10 tips to become a Hacker

Originally published on: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-tips-become-hacker-arturo-buanzo-busleiman
Titles. Heh.

Today I found myself in the middle of a long email conversation with a young student from Germany. Someone related to fail2ban, one of the projects I contribute to.

We share a love of music, and security. Somehow, I ended up opening up, and telling my story. How I got into music, programming, Linux, security, and government work.

Professionalism is weird when it arrives, I know.

For instance, I began with Linux in 1994/1995. I was 12/13 at that time. I did not pursue an university degree, as IT Engineering here in Argentina was not in the state it currently is (and still needs MUCH more. How I would love to go back to teaching.).

I was best off by teaching myself! When I was 16-20, I used to write a lot of articles for the local Linux magazine, which I “funded” with other 2 editors (Damian Alonso, Facundo Arena) plus the editorial management staff, of course, from MP). I was in charge of the “Guru” section, programming, networking, etc. So my writings, as there weren’t many spanish-based articles (You can find some of them in www.buanzo.com.ar) at that time, at least in Argentina, ended up in the minds of many people. – And some even in use by one of the national universities, as reading material for their programming / operating systems courses. They called me when I was 19 to teach at that university. I was fresh out of high-school with a diploma in Electronics. I started the CBC, but dropped out. Today, I am really looking forward to finding a career. Probably not in IT, though. Something to expand my mind.

So, you want to become a Hacker. Here are some tips, right out from my personal experience.

#1 Get it into your mind. Hacker means ethics. Hacker means curiosity. Hacker means a desire to improve things. Hacking is fun. And healthy. As I usually say in my talks: “Does any of you drive a car? Does any of you drive REALLY WELL? Oh, so I guess you are probably a killer”.

Oh, so you are good with the computer. That means you are a criminal, right?

Get it straight. Any person can become a criminal. It is not hard. You just need to be a bad person. You can blame any other bunch of factors, but in the end, it means you are evil. Mistakes, that is something else. And you will make many… growing up. And then some. With or without the computer knowledge.

#2 You will need to open up. You can use any OS to do lots of things, but the more multi-platform knowledge you gain, the better. Use Windows. Use Linux. Use more than one OS. This is far easier to do today. Between your game console, your computer and your tablet/smartphone, you already have 2+ OSes, surely.

#3 Break things. Break yourself, too. Pursue a different area of knowledge, a different interest, such as music playing, literature, languages. Try new stuff. Enjoy the experience.

#4 Love those around you. That means respect, too. You will make it easy for them to support your interests, especially growing up. Yeah, I’m sure most people reading this on Linkedin are older, but luckily, some parent is reading this and might share the link.

#5 Find a team to share knowledge with. I suggest a 2600 meeting. http://www.buanzo.com.ar/sec/2600meet.html – You will find what areas of IT knowledge most interest you this way, too. For instance, I love defense, forensics and all things networking/comms, especially authentication and data sharing / analysis. But I get bored with the offensive side of things.

#6 Programming is a must. Stick to a limited number of languages at first. I would suggest python, C, assembler and some C# (it is quite an awesome language from which you will learn a lot). Try to attack your code. Debug as crazy. Attempt to understand why stuff breaks. In 1998 I coded a multiuser BBS for Linux, in plain C. It was the way to understand all things about Linux, as I had to learn IPC, sockets, processes, input handling, locks, filesystem, terminal capabilities, session control, etc, etc. Making it crash, and debugging it, allowed me to understand how an exploit would work. Learning how to code an exploit is also extremely useful, as it gives you the “other way round” knowledge of operating systems and code execution.

#7 Help others. I cannot emphasize this enough: your experience, your knowledge, has no value if you do not find a way to help others, in any way, using any methodology. Be loyal.

#8 Do not allow yourself to be used by evil people. Information gathering, one of the stages of “how to attack a problem”, can be applied socially. Avoid bad actors. But you will find yourself that “know your enemy” is also valuable. Remember I mentioned ethics?

#9 Get out in the open. Analyze your surroundings. Travel. Technology is everywhere, but subtlety is beautiful. Balance.

#10 You will one day die. Try to make the best out of life. Think about what you will leave behind. That is the real, the ultimate hack.

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