The Techniques and Tools of Hackers

By Fred Templeton, CISA, CASP, SEC+ •  Updated: 01/04/23 •  3 min read

Hackers are individuals or groups who use their technical skills to gain unauthorized access to systems, networks, or devices. They use various techniques and tools to exploit vulnerabilities in these systems and gain access to sensitive information. While some hackers may have malicious intentions, others may be security researchers who identify and report vulnerabilities to help improve the security of a system.

One common technique used by hackers is called “social engineering,” which involves manipulating people into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that may compromise the security of a system. Hackers may use phishing attacks, which are fraudulent emails or websites that appear legitimate but are designed to trick users into revealing personal information or login credentials. They may also use pretexting to create a fake identity or scenario to convince a person to reveal sensitive information.

Another technique that hackers use is called “exploitation,” which involves finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in systems or networks. Hackers may use tools such as vulnerability scanners, which are automated programs that search for known vulnerabilities in a system. They may also use “exploit kits,” which are collections of tools and code that can be used to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to a system.

Hackers may also use “backdoors” to gain unauthorized access to a system. A backdoor is a hidden entry point into a system that bypasses normal security measures. Hackers may use malware, which is malicious software designed to damage or disrupt a system, to create a backdoor.

One type of malware commonly used by hackers is called a “Trojan,” a program that appears legitimate but is designed to allow unauthorized access to a system. Another type of malware is called a “virus,” a program replicating itself and spreading to other systems.

Hackers may also use “denial of service” (DoS) attacks to disrupt the availability of a system or network. In a DoS attack, the hacker floods a system with traffic, making it unable to respond to legitimate requests. This can be accomplished using a “botnet,” which is a network of compromised devices that can be controlled remotely to launch DoS attacks.

In addition to these techniques, hackers may use a variety of tools to aid in their attacks. These may include:

While hackers can use these techniques and tools to gain unauthorized access to systems, they can also be used by security professionals to identify and fix vulnerabilities in systems. It is important for everyone to be aware of these techniques and to implement strong security measures to protect against potential attacks. This may include using strong passwords, keeping software and systems up to date, and being aware of potential phishing attacks.

Fred Templeton, CISA, CASP, SEC+

Fred Templeton is a practicing Information Systems Auditor in the Washington DC area. Fred works as a government contractor and uses his skills in cyber security to make our country's information systems safer from cyber threats. Fred holds a master's degree in cybersecurity and is currently working on his PHD in Information Systems.