A Hacker’s Guide to Learning to Code- Cybersecurity is a broad field that encompasses a wide range of responsibilities. A cybersecurity expert can work on the offensive or defensive side and specialise in a variety of subfields.
Certain knowledge and skill sets, however, are required for success across the business. At least a basic understanding of programming and how it relates into the realm of cybersecurity is one of these prevalent skill sets.
Cybersecurity professionals aren’t developers, and while they share some skills, their areas of expertise can be vastly different. A developer’s primary goal is to write code that does its job, is efficient, and is delivered on time. The purpose of a security expert is to ensure that the code is secure and does not put the firm or its customers at danger.
Having said that, while hackers aren’t programmers, knowing a couple of languages is a tremendous advantage. Understanding how to read and create a programme is an essential skill because a significant portion of cybersecurity involves either breaking code or figuring out how to fix it.
As a result, knowing how to programme is a must-have skill for anyone interested in a job in cybersecurity. Understanding the environment in which code runs, the various types of vulnerabilities that can exist in a programme, and how to use scripting to automate common and easy activities are all important aspects of breaking into cybersecurity.
Understanding the Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
Computers are complex systems, and software is designed to run on them. Furthermore, this programme can be built to interact with other software and machines, adding to the confusion. It is critical to understand the contexts in which these apps execute if you wish to develop programmes — or break them.
This is true whether you’re a penetration tester looking to fix or exploit vulnerabilities. In most circumstances, if an application has a vulnerability, it is most likely due to a low-level component. Understanding how the vulnerability operates and what went wrong necessitates knowledge of these low-level components.
Buffer overflow vulnerabilities, for example, are a type of vulnerability that includes three of the top five in the Common Weakness Enumeration (a well-regarded list of software issues) The inappropriate usage of memory is on the top 25 list of the most hazardous software flaws.
The takeaway here is that buffer overflow vulnerabilities are a straightforward idea provided you understand how an application interacts with memory on a computer and the functions used for memory allocation. Understanding the ramifications of a buffer overflow issue for application security, on the other hand, will be much more difficult if you don’t know what the stack is.
Other low-level components, likewise, can go wrong in a variety of ways.
Understanding how to deal with these low-level components effectively is necessary for detecting when something is wrong with an application.
As a result, knowing the foundations of computers and networking is a valuable skill for a hacker to possess. Choose a topic (memory, networking, etc.) and devote time to learning how things function at a high level and how to properly use these components. Move on to the next topic once you’ve mastered one. In every area of cybersecurity, having a basic understanding of how IT systems work is a significant asset.
The good news is that there has never been a better moment to teach yourself how to hack and programme computers. There are numerous resources on the internet to assist you in getting started. Check out the recommended reading list at the bottom of the page.
Finding the Vulnerabilities
After you’ve figured out how everything should work, the following stage is to figure out how things can go wrong. You’ll be able to discover the same faults in multiple applications if you understand common vulnerabilities and how they work.
If you keep track of vulnerability statistics, it may appear like new forms of attacks are identified on a daily basis. According to a survey conducted by the vulnerability intelligence business Risk Based Security during the previous few years, approximately 22,000 new vulnerabilities have been uncovered per year. The prospect of learning how all of these distinct vulnerabilities function may seem overwhelming if you focus on the statistics like this.
However, software security hasn’t changed all that much over the years, and it wasn’t all that diversified to begin with. Because developers keep repeating the same mistakes in multiple applications, there are so many vulnerabilities. For example, there are now approximately 148,000 publicly reported vulnerabilities known as Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs), however these vulnerabilities are classified into only 916 separate CWEs.
Take a look at the Top Ten list of frequent web application vulnerabilities maintained by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). This is one of the most well-known cybersecurity sites, and it highlights the most prevalent web application vulnerabilities at the time of publication (every few years).
