How to become ethical hacker 2023

Embrace the future of cybersecurity in 2023: Your ultimate guide to becoming an ethical hacker and safeguarding the digital world.

What is Ethical Hacking?

The term ‘hacking’ often carries negative implications, but the role of an ethical hacker, known as the ‘white hat,’ sheds light on a positive perspective. Ethical hackers utilize their advanced computer skills to identify vulnerabilities in data security for businesses and organizations worldwide, safeguarding them from malicious hackers. 

Before delving into the steps to become an ethical hacker, let’s explore the career of ethical hacking itself.

Role of an Ethical Hacker

To comprehend the path to becoming an ethical hacker, it’s crucial to grasp the essence of ethical hackers. Also known as white hat hackers, they utilize their hacking expertise to detect security flaws in computer systems and networks. Collaborating with system owners, they seek to address vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can exploit them.

Ethical hacking falls under the umbrella of cybersecurity and involves legally bypassing security measures to uncover potential risks and data breaches in networks. These professionals can work as independent contractors, in-house security personnel for companies’ websites or applications, or simulated offensive cybersecurity experts.

The primary goal of ethical hacking is to enhance organizations’ security stance by proactively addressing weaknesses. These experts may also conduct social engineering tests to evaluate an organization’s defense against phishing and other human interaction-dependent attacks.

Before embarking on the journey to become a professional ethical hacker, it’s essential to gain proficiency in various programming IT skills and tools.

Should you pursue a career in Ethical Hacking?

A lot of people are drawn to hacking because they find it cool or lucrative. However, choosing this path solely for financial gain is misguided. Hacking is hard work! It’s tough to break into the field, and you need to keep up with new tricks and defenses. 

Complacency leads to falling behind peers, so one must be a lifelong learner. Starting out may not be easy, but with effort, you can build a successful and well-paying career as an ethical hacker – who stays on the right side of the law! 

The money is a perk, but never complacent. Keep learning and working hard to stay on top, and you’ll enjoy a rewarding and fun journey.

How to become ethical hacker in 2023

To become an ethical hacker, a blend of technical and interpersonal abilities is necessary. Problem-solving skills and knowledge are essential, along with effective written and verbal communication.

Some ethical hackers specialize in “social engineering,” where they rely on human interaction to gather information instead of digital methods.

While many ethical hackers hold a college degree in computer science, some come from electrical engineering or information security backgrounds. Experience in IT as security professionals or programmers is also common.

Although some self-taught ethical hackers exist, employers generally prefer candidates with formal education and training in ethical hacking.

The basics you need to know before you become ethical hacker 

First and foremost, let’s discuss the fundamental skills that are crucial for shaping a competent hacker. These foundational skills serve as the building blocks that allow hackers to navigate through complex challenges and uncover vulnerabilities.

  • Fundamental IT abilities: These encompass the fundamental capabilities typically seen in a break/fix help desk position. Are you capable of assembling a computer and recognizing its components? Can you diagnose and resolve technical problems?
    • I consider this equivalent to meeting the criteria for the CompTIA A+ certification (current version 220-1101 & 220-1102).
  • Networking: Networking skills play a crucial role in penetration testing. Can you confidently discuss the OSI model, identify the service associated with port 22, or explain CIDR notation? Understanding concepts like the TCP three-way handshake is essential.
    • If these terms seem foreign to you, it indicates the need to improve your networking skills. This knowledge is akin to achieving the CompTIA Network+ certification (current version N10-008).
    • A proficient ethical hacker who possesses extensive expertise in networking tools like Nmap, Wireshark, and similar utilities can thrive in this demanding field. Several critical networking concepts to grasp include:
      • TCP/IP Network 
      • Subnetting
      • Network Masks and CIDR
      • Simple Network Management Protocol
      • Server Message Block 
      • Domain Name Service (DNS)
      • Address Resolution Protocol
      • Wireless Networks
      • Bluetooth Networks
      • SCADA Networks (Modbus)
      • Automobile Networks (CAN)
  • Linux skills: Proficiency in Linux is essential for ethical hacking, as it is extensively employed in various tasks. Typically, ethical hackers use Debian-based distributions like Kali Linux or Parrot, though some prefer customized builds.
    • My personal advice is to approach learning Linux like mastering a foreign language. While learning from instructors is beneficial, true expertise comes from immersing yourself in the environment. 
    • By using Linux as your primary operating system, you’ll pick up the skills more effectively, just as living in a foreign country enhances language learning.
  • Coding and scripting skills: Having coding and scripting skills is vital for thriving in this domain. You don’t necessarily need to be a proficient developer, but the ability to comprehend code is essential. Better coding expertise can make your journey smoother, though a successful career is possible even without exceptional coding skills.
    • To start, I recommend learning Python for coding. Python is incredibly beginner-friendly and relatively easy to grasp. It’s so user-friendly that many colleges now exclusively use Python for their introductory coding classes.
  • Cybersecurity knowledge: Security skills are a must before entering the cybersecurity field, which is quite logical, right?
    • A strong foundation in security knowledge is vital for your future success in this field and can also pave the way for entry-level security roles, such as a SOC Analyst position.

