The Ultimate Guide to Learn How to Hack

Today’s world is entirely digital. Nearly every aspect of day-to-day life relies heavily on digital interaction. Think about how many applications you use that require passwords; everything from online banking to your favorite streaming platform requires a unique login. 

While technology continues to advance, so do cybercrimes. Anyone can learn how to hack!

From ransomware attacks that shut down business operations for days at a time to data hacks impacting billions of user accounts, cybercrimes have become mainstream headlines.

As a result, companies have realized they need dedicated teams to prevent and fix such breaches. Unfortunately, the need for employees with ethical hacking capabilities currently outnumbers trained professionals. In fact, Cybercrime Magazine, predicts there will be 3.5 million open cyber positions in 2025.

This is why now is the perfect time to train as a hacker. You can protect your community from cybercrimes when you gain in-demand cybersecurity skills.  

This guide will explain the different types of hackers, how ethical hacking skills are used in cybersecurity,  how to gain these skills, and much more!

What Is Ethical Hacking (and Why Does It Matter)?

Hacking is the act of gaining unauthorized access to a digital device, computer system, or network to infiltrate, damage, or destroy a computer network or system. 

Let’s define the different types of hackers. Hackers are classified based on the type of hacking they are performing and are referred to as White hat hackers, Black hat hackers, and Gray hat hackers.

White hat hackers are also called Ethical Hackers or Penetration Testers. These are the cyber professionals hired to report and fix any system vulnerabilities.

Black hat hackers are the “bad” guys. Black hat hacking is an unauthorized breach into a system to steal money, valuable information, and sensitive data. This type of hacking is illegal and punishable by law. 

Grey hat hackers fall somewhere in the middle. This type of hacking may be performed without permission. However, the hacker does not damage or steal anything. Grey hat hacking can be done legally or illegally.

Like burglars breaking into a home, hackers are cybercriminals who break through digital systems. Instead of stealing objects, they steal information that can then be sold or used maliciously. 

Hackers enter networks through security vulnerabilities, and the only way to prevent cybercrimes is to identify system weaknesses before hackers do. 

Ethical hackers have specialized skills similar to hackers. Unlike hackers, however, their intention is to identify vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. Ethical hackers act similarly to the security devices you install throughout your home to protect against burglars. 

As cybersecurity professionals, ethical hackers carry out many job functions with the primary goal of protecting digital information. Organizations employ teams of white hat hackers to prevent system breaches by taking precautionary measures to detect vulnerabilities and protect against malicious cybercriminals. 

Every organization, in every industry across the world, needs skilled ethical hackers.

If you want to learn how to hack, consider a career in cybersecurity. You can train in less than a year with the Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp, offered by the University of Miami, to help you gain the practical skills needed.

Cropped view of housebreaker in leather gloves breaking door lock with screwdriver

Notable Hacks: Then and Now 

The 1970s saw the birth of the very first computer worm, famously known as The Creeper. 

The Creeper was a self-replicating program that displayed the message, “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!” on computers. This worm led to the first antivirus program, appropriately named The Reaper.

The first worm attack was a student project gone wrong in the 1980s. A Cornell graduate student named Robert Tappan Morris, son of a leading computer-security expert at the National Security Agency, wrote a program to crawl the internet and install itself on others’ computers in an attempt to count how many copies were made, thus “measuring the internet.”

The program unintendedly continued to install itself on computers that already had it, creating the first worm attack. More than 6,000 government and university computers were impacted. 

Morris is the first person convicted by a jury under the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. 

In the 90s, the federal government dubbed Kevin Mitnick “the most wanted computer criminal in U.S. history” after he hacked into the computer systems of top tech companies, including Nokia, Fujitsu, and Sun Microsystems.

Currently, the largest breach to date occurred from 2013 to 2014. The company affected: Yahoo! More than 3 billion users were compromised in the attack.

For nearly as long as computers and networks have been around, hackers have been ready to break into them.

5 Ethical Hacking Terms to Know

Cybersecurity revolves around the relationship between assets, risks, vulnerability, and threats. 

An asset includes both tangible and intangible items used to complete a task. For example, personnel, software code, and data. 

Risk assessment is the process of evaluating the value of assets and considering potential threats that could cause harm.

Risk management is the process of mitigating harm through a risk assessment. Safeguards and security controls are often used to eliminate or reduce risk.

Vulnerability is a term to describe a weakness in security that can lead to harm to an asset. 

A threat assessment is a process of evaluating the risk of potential threats and how they can cause harm to an asset. 

When an asset is vulnerable to a threat, risk increases. By monitoring and addressing vulnerabilities, ethical hackers can mitigate risks and protect assets.