Pay special attention to the Release Notes, which detail the differences between 2013 and 2017. (the most recent version). Three new vulnerabilities have been added to the list, two have been removed from the list, and two have been merged into one. In conclusion, very nothing has changed in the last eight years. The same can be said about previous iterations of the list, dating back to its inception in 2003.
This means that if you know how to exploit the vulnerabilities described in the OWASP Top Ten, CWE Top 25, and other similar lists, you’ll be able to exploit the great majority of the flaws you’ll come across as a hacker. Instead than focusing on the specific implementations, go into these lists and try to figure out how these vulnerabilities work. This, paired with a basic understanding of programming, should allow you to spot vulnerable code no matter how it appears.
Take some time to learn about remediations, variations, and workarounds once you’ve grasped the main issue. The usage of a token, for example, is a typical defence against cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks. CSRF defences are built into many platforms, although they aren’t always effective. Understanding how and why a defence works will help you recognise when it doesn’t.
Automation and Scripting
So far, we’ve discussed programming as a technique of reaching a different cybersecurity goal. For example, you must understand code in order to break it or to patch it once it has been broken, therefore a cybersecurity practitioner must have a fundamental understanding of programming and the many sorts of vulnerabilities.
The ability to programme, on the other hand, is a valuable advantage in and of itself when it comes to cybersecurity. Because the world of cybersecurity is fast-paced, a hacker must be able to react swiftly to events. Furthermore, the networks that hackers must defend or attack are becoming increasingly large and can encompass a wider range of technologies. Attempting to perform everything by hand is inefficient, thus automation is a great resource for cybersecurity professionals.
As a result, knowing at least one common scripting language is a major advantage for a cybersecurity expert. Scripting languages are designed to be flexible and simple to use, allowing you to quickly create programmes to complete a specific purpose. Whether a hacker needs to collect log data to investigate a potential event or automate a scan or exploit against a potential vulnerability, this is important across the board in cybersecurity.
Python is usually a fantastic choice when learning a scripting language. It is supposed to be simple to learn and, thanks to its extensive library, it is capable of achieving some very amazing things. If you haven’t decided on a programming language yet, Python is a good place to start. If you already know how to programme, learning Python is mostly a matter of brushing up on syntax and getting used to using indentation instead of curly brackets to describe code blocks.
Despite Python’s many advantages, it isn’t sufficient for a cybersecurity specialist. To be a hacker, you must also be able to work on the command line. Many regularly used cybersecurity products are only available with command line interfaces, making terminal phobia an issue in cybersecurity. Furthermore, terminal utilities such as grep can be quite useful. Even a rudimentary understanding of how to operate the terminal is beneficial to security.
Getting Started with Cybersecurity Programming
Cybersecurity is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of topics. There is a lot to learn, and it might be intimidating if you don’t have a plan.
It’s usually a good idea to start with something interesting. If you want to learn more about cybersecurity theory, start with the basics and learn about computer memory and the network stack. Getting some expertise with a programming language, on the other hand, may be a better introduction to cybersecurity if you want to be able to do anything right away. This primer on cybersecurity coding includes a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of several programming languages.
The hardest part is usually getting started, and once you’ve mastered one aspect of cybersecurity, the rest becomes second nature. Everything in cybersecurity is interconnected, and knowing the foundations will make it much easier to understand the newest big-name vulnerability and how to exploit or repair it.
Sources and Further Reading
- Common Weaknesses Enumeration (CWE): The CWE is a hierarchical system for classifying vulnerabilities. It has a number of useful views, including the Top 25 list of the most dangerous CWEs and language-specific lists.
- Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP): OWASP is a project devoted to improving developer knowledge of web application security threats. It is most famous for its Top Ten list but also offers other useful vulnerability lists and a wide range of security resources.
- Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE): CVEs are unique identifiers assigned to publicly reported vulnerabilities. This makes it possible to read about a particular flaw across multiple sources (which may otherwise name or number it differently).
- Coding for Cybersecurity Guide: This article outlines the advantage of various programming languages for cybersecurity. It also highlights recommended bootcamps for learning to program.