You got the basics, now what?

After gaining confidence in the fundamentals, it’s vital to explore various other hacking aspects or different types of cyber attacks, especially if you aspire to become a pentester. These areas include:

  • Wireless attack/hacking: Wireless attacks encompass targeting wireless networks, such as hacking into a company’s WiFi. Once the hacker gains entry to the WiFi, they can eavesdrop on all devices connected to that network.
  • Active Directory: Active Directory is often underestimated by individuals aspiring to enter the field of hacking. In my view, it is one of the most neglected areas.
    • This is because more than 95% of Fortune 1000 companies utilize Active Directory in their business environments. Therefore, learning how to hack Active Directory is highly significant and valuable for a successful career in cybersecurity.
  • Malware attacks: These attacks utilize harmful software, such as viruses or ransomware, to gain unauthorized access and demand payment, as demonstrated by the infamous Wannacry ransomware incident in 2017.
  • Phishing attacks: These tactics employ fake emails, websites, or social media messages to deceive users into divulging sensitive information like logins and credit card details.
  • Denial of Service (DoS) attacks: By flooding a target system with excessive traffic, DoS attacks aim to overload it, rendering it inaccessible to legitimate users.
  • SQL injection attacks: By exploiting weak security practices in web applications, hackers inject malicious code into databases, potentially gaining control or destroying the entire database.
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks: Malicious code is injected into vulnerable websites, often in sections like comment boxes, enabling unauthorized scripts to run on users’ browsers.
  • Password attacks: This category involves attempting to guess or crack passwords, employing tools like John the Ripper and Hashcat to breach accounts.
  • Web application hacking: currently in great demand. Many bug bounty posts feature vulnerabilities discovered in web or mobile applications. The field of web app hacking is thriving, with specific job opportunities available exclusively for web app hackers.
  • Vulnerabilities exploration: Vulnerabilities refer to weaknesses or gaps in a system. Learning how to scan systems and networks for such weaknesses is crucial to prevent security breaches. Ethical hackers can even attempt to create their vulnerabilities and exploit systems. In Kali Linux OS, several tools aid in identifying vulnerabilities, including:
    • Nessus Vulnerability Scanner: This tool detects vulnerabilities in web applications and multiple systems.
    • OpenVAS Vulnerability Scanner: It is designed to identify vulnerabilities on devices within a network.
    • Nikto Vulnerability Scanner: This tool is specialized in recognizing vulnerabilities on web servers.
    • Nmap Vulnerability Scanner: It is used to pinpoint vulnerabilities across multiple targets.
    • Wapiti Vulnerability Scanner: Effective in detecting web application issues like XSS and SQLi.

What tools do ethical hackers use 

  • Nmap: Nmap is a well-known scanning and enumeration tool that assists in identifying open ports, services, and vulnerabilities within a system. As an ethical hacker, it is often one of the first tools you will learn. 
  • Wireshark: a valuable network analysis tool that allows real-time monitoring of data packets when connected to a network. Additionally, Wireshark can be utilized for man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Burpsuite: Burpsuite serves as an all-in-one web application auditing tool, aiding in troubleshooting web app issues, capturing requests and responses, and even conducting brute-force login attempts. Bug-bounty hunters commonly use Burpsuite. 
  • Metasploit: Once you identify a system’s entry point, Metasploit assists in generating the payload. It is a powerful tool equipped with various scanners, payloads, and exploits. Additionally, it allows importing results from other tools like Nmap.
  • Nessus: Nessus is a comprehensive scanner specifically designed to detect vulnerabilities and provide recommendations for their resolution. While it offers a limited free option, it is commonly used in enterprises.


In conclusion, becoming an ethical hacker in 2023 requires a strategic and dedicated approach. Start by building a strong foundation in IT and networking skills, understanding the fundamentals of coding, and familiarizing yourself with security concepts. Embrace continuous learning and immerse yourself in hands-on practice using essential tools like Nmap, Wireshark, Burpsuite, Metasploit, and Nessus.

By staying updated with the latest industry trends and obtaining relevant certifications, such as CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+, aspiring ethical hackers can enhance their expertise and credibility. Remember, ethical hacking is not just about breaking into systems, but rather about using technical prowess to identify and fix vulnerabilities for the greater good.

As the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to rise, ethical hackers will play a crucial role in safeguarding digital assets and data integrity. With dedication, passion, and a deep sense of responsibility, you can carve a successful and fulfilling career as an ethical hacker in 2023 and beyond. So, take the leap into this exciting field, and let your ethical hacking journey begin!

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