Read: 15 Cybersecurity Terms You Need to Know 

The Skills Needed to Learn Ethical Hacking

Anyone with some knowledge of computer programming can learn ethical hacking skills. Many ethical hackers become subject matter experts within a chosen domain of cybersecurity.

The following skills are useful to professional ethical hackers:

Soft Skills

  • Problem-solving 
  • Communication 
  • Analytical skills
  • Persistence
  • Creative thinking
  • Patience

Technical Skills

  • Computer Networking skills
  • Ability to navigate cloud environments and applications 
  • Coding and Scripting languages
  • Knowledge of data architecture and SQL
  • Digital Forensics
  • Cryptography
  • Familiarity with a variety of Operating Systems
  • Linux and Javascript

Becoming an Ethical Hacker

There are two types of people interested in becoming an ethical hacker: those currently in the field, and those with no experience. No matter which camp you belong to, there are several options for pivoting to a career as an ethical hacker.

Keep in mind that learning the skill you need to become an ethical hacker takes time, effort, and dedication. Technology changes so rapidly that even experienced professionals must continually learn new skills.

For starters, you will need to acquire the skills necessary to fulfill job requirements. The traditional path for gaining new skills is through a 4-year education, such as a degree in computer science.

Another option for obtaining the skills you need is through a professional bootcamp course. Bootcamps are accelerated education programs that enable students to learn in-demand tech skills. Many bootcamps are offered online and can be completed in less than a year, such as the Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp offered by the University of Miami. 

Learners already in the field or who acquire job-ready skills can obtain certifications such as

  • LPI Linux Essentials
  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
  • CompTIA Network+
  • EC-Council CND – Certified Network Defender
  • CompTIA Security+
  • EC-Council CSA – Certified – SOC Analyst
  • EC-Council CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker
  • (ISC)² SSCP – Systems Security Certified Practitioner

Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp 

The University of Miami Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp is designed to cover fundamental to advanced skills for anyone looking to fast-track their tech career.

Accelerated Learning 

In less than a year, learners gain the hands-on experience to enter the workforce confidently. Classes can be completed virtually in the evenings and on the weekends, so you can continue to work while you learn.

Professional Support

Personalized mentorship is offered by industry-leading instructors and career service experts who support your learning experience from start to finish. For up to six months following program completion, learners can access our job placement professionals. 

Real-World Simulations

Learners can access the TDX Arena, an immersive training platform that provides resources, content, and tools to practice all of the information acquired in the classroom through real-world environments. 

Certification Prep

The Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp offers a vast library of resources to help learners develop skills applicable to certification exams. Learners will be exposed to concepts found on entry-level industry exams throughout the program and are encouraged to seek one certification during each phase of the bootcamp to support their individual career goals.

Learn more about the University of Miami Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp

Young woman working on laptop

Ethical Hacking Jobs 

Ethical hackers have many different job positions and titles. See the list below of common titles. 

Entry-Level Titles

Response Analyst -responsibilities include performing malware analysis and penetration testing, identifying and reporting security vulnerabilities on systems and networks, and performing research, risk analysis, and security audits. 

Risk Analyst – responsibilities include using analytical skills to project potential losses, and make recommendations to limit risk through diversification, currency exchanges and other investment strategies.

Mid-Level Titles

Penetration Tester –  responsibilities include performing simulated cyberattacks to identify security vulnerabilities and weaknesses before malicious hackers have the chance to exploit a company’s computer systems and networks.

Security Engineer – responsibilities include building digital security protocols, operating a cyber security system and maintaining an IT security infrastructure for their organization or their clients’ organizations.

Senior-Level Titles

CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) – responsibilities include developing and implementing procedures and policies designed to protect enterprise communications, systems and assets from both internal and external threats.

CIO (Chief Information Officers) – responsibilities include assessing current processes, recommending software upgrades, and directing the executive team on the best processes. Also known as an information technology (IT) director.

Read: 5 High-Paying Jobs That Are Great for Career Changers

Common Job Responsibilities of Ethical Hackers

  • Identify open ports to implement corrective measures
  • Update patch installations
  • Monitor web servers and applications for breaches
  • Inspect password and data misuse
  • Surveil sensitive digital information
  • Thoroughly assess an organization’s security road map
keyboard parts with a lock, symbolizing the role of ethical hackers

Start Learning How to (Ethically) Hack

The need to protect sensitive and confidential data is only going to continue to grow as technology continues to evolve.

Ethical hacking is the best defense against cybercriminals. Government organizations and companies alike require cybersecurity professionals to implement strategies to prevent security breaches. 

If you are a self-starter curious about security issues and have strong critical thinking skills, the cyber industry needs you. Gain the skills you need to pivot to a career in cybersecurity with the Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp offered by the University of Miami. Please fill out the form below to get in touch with a career consultant.

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