The general public panics when they hear the word hacker, but keeping up-to-date on the latest developments and information in hacking is crucial for combatting cyber criminals. If you’re looking for a career in ethical hacking, cyber security, or penetration testing, you’ll need the best hacking books to get you there.
Whether you’re looking for the best books to learn hacking from scratch, more information on the types of hackers and hacking, or deep dives into concepts, the perfect book for you is on this list. Keep reading to find the best books for hacking, including books on growth hacking, the spectrum between a white hat hacker and a black hat hacker, and more.
How Can I Choose the Best Books for Ethical Hackers?
You can choose the best books for ethical hackers by considering which topics are relevant to your professional goals. While fields like cyber security and penetration testing involve a lot of hands-on learning, books offer deep dives that have been thoroughly researched. They’re also a great way to learn hacking at home. Below are five tips to help you choose the best books for hacking.
Tips for Choosing the Best Hacking Books
- Find the latest version. The nature of hacking means that the field is always changing, so you want to make sure your information is current. Some books are updated classics, reissued with new information and techniques.
- Pick a book with exercises. The best books have hands-on exercises and lab work to enhance the learning experience. Modern books often get you access to additional resources that are shared on the authors’ websites.
- Assess your skill level. How much do you know about hacking? Books for beginners will be simple to understand and present the core concepts. Other books cover more complex topics and require more expertise to understand.
- Research the authors. Hacking professionals have written books to share their knowledge and experience in hacking. They have real-world hacking experience that provides unique insight into the field.
- Choose a format that works for you. You’ll find that some books are shorter than others and work like references. Such books are helpful to professional hackers or security analysts, but you might prefer a more comprehensive guide.
The 10 Best Hacking Books: An Overview
|Advanced Penetration Testing: Hacking the World’s Most Secure Networks||Wiley||Advanced simulations of cyber attacks, social engineering, penetration testing programming|
|The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing||Syngress||Ethical hacking, Kali Linux distribution, penetration testing|
|The Hacker Playbook 3: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing||Secure Planet||New hacking strategies, penetration testing, custom malware|
|Hacking: The Art of Exploitation||No Starch Press||Exploits, debugging, hacking investigations|
|Kali Linux Revealed: Mastering the Penetration Testing Distribution||Offsec Press||Kali Linux setup and coding|
|Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to Hacking||No Starch Press||Penetration testing fundamentals, mobile hacking, Metasploit framework|
|Real-World Bug Hunting: A Field Guide to Web Hacking||No Starch Press||Writing secure code, security vulnerability, bug bounty programs|
|RTFM: Red Team Field Manual||CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform||Red team members, Python, Windows PowerShell|
|Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking||Wiley||Social engineering threats, security flaws|
|The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws||Wiley||Security of web applications, remote frameworks|
The 10 Best Hacking Books: A Closer Look
Ethical hacking books cover different aspects of hacking, including growth hacking tactics and security threats. Whether you’re a beginner who needs a step-by-step guide or a pro looking to learn advanced techniques, there’s always something new to learn in cyber security. The list below gives details about each title, so you can choose the best hacking book for your needs.
1. Advanced Penetration Testing: Hacking the World’s Most Secure Networks
- Author: Will Allsopp
- Best for: Advanced learners and professional hackers
This book covers advanced topics that experienced penetration testers and network security professionals need to know to protect high-security network environments and prevent data breaches. Learn about the advanced threats presented by professional black hat hackers and how to combat them through advanced techniques.
2. The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing
- Author: Patrick Engebretson
- Best for: Security consultants and professionals
A comprehensive guide in a slim package, this book covers a wide range of topics in penetration testing, security, and hacking. The practical examples are integrated into each chapter, making it easy to practice. It’s a complete step-by-step guide to penetration testing and tools like Google Reconnaissance, Nessus, Metasploit, Netcat, and Hacker Defender rootkit.
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3. The Hacker Playbook 3: Practical Guide To Penetration Testing
- Author: Peter Kim
- Best for: Intermediate and red teams
This book is a part of a three-book series of easy-to-understand guides for ethical hackers and penetration testers. You’ll learn practical and effective hacking tools to identify entry points and testing environments. Red team members can improve their hacking skills, such as creating simulations that mirror attack paths and detect vulnerabilities in any company’s defenses.
4. Hacking: The Art of Exploitation
- Author: Jon Erickson
- Best for: Intermediate and security professionals or ethical hackers
Popular among advanced books for pros, this book will help you build a technical foundation for applying network and systems security measures. You will be able to exploit network communications, wireless traffic, passwords, open ports, and system memories. You will also learn to write scripts using Linux and C programming languages from a hacker’s perspective.
