[ Hacking 101 :: Introduction ]

Yet Another Explanation of What “Hacking” Really Means

If you’ve read a book or two about networking or security (and if you’re here I’ll bet you have), you’ve already had to read some version of where the word “hacker” comes from and what “hacking” really means. But what began as a title of honor has been corrupted by the media into a synonym for “criminal.” That’s a shame, because criminalizing curiosity and solution-finding steers both students and professionals away from a critical awareness we all need.

People use the term “hacking” in a whole range of ways, aside from the “sociopath computer geek” meaning. “Life hacking” is finding clever solutions to life’s challenges; “Ikea hacking” is building something original from the stuff you find at Ikea, like, say, a go-kart. I’ll bet Ikea never had go-karts in mind, but would you be a criminal if you built one using furniture components? In theory, no; but try the same test with your cell phone (or don’t because “hacking” it might in fact be a criminal act).

But we’re not talking about life hacking or Ikea hacking here. We’re talking about hacking in its original sense: exploring the world of systems and networks in which we all live, cobbling things together, testing things, breaking stuff, fixing it. We’re talking about computer hacking.

Most cyber-security material, even if it uses the word “hacker,” is about regulatory compliance, or security awareness, or protecting corporate systems. That’s not us, at least not in these courses. These courses are about how to hack.

[ Hacking 101 ] is the introductory freshman course: learning the basics, and making some decisions about, hacking. It covers some of the basics of research, exploring with your digital senses, mapping and understanding the world’s digital terrain. We’ll give you a huge amount of information, but you’ll also do a lot of homework. The biggest part of being a hacker, after all, is learning to do it yourself.

We’ll help you stretch your new abilities and introduce you to the vast array of tools and resources available to the budding hacker. We’ll explain the footprinting > scanning > enumerating > exploiting process, and look at the kinds of things you can do once you’ve successfully exploited a system.

One of our main priorities is giving you the information you need to hack safely, which is to say invisibly. The heavy thud of boots in the hall and that pounding on the door are sure signs of unsuccessful hacking. That’s why we’ll talk about how to preserve your privacy and confidentiality, which are two very different things. As you begin the lessons for these freshman courses, remember that one of the most critical things is to hack safely. But another is to have fun. So do both.

-Glenn Norman

Copyright 2017 Glenn Norman. All rights reserved.

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