Hacking gets a bad rap. For the most part, this is understandable. In the first half of 2021, there were more than 304 million ransomware attack attempts. It’s not just individuals who are targeted by hackers. For businesses, cyberattacks can be incredibly costly, with a typical data breach costing businesses upwards of $3.8 million. However, not every hacker has criminal intent. Ethical hackers are the white knights of this murky sector, providing companies with the tools and resources to protect their networks.
Generally speaking, an ethical hacker needs a far more varied toolset to keep criminals at bay. This includes in-depth insights into multiple programming languages, as well as exhaustive hardware and software knowledge. Planning on working in a global capacity? It’s not just programming languages you’ll want to brush up on. Now’s the time to start looking for Mandarin or Japanese tutors to widen your client base. That being said, it’s programming languages that will form the core of your arsenal. Below, we explore why they’re so intertwined with hacking, which programming languages you should be looking to investigate.
The Importance of Programming Languages
The cyberattacks that hackers deploy are designed to exploit network weaknesses and break coding protocols. To defend against these attacks, you’ll need to understand the code behind the software you’re working with. A robust command of coding is essential for mastering any programming language.
Proficiency with programming languages also allows you to carry out an in-depth analysis of existing code. This is an important skill if you want to be able to create new scripts or modify existing ones. Furthermore, programming languages allow you to make use of automation. If you’re working with a large enterprise and fielding multiple assignments at once, task automation will make your life easier.
Finally, experience with coding and programming languages makes it easier to determine the intent behind cyberattacks. With these insights at your disposal, you can quickly identify which systems are the ultimate target and roll out pre-emptive defenses to mitigate impact.
What Programming Languages Should Hackers Learn?
If you’re serious about a career in hacking or cybersecurity, programming languages are something you can’t avoid. Now we’ve explored their importance, it’s time to focus on the most useful programming languages out there. What ones you choose to embrace is ultimately up to you. However, some are better suited to certain systems than others.
When it comes to programming languages, Python is something of a new kid on the block. However, it’s also one of the most popular. With its general-purpose applications and ease of use, Python is increasingly being used in hacking activities. However, ethical hackers can put the programming language to good use. Its user-friendly design makes quick work of spotlighting system vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, less experienced users have an extensive online community to engage with as they master their programming proficiency.
C and C++ are considered some of the most advanced programming languages of all. They’re regularly utilized in the cybersecurity sector, particularly when it comes to development and writing exploits. Hackers regularly use these programming languages to gain unauthorized access to hardware assets. Once the hardware is accessed, hackers can manipulate key operating resources and internal components.
C can also be used for penetration testing, particularly when it comes to creating scripts. Black hat hackers also make regular use of C programming. It’s very effective at creating things like keyloggers, as well as malware that flies under the radar. If you want to be able to combat these kinds of threats, it’s important to familiarize yourself with both C and C++.
Otherwise known as Hypertext Preprocessor, PHP is a popular programming language for creating websites. With a solid knowledge of PHP at your disposal, you’ll have a much firmer handle on how web hacking works. Cybercriminals tend to use PHP for its server-side scripting applications. With PHP, it’s relatively easy to manipulate servers and make them more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
PHP forms the basis of content management systems used to power websites. As such, a deep understanding of this programming language is essential for protecting websites against malicious activity from cybercriminals.
This programming language is the weapon of choice for hackers looking to target databases. SQL makes discerning the structure of a database relatively simple. Once structure has been determined, hackers can then tailor their attack with particular tools and scripts. Databases typically contain exhaustive sets of contact information and personal details. This type of data is incredibly sensitive, so it’s vital it remains confidential. If you don’t have a solid grasp of SQL, you stand little chance of protecting database assets against outside interference.
These are just a handful of the most popular programming languages today. The likes of Perl and Ruby are worth investigating if you’re looking to focus on exploit writing. Meanwhile, Assembly is something to explore if your aim is to protect more archaic systems against hacking activity. All three of these programming languages continue to be used by hackers, but those on the right side of the fight can also put them to good use.
It certainly pays to specialize in one particular programming language. However, you’ll ultimately need to adopt a multifaceted approach to ethical hacking if you stand any chance of keeping cybercriminals at bay. Furthermore, if you’re pursuing a top-tier cybersecurity role with a salary to match, employees will expect you to be proficient with more than one programming language.