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What is Footprinting in Ethical Hacking?

If you ever wondered about how to become an ethical hacker then you need to first understand what is Footprinting in ethical hacking.

Think of footprinting as looking for information in each and every place possible. By definition, footprinting is the process of gathering as much information as possible about the target system. It is performed to find ways to penetrate the system.

But footprinting is something that you cannot understand without proper introduction to ethical hacking. So here it is.

Ethical hacking is the process of finding vulnerabilities in the security of a system and then reporting them to the authorities so that they can be improved upon. 

While ethical hacking is technically hacking, ethical hackers aren’t exactly doing anything illegal. Instead, they help organizations tremendously and for this reason, they are paid well too

So if you are thinking about taking up courses or want to learn ethical hacking online, there has never been a better time to do both.

 

Ethical hacking course

 

Importance of footprinting

Footprinting in ethical hacking is very important as it is the first phase of ethical or unethical hacking. If the hacker does not gather enough information about the system, he/she wouldn’t know enough about it. As a result, the hacker would have no clue about what type of vulnerabilities can be found and what would be a suitable attack to perform.  

In other words, no matter if the hacker knows all the programming languages and is incredibly skilful, without footprinting he/she would be in the dark while implementing those skills in an attack.

Footprinting helps with the following things:

  • Understand security posture : The data gathered will help you understand the posture of the security better. For example, you’ll have details regarding the firewall as well as security configurations. 
  • Identify weaknesses : Footprinting can help you identify vulnerabilities, potential threats as well as the loopholes present in the system. 
  • Reduces attacks : Once the vulnerabilities are identified, it can help prevent any future threats.  
  • Laying the foundation for an attack : The data collected can help find the weak spots and launch attacks. 
  • Draw a network map : Footprinting can also help recognise the network of the target system and identify topology, trusted routers, presence of server and other information.

 

 

What is footprinting

 

Objectives of Footprinting

Now that you have gotten an introduction to ethical hacking and know the importance of footprinting in ethical hacking, it is time to know about the objectives of footprinting.

Because without knowing the objectives of each step in hacking, you would always be a few steps short to become an ethical hacker

There are three main objectives of footprinting.

1. Collecting Network information

This includes:

  • Domain name 
  • Internal domain names 
  • IP addresses of the reachable systems 
  • Rogue websites/private websites within the domain 
  • Access Control Mechanisms 
  • Protocols used 
  • Existing VPNs 
  • Analog and digital telephone numbers 
  • Authentication mechanisms and system enumeration

2. Collecting System Information

This includes:

  • Users and group names
  • System banners
  • Routing tables 
  • Routing protocols it is using 
  • SNMP information 
  • System architecture 
  • Operating system used 
  • Remote system type 
  • Usernames and passwords

3. Collecting Organisations’ Information

This includes: 

  • Employee details
  • Organisation’s website
  • Company directory
  • Local details
  • Address and phone numbers
  • Comments in HTML Source code within an organisation’s website
  • Security policies implemented
  • Web server links relevant to the organisation
  • News articles and press release

 

Types of footprinting

There are two types of footprinting:

  1. Active : Refers to gathering information by directly getting in touch with the target. Active footprints can be created by sending phishing emails as well as user consciously sharing his/her data.
  2. Passive : Contrary to the above is passive footprinting. It is done without the hacker directly getting in touch with the target system. This can be achieved by something as simple as reading information on the internet. 

What is footprinting

 

 

How to Footprint in Ethical Hacking?

Knowing the how-to and what-to of footprinting in ethical hacking can really help you better understand how to become an ethical hacker and actually become one.

So how do you perform footprinting

Let us take a look at some of the sources and tools used for footprinting.

 

Information sources

These are some of the sources which you can use to gather information regarding a target system: 

  1. Company’s website : The websites are intended to tell the customers about the organisation but hackers can use them to gain a lot of information. They contain e-mail addresses, employee names, branch office locations as well as technologies the organisation uses.
  2. Social Media : You can easily get to know about someone because people today tend to post everything about them on social media platforms. 
  3. Archive.org : Here’s a website that shows the history or older versions of all the other websites. You can use the Wayback machine, a built-in free to use tool to collect information that once existed on the website.
  4. Job postings : Companies can sometimes provide confidential data on job posting websites like Indeed and MonsterIndia. Hackers can leverage this information to plan their attack.
  5. Google hacking : As you may know, Google contains a tremendous amount of data. But did you know that Google has the ability to do some powerful searches as well. You can collect sensitive information by using Google’s built-in functions.  

Some of the common commands are “intitle,” “inurlt,” “allinurl,” and “filetype.” You can even use the Google Hacking Database (GHDB) like Exploit DB, and Hackers Online Club

Tools

  • Whois : One of the most renowned and common tools that can be used for website footprinting. Using Whois, you can gather information like the domain name, email-id as well as domain owner’s details. 
  • NeoTrace : Can gather path information between you and the remote site as well as the information on each node. 
  • Harvester : This is a tool that can help you extract information like email addresses as well as the subdomains of a target.
  • Metagoofil : This is a tool that makes it easy to gather the information that the company already made public
  • Netifera :Yet another website footprinting tool that can be used to collect information like IP address, the Programming language used in the development, the number of websites hosted, DNS. 

In addition to the above, some other footprinting that you can use include Nslookup, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), Regional Institute Registries (RIRs), and Traceroute.

 

become an ethical hacker

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