Hackers Learning Path

Table of Contents

Want to hack computers? But what is hacking and how do people learn it?

Here’s a vetted list of resources to learn computer hacking. Starting out is hard work, so that’s why I’ve put this list together, to help demystify hacking for you.

The good news is anyone (including you) can learn to hack, and in even better news, it’s a lot of fun. All you need is effort and time, most of the resources are completely free.

Disclaimer, approx times and prices are included for each resource, check links confirmation. Start with the fundamentals, otherwise, there’s no particular order, learn how you like.

Mindset

If you don’t like goal setting or mindset stuff, feel free to skip to Fundamentals, but it’s worth setting your expectations. Learning to hack is hard work, so start embracing problem-solving, why? Hacking is a series of solving smaller problems to solve a larger problem.

Think about it like this, climbing ladders vs rock climbing. You expect learning to be like climbing up a ladder. Each piece of information is like a rung on a ladder and with each step up you understand it and safely climb to the top – you’re a hacker.

Free Checklist: Hacker's Learning Path

Offline checklist to track your learning path, become a great hacker and stay on task.

Learning hacking is more like rock climbing. There are multiple ways to reach the top, some are beyond your reach right now, some might be a lot easier. You might spend ages on one track which gets too hard and forces you to go back and start again on another path.

To hack something, you need to understand that thing, so hacking computers can take years. Here are a few tips, 1) don’t quit when it gets hard, 2) be prepared to read a lot, 3) take your time, re-read information, 4) find a good support network, 5) take breaks from studying.

Fundamentals

Technology is a massive industry and hacking falls under Cyber Security which is also a massive industry in itself. To stand a chance in this industry, you need skills in basics computing, here’s what’s recommended:

  • Operating Systems (OS): Linux (Ubuntu, Kali), Windows, Windows Server (Active Directory).
  • Virtualization: Type 1 (Proxmox), Type 2 (VirtualBox, VMWare Workstation, Hyper-V).
  • Networking: TCP/IP, DNS, DHCP, IPv4/6.
  • Programming/Coding: Web (HTML, CSS, JS), Python, BASH, Perl.

Start with Hoppers Roppers Computing Fundamentals 50hr free, this introduces you to the above areas and most importantly, the Linux kernel. Linux allows the most dominant OSs which run the internet. In order to hack, Linux is a must, so to bounce around while learning Linux, try:

Sign up with TryHackMe, an amazing Cyber Security learning platform and then choose a path. Either the Free Guide for Beginners 50hr free or start the Premium Complete Beginner 64hr costs (writeups Linux Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, nmap, Network Services Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Roppers will introduce you to a programming language called Python and the phenomenal book Automate The Boring Stuff 20hr free and Udemy Course 10hr low cost. For more on learning Python, see:

Lastly, take Intro To Computer Science CS50x 50hr free/cert costs, a great way to round out everything you’ve learnt so far. There’s approx ~300hrs of learning, almost all free gearing you up for Cyber Security.

Capture The Flags

Practice your hacker skills in Capture The Flags (CTFs), gamified lessons based on real tech. They range from downloadable files and quiz-like questions to remote VMs you need to break into. CTFs are designed to teach you important skills while creating a fun, competitive environment. For more, see What Is CTF?

Roppers Fundamentals introduced you to OverTheWire’s Bandit free a free beginner CTF (writeups 0 – 4, 5 – 10, 11 – 15) start here. Then tackle some PicoCTF free (writeup) to keep practising. Head back to TryHackMe and follow their Complete Guide free (writeups Rootme) before starting Roppers Intro To CTFs free and Networking with CTFs free. Check out VulnHub free to download vulnerable VMs, it’s a good intro to homelabbing, more on that soon.

Now you’re comfortable with CTFs, check CTF Time free to find live in-person or online events at your skill level. Some CTFs are team-based, but if that’s too daunting, you can always tack solo CTFs. Check out PicoCTF free and Trace Labs free.

Homelabs

Roppers Fundamentals introduced running an Ubuntu VM, your homelab has begun. Labs are playgrounds for testing and experimenting, using virtualisation software known as hypervisors to replicate real networks and computing technologies.

Hypervisors are classed as either Type 1 bare-metal or Type 2 applications, for example, VirtualBox, Hyper-V or VMWare Workstation. Do some research to find which suits you, I recommend starting with VirtualBox.

Free Checklist: Hacker's Learning Path

Offline checklist to track your learning path, become a great hacker and stay on task.

Since you’re spawning VMs on your host computer, be aware of your hardware limitations such as CPU, RAM and HDD. For a basic attack box, use Kali free with at least a 2 Core CPU, 4GB RAM, and 20GB HDD.

From here on out it’s up to you, see CyberWox Home Lab or da667’s Building a Virtual Lab which covers pfSense free, Security Onion free eval, Ubuntu Desktop free, Kali free, Windows Server free eval, Windows Desktop free eval, Splunk free dev and VulnHub machines free. Requires 8 core CPU, 16Gb RAM and 500Gb HDD.

It’s good if you can have a dedicated lab system like an old laptop or gaming PC, for more, see Guide To Homelabbing. If you’ve never built a computer before, it’s a great practice to buy parts yourself and assemble them, for help see How To Build A PC.

Community

In order to stay focused while learning, not to mention keeping up to date with the ever-changing field that is Cyber Sec, find some good communities.

These are the guys and gals out there, other students on the same path or experts who have been in the field for years. Learn from others, always, plus, all of your courses, CTFs and labs get exhausting, so break it up.

Favourites:

Worth checking out:

Give Back

Think about the countless people who provide malware analysis, training walkthroughs, CTF boxes and much more. How can you give back to the amazing community?

Start a YouTube channel, write a blog, set up a podcast or sign up for Twitter and share for others to learn. If you need help, see #100DaysOfHacking for more.

There are a few benefits to sharing your journey, 1) help people, 2) better understand things, 3) meet people, 4) increase luck surface area, 5) nurture other skills, and 6) make yourself accountable.

Thanks to LiveOverflow’s Guide to Learn Hacking, Simply Cyber’s Free Resource’s, Roppers Things Worth Doing and Roadmap. Here’s more I need to spend time with CyberDefender, Let’s Defend, Security Blue Team, Hacker101, CTFLearn, Cybrary, and PentesterLab.

This is days 5, 11, 16, 32 and 44 of #100DaysOfHacking on the Hackers Learning Path. Subscribe for CyberSec updates or read more, happy hacking.

About The Author
Ashley Ball

Ashley Ball

“Learn, create, share, repeat.” • IT teacher, former web designer, learning CyberSec • Road to #100DaysOfHacking on Hackers Learning Path.
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