7 min read

Phases of Hacking

Phases of Hacking

Hey everyone!

root@icyberjutsu:- # whoami

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I’m Aman Kumar (icyberjutsu), an enthusiastic cybersecurity researcher from India. Hope you all are doing great and keeping yourselves safe in the digital world.

Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field, becoming increasingly important in today’s digital world. To protect against cyber-attacks, it is important to understand the various stages of a typical hacking attempt and the skills required to be a good security tester. This write-up will take a closer look at the hacking phases and the skills that a security tester should possess.

So, let’s dive in and learn more about the exciting world of cybersecurity.

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Hacking is gaining unauthorized access to a computer system or network. There are several phases involved in hacking, including footprinting, scanning, gaining access, maintaining access, and clearing tracks. In this write-up, we will explore each of these phases in detail and discuss the skills and knowledge required of a security tester.

1). Footprinting: The First Step

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Footprinting is the first hacking phase and involves collecting information about a target system or network. The goal of footprinting is to gather as much information as possible about the target without it being detected. This information can include the target’s IP address, domain name, network topology, and operating system. Footprinting can be performed using various tools and techniques, including whois lookups, traceroutes, and website analysis. There are several methods of footprinting also, including:

  • Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) — This method involves gathering publicly available information about the target from social media, websites, and online forums. This information can include details such as the target’s IP addresses, domain names, and email addresses, as well as information about the target’s employees and infrastructure.
  • Whois Lookup — This method uses the WHOIS database to gather information about the target’s domain name, such as the owner, registrar, and contact information.
  • Google Hacking — Google Dork/Google Hacking is the method used for advanced search queries to find information about the target that is not easily accessible through traditional search methods.

For example: -

  1. "site:target.com -inurl:www" - This query uncovers information that a company or individual is trying to keep hidden, and to find subdomains of a website that are not publicly linked from the main website, potentially revealing hidden content.
  2. "site:target.com filetype:pdf" - This query searches for all PDF files on the target domain. PDFs often contain sensitive information, and if the file is publicly available on the web, it could pose a security risk.
  3. "site:target.com intext:password filetype:txt" - This query searches for plain text files on the target domain that contain the word "password," which could potentially reveal passwords or other sensitive information.
  4. "site:target.com intitle:index.of db" - This query searches for directories on the target domain that contain database files, which could potentially contain sensitive information such as user credentials.
  5. "site:target.com intext:phpmyadmin" - This query searches for pages on the target domain that contain the text "phpMyAdmin," which could potentially reveal that the site is running a vulnerable version of the popular database management tool.
  6. "site:target.com intitle:admin intitle:login" - This query searches for login pages on the target domain that contain the words "admin" and "login" in the title. These pages can be vulnerable to attacks such as brute-force password guessing.
  7. "site:target.com inurl:/.git/ intitle:index of" - This query searches for Git repositories that are publicly available on the target domain. These repositories can contain sensitive information such as database credentials or API keys.

However, it's important to note that accessing this type of content without permission could be illegal, depending on the jurisdiction.

Footprinting is critical in hacking because it provides the attacker with the information necessary to plan an attack. For example, if an attacker knows that a target system is running a vulnerable operating system, they can use that information to find and exploit a vulnerability in the system.

2). Scanning: Discovering Vulnerabilities

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Scanning is the second hacking phase and involves actively probing the target system or network to identify vulnerabilities. Scanning aims to identify open ports, running services, and other security weaknesses that can be exploited. Scanning can be performed using various tools and techniques, including port scans, vulnerability scans, and penetration tests. Several types of scanning can also be performed, including:

  • Port Scanning: This scanning involves identifying open ports on a target system and determining which services are running on those ports. Port scanning can be performed using tools such as Nmap or Superscan.
  • Vulnerability Scanning: This scanning involves using automated tools to search for known vulnerabilities in a target system or network. Vulnerability scanning can be performed using tools such as Nessus or OpenVAS.
  • Network Scanning: This type of scanning involves searching for devices on a target network and gathering information about their configurations and vulnerabilities. Network scanning can be performed using tools such as Angry IP Scanner or Fping.

Scanning is a crucial step in hacking because it allows the attacker to identify potential targets and plan their attack. For example, if an attacker identifies an open port on a target system, they can use that port to gain access to the system and install malware.

3). Gaining Access: Exploiting Vulnerabilities

Gaining access is the third phase of hacking and involves exploiting vulnerabilities in the target system or network to gain unauthorized access. The goal of gaining access is complete control over the target system or network, which may include stealing data, altering system configurations, or installing malware. Access can be gained using various tools and techniques, including exploitation kits, malware, and social engineering tactics.

4). Maintaining Access: Staying Hidden

Maintaining access is the fourth phase of hacking and involves keeping the target system or network under control after gaining access. The goal of maintaining access is to ensure that the attacker can continue to access the target even if the initial vulnerability is discovered and patched. Maintaining access can be accomplished using various tools and techniques, including backdoors, rootkits, and remote access Trojans (RATs).

5). Clearing Tracks: Covering Your Tracks

Clearing tracks is the final phase of hacking and involves removing any evidence of the attack from the target system or network. The goal of clearing tracks is to avoid detection and to maintain access to the target for as long as possible. Clearing tracks can be accomplished using various tools and techniques, including wiping log files, modifying system configurations, and hiding malware.


A security tester, also known as a penetration tester or ethical hacker, is responsible for identifying and exploiting computer systems and network vulnerabilities. To be an effective security tester, several skills and areas of knowledge are critical. These include platform knowledge, network knowledge, programming knowledge, and security controls.

1] Platform Knowledge:

Platform knowledge is a deep understanding of operating systems, applications, and other software components. A security tester must have an in-depth understanding of the platforms they are testing, including how they work, their vulnerabilities, and how to exploit them. This requires knowledge of programming languages, operating systems, and applications and the ability to perform deep analysis and debugging.

2] Network Knowledge:

Network knowledge is a deep understanding of networking technologies, protocols, and topologies. A security tester must understand how networks work, how data is transmitted and received, and how to exploit network vulnerabilities. This requires knowledge of protocols such as TCP/IP, DNS, and DHCP and the ability to perform network analysis and troubleshooting.

3] Programming Knowledge:

Programming knowledge refers to writing code and understanding software applications’ underlying algorithms and logic. A security tester must have a strong understanding of programming concepts and be proficient in one or more programming languages, such as C++, Python, or Java. This knowledge is essential for developing and testing custom exploits, reverse-engineering malware, and automating security testing.

4] Security Controls:

Security controls refer to the various technologies and practices used to protect computer systems and networks from attacks. A security tester must deeply understand security controls, including firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, access control systems, and encryption technologies. They must also be able to evaluate and test these controls to identify any vulnerabilities or weaknesses.


In conclusion, the hacking phases and a security tester’s skills are crucial components of cybersecurity. Understanding these concepts and being proficient in these areas is essential for anyone pursuing a career. Whether working for an organization or as a freelance security consultant, identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities, protecting against cyber threats, and maintaining the security of systems and networks is critical in today’s digital landscape.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comprehensive write-up on the phases of hacking and the skills of a security tester. I hope that you found the information valuable and that it has added to your knowledge and understanding of the cybersecurity field.

The world of cybersecurity is constantly evolving, and professionals in the field need to stay up to date with the latest developments and best practices. This write-up is just one of many resources available to help you achieve this goal.

Once again, thank you for your time and your dedication to the field of cybersecurity. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like to provide feedback on this write-up.

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Happy Hacking :)