Learning hacking especially if you’re a complete beginner, is no easy task but there are lots of resources online such as online hacking tutorials, YouTube videos on hacking and even online courses.
But hacking resources are often sparse and spread out all over the web so it’s often helpful to read books. In fact in my opinion, it’s the best way to learn hacking for beginners because all of the information is gathered together in one place. All the books in this list are excellent in their own right and some of them cover different aspects of hacking.
Why learn hacking?
As you know, hacking can be used unethically and can cause harm and destruction to individuals and companies alike. But ethical hacking is actually beneficial to companies because it allows them to find vulnerabilities in their systems before the bad guys do.
With that in mind, there are many organizations out there that are looking for penetration testers, hackers and consultants to help them find vulnerabilities in their code to ensure the security and integrity of their systems and information. As such, companies are willing to pay a premium for these services to protect their reputation and this is what makes ethical hacking a highly lucrative profession.
Not only is it possible to work for these organizations as a full-time pentester, it is also possible to make money through the various bug bounty programs.
Well there’s no secret to learning hacking and it’s not too difficult either, but you do have to have a good grasp of computing and have a strong interest in it, because it can be frustrating. Beyond that though, like anything, it’s just a matter of practice.
First of all I recommend learning ‘penetration testing’. This involves penetrating computer systems and looking for bugs or vulnerabilities – looking for unusual things and behaviour. Look at topics such as cross-site scripting, Cross-Site Request Forgery, SQL injection or look for bugs in the actual business logic of the application. These topics are just the start, and you should read about them and more in these hacking books.
Best Hacking Books of 2018
So which books should you read then? Well admittedly there’s a lot of hacking books out there, some good, some not so good. So what I’ve done is select the best hacking books based on popularity and the general consensus on some of the hacking subreddits.
So without further ado, here they are:
Hacking – the art of exploitation is probably one of the best hacking books of all time. It is a must if you’re a beginner and covers everything from programming, to machine architecture through to network communications and the latest hacking techniques.
The book doesn’t just show you how to run existing exploits, it also explains how hackers exploit programs and come up with original exploits.
Included with the book is a LiveCD which provides you with a Linux environment without having to modify your existing OS setup. You can follow along in the book’s examples, debug code, overflow buffers, exploit cryptographic weaknesses, and it even shows you how to invent your own new exploits. Awesome book.
The Metasploit Framework is a well known tool for quickly discovering, exploiting, and sharing vulnerabilities and is used by security professionals everywhere. But it’s not really for those just getting started in the field as it can be hard to grasp. This book however fills that gap by teaching you how to use the Framework and help you to interact with the community of Metasploit contributors.
By reading this book, you’ll learn the Framework’s conventions, interfaces, and module system. You’ll also learn advanced penetration testing techniques, including network reconnaissance and enumeration, client-side attacks, wireless attacks, and targeted social-engineering attacks.
The book even touches on exploit discovery for zero-day research, it will teach you how to write a fuzzer, port existing exploits into the Framework, and it will also teach you how to cover your tracks so you don’t get caught!
This guide is useful to anyone wishing to secure their own networks or test someone else’s.
The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing provides you with the steps you need to take to complete a penetration test or perform an ethical hack from beginning to end without any previous hacking experience, so it’s aimed at the complete beginner.
You will learn how to properly utilize and interpret the results of modern day tools such as Backtrack and Kali Linux, Google reconnaissance, MetaGooFil, DNS interrogation, Nmap, Nessus, Metasploit, the Social Engineer Toolkit (SET), w3af, Netcat, post exploitation tactics, the Hacker Defender rootkit, and more.
The book provides simple and clean explanations with step-by-step guides for conducting a penetration test or hack and by reading the book you will gain a better understanding of offensive security which will help your career as a pentester.
This is a classic book that explains how exploits work such as stack overflow, heap overflow and format string vulnerabilities. The book also talks about stack protection and how to evade stack protection. The book is expertly written, covers some very advanced concepts and contains a lot of hex bytes, code, and memory addresses. So you’re going to need a good understanding of languages such as C and C++ and assembly language to be able to understand this book.
So if you’re looking for a beginners book, this is probably not for you. But if you take the time to read it properly, research around each of the concepts independently, then you’ll be well on your way to thinking like a pro.
As the title of the book suggests, this book gives you a practical understanding of hacking web browsers so that you can launch further attacks into corporate networks.
The book provides hands-on, practical tutorials and covers complex security issues such as bypassing the Same Origin Policy, exploiting the browsers and its plugins/extensions, DNS tunneling and proxying directly from the browser.
The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook is authored by the founder of Portswigger, the company behind the popular pentesting tool called Burp Suite.
The book takes you from the basics of the internet, through to how to find the most vulnerable areas of an application and finally through to finding vulnerabilities themselves within a web application.
The book teaches you step-by-step how to attack and defend web applications and also covers the latest technology designed to defend web application from attacks.
This is a hefty book, with 21 chapters in total, but the bulk of it is dedicated to explaining web technologies, how to exploit them and it explains the tools and techniques which can be used to break any web application.
This book is an absolute must for any aspiring ethical hacker in my opinion.
When it comes to hacking, hackers often turn to popular hacking tools such as Burp Suite to find their vunlerabilities. Despite these tools, hackers also create their own powerful and effective hacking tools on the fly and often, Python is the language of choice because it’s easy to use, versatile and you build proof of concepts in minutes with relatively few lines of code.
In Black Hat Python, the latest book from Justin Seitz (and author of the best-selling Gray Hat Python), you’ll explore the darker side of Python’s capabilities. It will teach you how to write network sniffers, manipulate packets, infect virtual machines, create stealthy trojans, and much more.
Other things this book covers are how to create a trojan command-and-control using GitHub, how to detect sandboxing and automate common malware tasks, like keylogging and screenshotting and how to escalate Windows privileges with creative process control.
One of the best things about this book is that it teaches you how to extend the popular Burp Suite web-hacking tool so you can create your own custom plugins and extensions to help you find potentially lucrative and critical vulnerabilities faster.
If you’re interested in hacking hardware, then this book by one of the world’s most prolific hackers Andrew “bunnie” Huang, will help inspire you.
In this book, the author (and author of Hacking the Xbox) takes you through the ins and outs of hardware manufacturing and shares a collection of personal essays on his visits to the electronics markets in Shenzhen and interviews on topics such as reverse engineering.
This password cracking manual is an absolute must for anyone wanting to know how to crack passwords. The book contains a compilation of basic and advanced techniques which penetration testers and network security professionals can use to evaluate the security of an organization from a password viewpoint.
The manual contains the most popular password cracking and analysis tools and basic password cracking methodologies. The manual also contains all the tables, commands and online resources you’re going to need to crack passwords and also protect against password attacks.
I’ve included this book not because it will make you a better hacker, but to serve as an inspiration to those who aspire to get into this field. The book is a book about Kevin Mitnick – one of the most elusive hackers/social engineers in history. He accessed computers and networks at the world’s biggest companies and was able to hack into phone switches, computer systems, and cellular networks.
This book covers everything Mitnick did, from the time he started hacking until the time he was finally arrested by the feds, and a little after that. It’s a book that’s going to hold your attention, is humorous, and overall is a very good read.
OK so there you go, the best books on the market at the moment for ethical hacking.
Now reading books won’t instantly make you into a hacker. These books are merely just the start and will provide you with the knowledge that you need. Once you have a good knowledge and understanding of hacking, you must then put the knowledge that you have learned to good use.