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Dissecting the Anatomy and the Mind of a Good Hacker: A Guide to Improving Your Skills

Just like Rome, hackers too are not made in a day. It takes years of patient practice, unwavering passion and plenty of hard work to earn the title of ‘Good Hacker’. But it is not impossible. With a good dose of dedication, you too can get to the top.

A hacker has to master many technical and not-so-technical skills under the sun. On the technical front, you need to check off everything from the basic to the more complicated techniques. And on the non-technical front, it will help your cause greatly if you possess a ‘never say die’ attitude, the ability of think out of the box, and also be prepared to be a student for life.

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Here’s what goes into making a fine hacker:

Programming is a must: This is one of the key skills you need to possess. Don’t dwell too much on the language or your style. Instead, focus on picking up a basic and malleable language like C. When you’ve got a hang of it, instead of learning a dozen other languages, you need to focus on how you can use your knowledge to solve problems, create commands, and also automate tasks.

The in-and-out of operating systems: To become a good hacker you will have to delve deep into the world of operating systems. Whether you like an operating system or not, you’ve got to analyze each one and understand how they work. You will need an innate understanding how each component interacts with each other, where critical information is stored and how you can hack your way to a system’s APIs. Over here, we recommend that you pay special attention to Linux. This operating system equips you with tools and functionalities that are rarely found in other operating systems.

Learn how hardware works: You need not be a champion at hardware but a basic understanding how hardware works will take you a long way. Get to know how memory and processors operate.

Networking is a must: By this, we don’t mean go out socializing. What we mean is that as a hacker you will use networking concepts like DHCP, Subnetting, NAT, IPv4, DNS, MAC addressing, IPv5 and plenty more. Don’t shy away from exploring them to the fullest. Also, pick up tricks on how you can manipulate and work your way around them.

Websites and Web Applications: One of the best arenas to test out your hacking skills, you will need to conquer the world of websites and web applications. You need to break them apart, understand the databases that go into making them and also know the inside-out of how they operate.

Get a grasp of Security Technologies: When hacking, you’ll often be faced with security measures that are meant to make your life difficult. If you want to overcome them, you will need to know what they are made of. Once you are familiar with concepts, hacking should be way easier. You need to master PKI, Firewalls, SSL, and IDS in the security arena.

Virtualization and Sniffer Protocols: Well, you will need a virtualizer to test out your skills in a virtual world before you go out in the big, bad world. Experiment with software like Virtual Box and VMWare workstations before you unleash your skills in the real world. Also,  you will use sniffer protocols and analyzers to detect IP and TCP traffic as well as attacks.

Persistence will bring success: As we mentioned before, hackers can’t be made in a day. In order to a become a successful hacker, you will have to keep at it. Don’t give up after you fail the first, fifth or even the hundredth time. Try different approaches and solutions every time you face an impossible task.

Get Creative: When hacking you will realize that one problem can have a variety of solutions. And that sometimes even the seemingly brilliant solutions don’t work. In these situations, we recommend that you step outside the box and look at your problem with a different perspective. Innovate your way to a solution instead of just sticking to the rules.

Don’t stop learning: All the points we have listed above are only the mere basics of hacking. From here, you’ve got a long way to go. You will need to conquer the realms of Cryptography, Reverse Engineering, Forensics, Databases, Wireless Technologies and a whole lot more. The day you give up on learning, that’s the day you stop being a hacker. So don’t ever stop!

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Navya D'Souza

Navya is a Bangalore-based freelance writer. She’s a food loving, celebrity-obsessed, wise owl whose feathers you’ll find very hard to ruffle. In her short life, she has also managed to convince a few people and herself that she’s a hoot!