5. Kali Linux Revealed: Mastering the Penetration Testing Distribution
- Author: Raphael Hertzog and Jim O’Gorman
- Best for: All levels of information security professionals
Learn all of the secrets of the security platform and operating system Kali Linux, a widely-used platform by beginner hackers and professionals alike. After reading this book, you will be able to set up Kali Linux on any platform, configure packages, and develop code. This is an essential guide for those who want to use Kali Linx to practice hacking techniques.
6. Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to Hacking
- Author: Georgia Weidman
- Best for: Beginners and cyber security analysts
The book for beginners is designed to equip penetration testers and information security experts with the skills needed to identify vulnerabilities and security weaknesses. Hands-on examples help you move beyond the basic concepts of placing security safeguards and testing them.
This complete beginners guide covers how to crack passwords, bypass antivirus software, and system exploitations, and it includes exercises for assessing virtual labs for weak points.
7. Real-World Bug Hunting: A Field Guide to Web Hacking
- Author: Peter Yaworski
- Best for: Beginner and intermediate learners
One of the newest books on this list, Real-World Bug Hunting has some of the most up-to-date information. The topics covered include cross-site scripting, server-side request forgery, vulnerability types, and common hacking attacks. If you enjoy scenario-based learning with practical examples, you will enjoy the case studies presented in this book.
8. RTFM: Red Team Field Manual
- Author: Ben Clark
- Best for: Red team members and hackers with some experience
This is a compact and affordable reference guide that covers Linux and Windows syntax for hacking programmers. It assumes you know the basics, so it’s a great refresher on Windows command line tools, scripting, WMIC, dsquery, key registry values, and red team techniques. A handy desk reference, professionals will find themselves using it frequently.
9. Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking
- Author: Christopher Hadnagy
- Best for: Intermediate hackers and social engineers
The best-laid defense can’t account for human error and emotion. This is where social engineering comes in. Social engineering is a person influencing another person to disclose sensitive information that can be used for hacking. This hacking guide offers a different perspective on the methods used by malicious hackers and how to defend against them.
10. The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws
- Author: Dafydd Stuttard and Marcus Pinto
- Best for: Beginners
This is an insightful book if you want to focus on web applications. It covers HTTP, CSS, fraudulent transactions, attack techniques, cloud architectures, hybrid file attacks, and the exploitation of websites. You will learn how sensitive data in web applications can be vulnerable to attacks. Interactive lab work to test vulnerabilities will keep you engaged.
Alternative Ways to Learn Hacking
You can learn ethical hacking through hacking apprenticeships. Here, you’ll get a strong foundation in programming languages for hacking, first-hand hacking experience, and the opportunity to put advanced concepts into practice.
You can also attend a bootcamp to learn coding. Bootcamps provide intensive, short-term education and career support to curate your path in ethical hacking. BrainStation, Coding Dojo, and Flatiron School all offer programs that specifically focus on cyber security.
Alternatively, you can focus on learning programming languages like Python for hacking as a first step. Then you can get familiar with advanced penetration testing techniques and learn cyber security foundations. Once you’ve learned the fundamentals, you’ll need to keep up on your skills and the current trends through practice. Hacking is always changing and adapting, so hands-on experience is a must.
Is Learning Hacking Worth It?
Yes, learning hacking is worth it. Cyber attacks are on the rise, with black hat hackers constantly looking for new ways to breach security networks. These constant threats mean job security for ethical hackers, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a 33 percent growth in job opportunities for information security analysts over the next 10 years.
With a background in hacking, you can find jobs testing security systems at all types of companies and organizations. This is an exciting career path suitable for professionals with good problem-solving skills. These jobs are also well-paid, with a median annual pay of $102,600, according to BLS.
Ethical hacking is the use of penetration testing to make sure that a system’s security measures hold up to cyber attacks. Cyber security is aimed at minimizing threats to the system.
No, ethical hacking and cyber security are not the same. They use different techniques to achieve the common goal of making systems, networks, and information secure from malicious actors.
Yes, ethical hacking is a good career path because information technology is growing and the need for ethical hackers will not diminish. There are different high-paying job opportunities that you can pursue for a career in ethical hacking as an ethical hacker.
No, ethical hacking is not easy, but it’s worth pursuing. It requires a lot of time and dedication to learn programming languages, techniques, and aspects of computer systems security, and the information changes frequently. To become an ethical hacker, you can learn hacking at home through ethical hacking books, by attending bootcamps, or by taking classes or courses from other online learning platforms.
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