain what you mean by setting up network parameters?

OTW

I was just wondering if you can make all your tutorials here compiled in one file so that we can download it for offline readings. Then for inquiries, we could just ask questions directly to your posts

The answer is simple to that question, "No".

wonderhowto.com is supported by the ads you see on this and other pages. If you didn't have to come to the website, wonderhowto.com would not be able to generate any income and would soon be gone. In fact, I encourage you click on the ads on this and all pages here to help keep this forum going.

Oh. haha. it just pops out my mind. ok, sure! thanks for the response.

I myself hate ads but ads pay server pool bills, ads are a necessary evil. Besides that is a tall order to ask for. =-)

Random Tip: The human eye tends to look in the upper left corner region first when entering a website.

i've been looking for this for 3 years.

thank you

You must really be appreciated for this tutorial. Thank you very much!!

I appreciate the effort he puts into his work. I appreciate people who want to learn and/or teach.

Captain OTW, You never disappoint on your work...great job as usual!! thank you for once again inspiring me to work harder...your direction is key to unlocking so much knowledge. hard to keep up at times but with great work like this, it helps to create a strong foundation... thanks again

Thanks a lot for this great info. I'm new to this so i have a long way to go. Concerning the Linux part, what Linux distribution has your preference? As I'm going to need to learn the OS, i want to use the correct one off course. And i know there is no "best" one but maybe you have a prefered one. Thanks a lot again.

Of course, spend your time learning Linux. Since Kali is built on Debian, focus your efforts there.

I agree with CyberHitchiker that TCP/IP is critical as well.

Thanks CyberHitchiker en OWT. I'll look in to it

otw
do you know how to hack/cheat in games?
can i do that with kali?
exampel if i could hack money in a game with kali.

Newbie:

Everything is hackable!

Hacks are dependent on flaws in the application or operating system generally. Every piece of software has a flaw. You can't generalize and say that one hack works on all games. It is specific to the game.

The more important question is "Do you want to risk a prison term to win a game?"

OTW

hey occupyt heweb
i am new to hacking and dont have even a slightest idea of how to proceed.
can you help me on how to become the best coder there is.
i dont know which language will be best suited for me.
please help ,i would really appreciate.

I would like to engage the services of a hacker..

Hi Null..

I intend to be one of the best and finest hacker....and ofcourse play white hat and earn huge money but with respect ......

hence forth i delve in google and run down my eyes on numerous sites ......after protracted amount of dense research i swear yours is best..HATSSS OFF FOR YOU....! ! !

I have saved all your suggestions and started working on the same with extreme serious mood..... i wanna be your student....kindly can you lend your hand in reaching apex level in hacking.....

I request you in earnest manner in letting me know as to how to hold your hand ....

Awaiting revert.
Thanks.
IT SAVVY.

Greetings and welcome. Can you write a NOP sled? Maybe someone might take you under their wing.

This post is so inspiring.. like the first CHAPTER of the Bible.

Dear Cyberhit Chhiker/OTW and Team,

Seasonal Greetings!!!

Firstly I tender heartfelt apologies for exercising delay in reverting to message.Reason being my absence in country and was clutched with relieving formalities and serving notice period to pack up from existing company and job.

I express sincere thanks to Cyberhit Chhiker for paying heed to my concern.I appreciate the same and shall remain thankful for such supportive shoulders.

I deeply regret that I am lacking the hand of expertise of NOP sled.Presently I am a beginner and focusing on laying strong foundation as guided by our experts step by step in article above.

Having satisfactory knowledge in Networking I am planning for RHCE and CCNA in a month.

The only area which I lack is programming.I am not good at this area at all hence I request you to kindly assist me as to how to tackle.

Suggestions , advices , tips to focus any specific area and guidance are highly appreciated and shall be paid heed upon.I shall remain thankful in advance for the same.

Thanks and regards
IT SAVVY.

This is a very nice article thank you. Thinking about getting my CISSP license.

sooooooo helpful. thank you OTW!

I have already started networking what are required. But every lesson is huge and full of information. Each and every protocol has significance meaning. Should I make those :

DHCP
NAT
Subnetting
IPv4
IPv6
Public v Private IP
DNS
Routers and switches
VLANs
OSI model
MAC addressing
ARP

very clear??... I mean form the very basic?

great job, really inspiring and focusing article....kudos!

your a hacker and i like you very much......umhhaaa....

Perfect thanks !!!

I think if you want to achieve these skills, you have to leave the real world and spend 24/24 of your day time on computer, because these skills take time to build.. or maybe just forget it hahaha

Not at all! You just need to be disciplined about your study. Work at it every day and soon it will become second nature.

You are right, though, this will not come overnight. You need to give yourself time. Nothing worthwhile come easy.

As a beginner which course should i take CCNA or Network+?

Start with Net+ and then go to CCNA.

what are cons and pros of both of those course?

Well you share a great piece of information.
Wonderful guide for beginners.

A fantastic guide for People who really want to get into the feild

I'm old school hacker...no toolkits but from scratch. Been trapped the past 17 years in coma. Trying Kali for the first time. I typed msfconsole and it's saying to follow the white rabbit. What??? Great tutorials though! Thanks!

How many years of studdying would you say it would take an avrege person to master all these things you just listed?

It's really variable. One thing is guaranteed you'll never stop learning new things!

HAIL... mr.otw
from this moment im gonna be your fans... cuz after i read this it just like i feel found love of my life..

and i respect you in all way if i could learn from a master like you.. i will very happy like right now im very... very.. happy to read your article i have bookmark your article..

you can call me ,newbie or script kiddies... but i will call you boss,my lord.or sir
i wanna ask do you hafe facebook or twitter accoun so i can be friends with you...
and do you know... what moto this is...
"we are legion"
"we do not forgive"
"we do not forget"

"expect us"
but don't mind that..
by the way thank for the knowledge you share..

sorry if my english is bad... cuz i from indonesia
god bless you and long life mr.otw

You have provided an Awesome information my friend.
Thank you.

From where i will get all the knowledge of this and how i found the jobs in this fields?

The information over here is absolute and gave a complete basic concepts, thank you...

i need the complete fundamental in advanced perspective so the i can design solution for any problem within the fraction.

don't want to remember the scripts or tools needed but would like to be the person who can design any any solution in computers.

could anyone please clarify all the doubts and questions i had.....

Thanks a lot and a lot my master hacker.i was searching for this type of tutorial for many days, now finally found here.You help me a lot and alot, God bless you for ever and ever...!!!

Mr.OccupyTheWeb , you , sir , are the realest hacker whom I now know. Your article reeks of awesomeness and helpfulness. 2017 rn. So, only one question ...will these methods still work ? Coz if that's true , my journey has started , Sensei. Thanks a lot , again.

Dude thank you, for laying these topics out! I've been in school for Computer Science 4 years have learned alot of stuff been never really had it all explained and put into perspective and laid out in a way that is very understandable and makes perfect sense. thanks Dude this site roxs this is exactly what I want to do with my skills!

This is a great piece. Exactly what I'm looking for. I'm a beginner. Thanks for the information

Hello all. I apologize in advance. But I've always wanted to become a hacker. Work in the field one day. Changed my degree in college and all. But I'm a novice. I'm willing to learn . just need help. Guidance on where to start and the path to take to develop these skills.

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