Hacking, in reality, is a creative process that is based more on lifestyle than lesson. We can’t teach you everything that you need to know, but we can help you recognize what you need to learn. This is also true due to the constant advances in the computer sciences. What we teach today may not be relevent tomorrow. It is much better for you to embrace hacker learning habits, which are probably the most vital part of hacking and will separate you from the script kiddie (a person who runs hacking tools without knowing how or why they work).
Words and concepts you don’t understand in this workbook may require research on the web or in a library. If you don’t understand a word or a topic, it is essential you look it up. Ignoring it will only make it difficult for you to understand concepts in other workbooks. The other workbooks may ask you to investigate a topic on the web and then expect you to use the information that you find on the web to complete the exercises in that workbook – but those workbooks won’t explain to you how to do this research. This workbook is the only one with a thorough explanation of how to research built into it, so be sure to spend as much time as you need to learn how to research using the various resources available to you.
Don’t just limit yourself to computers, hacking, and the internet. Great hackers are well rounded and creative. Many of them are painters, writers, and designers. Hacking skills can also be applied to other fields, such as Political Science.
Besides being interested in other fields, you should be interested in how other businesses operate. Reading books on everything from psychology to science fiction will make you a much more versatile and functional hacker. Remember, hacking is about figuring out how things work regardless of how they were designed to work. This is how you expose insecurities, vulnerabilities, and leaks.
While we classify this all as “the web” the real term is “web services,” as not everything on the web is a website. If you check e-mail using a web browser, you are using a web service. Often times, web services require privileges. This means you need a login name and password to gain access. Having access and the legal right to access is known as having “privileges”. Hacking into a website to allow you to change the page may be having access, but since it is not your legal right to do so, it is not privileged access. We are only concerned with having privileged access, but as your experience grows with using the web, you will find many places give access to privileged areas by accident. As you find this, you should get into the habit of reporting this to the website owner.
Websites are searchable through a large number of search engines. It’s even possible to make your own search engine, if you have the time and hard drive space. Often, it’s the search engines who get privileged access and pass it on to you. Sometimes it is in the form of cache. A cache is an area of memory on the search engine’s server where the search engine stores pages that matched your search criteria. If you click on the link that says cached, instead of the actual link, then you will see a single page that shows what the search engine found during its search. The search engines save this information to prove that the search was valid – if, for instance, a page goes down or is changed between the time that you initiated your search and the time that you try to access the page that was returned – but you can also use the cached pages for other purposes, such as bypassing a slow server.
One of the most useful public caches is at http://www.archive.org. Here you will find cached versions of whole websites from over the years. One final note on websites, do not assume you can trust the content of the websites you visit just because they appear in a search engine. Many hacker attacks and viruses are spread just by visiting a website or downloading programs to run. You can safeguard yourself by not downloading programs from untrusted websites and by making sure the browser you use is up-to-date on security patches.