Many youngsters are interested in cybersecurity aspects with the increase and widespread of cybersecurity concepts and career opportunities. Ethical hacking is one of the major topics that gained a lot of attention and interest. There has been a rise in data breaches, ransomware, compromised data by various means, etc. To catch a hacker, it is important to think like one. Ethical hackers are skilled professionals/ security experts who hack the networks/systems of an organization based on an agreement with the organization to identify vulnerabilities and loopholes that a hacker can exploit. The most basic element to successfully hack a system or a network, or a profile is to concentrate on the basics of hacking. The first and foremost step in ethical hacking is footprinting and reconnaissance. Footprinting is the technique/method used to collect as much data as possible to infiltrate/exploit the system and networks successfully. An Ethical Hacker needs to understand the importance of footprinting and how meticulously it should be done.
Footprinting and Its Importance
Footprinting is the process of gathering information using which hackers can make cyberattacks on the victim’s system, network, or application, based on collected data and found vulnerabilities. This information plays an important role got the hackers.
In ethical hacking, companies and industries need professionals. As it is the first phase of hacking, it is necessary to develop a proper understanding of the entire process. Organized footprinting of a target allows the attacker to get a blueprint of the target’s security posture. Footprinting enables hackers to gain the basic security configurations of a target machine through network routers and data flow. When the attacker finds the vulnerabilities that the subject focuses on a specific area of the target machine, it enables the hacker to identify which attack is more useful to hack the target system.
Types of Footprinting
There are two types of footprinting. Those are as follows:
1. Active Footprinting
Active footprinting is the process of gathering detailed information by directly contacting or communicating with the target, system, or network. There are chances of neglecting or saving some information like IP address; the target system can save it.
2. Passive Footprinting
Passive foot printing is the process of gathering detailed information without directly contacting or communicating with the target, system, or network. It may be done by various methods like google search or information available in public records. There are no chances of drop or save any information by the system or network in this type of foot printing.
Sub-branches of Footprinting
1. Open-Source Footprinting
As the name suggests, open-source foot printing means collecting the data that is available and open for everyone. This footprinting is safe and can lie under legal reach. Hackers can perform it without fear as the sources from which the data is collected can be accessed by anyone. This type may include obtaining details from targeted websites like someone’s contact number and email, scanning IP address, recognizing age, date of birth, address, gender, etc. Companies post information about their companies on their Websites about or contact section without understanding that anyone can benefit from data to hack the system.
2. Network-Based Footprinting
Network-based footprinting is the subbranch in which hackers access information from shared data in any network, shared within groups and various network services. The information includes username, id, and other sensitive information required to hack the system.
3. DNS Interrogation
After collecting information required from all areas with the help of various footprinting techniques, hackers do DNS Interrogation multiple tools are available online.
What Kind of Information can be Gathered from footprinting?
The information is gathered from different sources like:
1. Social Media
Many people have the habit of releasing most of their information online. Hackers use their personal information as an advantage. They happen to create a fake account for looking real to be added as a friend or to follow someone’s account for taking up their data.
2. Job Website
Organizations give out some confidential data on many job websites like Monster India, Naukri, etc. For instance, a company posted on a website like Job Openings for Lighttpd 2.0 Server Administrator. From this data, it can gather that an organization uses the Lighttpd web server of version 2.0.
It is one of the strongest search engines. Google can perform more powerful searches than one can think and one can do. The hackers or attackers can use it so they perform something illegal called Google hacking. More damage can occur with basic search techniques combined with advanced operators. Sever operators exist like “inurl:”,” allinurl:”,” filetype:”, etc.
4. Social Engineering
Social engineering is a technique of cheating people, so they reveal confidential information, which includes passwords, bank information, or access to your data.
Many techniques come under this category. They are:
- Eavesdropping: Eavesdropping is an act that means secretly or privately listening to the private conversation or communications without their notice to gain data.
- Shoulder Surfing: Attacker tries to gain the personal information like email id, password, etc., of the victim by observing over the victim’s shoulder while entering(typing/writing) his/her details for some work.
- Phishing: Sometimes, the attacker may trick the victim into grabbing his personal information. A method that can use for this is the method “Phishing.” Phishing is creating websites, but it also inserts malware or spreads viruses through attachments or malicious links.
5. Who is
This Website serves a good purpose for Hackers. It gives information about the domain name, email-id, domain owner, etc. can be trace to all these details.
Techniques for footprinting
1. Google Hacking
As from the name, this method does not involve hacking Google. This is like a medium in which you can collect information from the Google search engine easily.
By using Search engines, we may get many uncommon but specific search results from the internet. Using these techniques, hackers and attackers perform a search using advanced operators. These operators can uncover much sensitive information that can easily harm the target and should not be revealed.
2. Port Scanning
To identify which ports on a network are open, the port scan is a good method. Performing a port scan on a network or server reveals which ports are open and listening and discloses the presence of security devices such as firewalls present in between the sender and the target.
Tools: NSLookup does DNS queries and zone transfer.
Network maps of the target are created using Tracert.
The attackers will create a network map that targets the user after port scanning and trace routing are done.
3. Ping Sweep
Ping sweep is performed by a hacker when they want to know on which machine the networks are currently working. ICMP packets are used by ping to send echo requests towards the target system, and then it waits for an echo reply. If a device is unreachable, then the message’ request time out’ is displayed, but it will send back an echo reply if the device is online and still not responding. Some tools are mentioned below, which can be used to achieve ping sweeps through active devices on the target network.
- Angry IP scanner
- Super Scan
- Pinger etc.
Countermeasures for Footprinting
Here are some countermeasures to avoid attacks on the footprint.
- Using firewalls can help to block the vent to prevent unauthorized access.
- We need to create a security policy to regulate information that employees can reveal to third parties and educate them about different cyberattacks and tricks.
- Try to avoid posting confidential data on social media, and encryption and password protection give more security.
- Always use TCP/IP and IPsec protocols.
Proper configuration of web servers to avoid loss of information about system configuration
Ethical hacking is an emerging field, and ethical hackers are essential to secure the systems and networks. Companies and industries require professional, ethical hackers. One who wants to be an ethical hacker or who is an ethical hacker should have a great understanding of ethical hacking concepts. Even it seems small, but every point should be clear about ethical hacking. Footprinting is an essential concept. In ethical hacking, footprinting is a method used to gather as much as footprinting is a method that requires information to develop a proper plan in dealing with other ethical hacking.
Ethical hackers can mitigate the consequences of footprinting by detecting various vulnerabilities and weaknesses that can lead to data exploitation. Organizations are looking for ethical hackers to protect them against footprinting, malware attacks, and many other cybercrimes. This makes now the best time to step into the ethical hacking career as organizations across the globe highly demand it. One of the best ways to learn ethical hacking is through certification, and EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is a globally accepted and valuable certification of ethical hacking. It provides training on fundamental ethical hacking concepts that will enable one to legally hack into systems. The certifications cover the latest tools, techniques, and methodologies used by malicious hackers and ethical hacking professionals. It also provides hands-on practical training to solve complex problems in the ethical hacking world.