Learning to learn: tips for kicking off your hacking journey

Let’s start from the beginning – assuming you are a complete beginner venturing into the world of ethical hacking for the first time. Welcome!


There are a couple of key, must-know essentials that will help guide you along your journey to becoming an ethical hacker. This article is filled with tips and advice for anyone who is learning about hacking, wants to ask questions and effectively engage with the hacker community, and not be shunned from the get-go.


Already have considerable technical experience? Feel free to skip past this article, because it’s likely you already know much of what’s contained here!


While the purpose of these tutorials is to teach you hacking, in reality it’s actually something that requires self-teaching and self-learning. So if you’re serious about becoming a hacker, you will first need to understand how to learn.


Where can you ask for help with hacking?


It’s inevitable – when you’re learning something new for the first time, you’re guaranteed to have questions and need some help! There’s no shame in this either, it happens to everyone and is all part of the learning journey. However, you need to know the best ways and places to ask for help, when needed.


You’ll quickly discover there are a plethora of online communities and groups available for people to drop by and ask questions (or give answers to others). Some of the particularly popular ones include:


  • Information Security StackExchange – a question and answer site for information security professionals
  • r/Hacking on Reddit – subreddit dedicated to hacking and hackers
  • r/HowToHack on Reddit – subreddit for techniques and strategies for hacking
  • r/netsec on Reddit – subreddit for technical news and discussion of information security and related topics


How to ask for help with hacking?


Across forums, blogs and comment threads alike, they’re littered with responses to people’s questions with things like “Just Google it!” or “Please read the rules and code of conduct before posting!”.


While this is neither helpful nor encouraging, it’s worth understanding where these responders are coming from. As a beginner asking for help, what you’re actually doing is requesting that strangers across the world assist you. These strangers have zero obligation to you. So basically, you need to prove you’re worth helping in the first place!


Online communities are actually full of people who are willing and ready to help beginners, because at some stage everyone started at that point. However, you need to be engaged, approachable and eager to actually make an effort to do your part in learning.


“How to hack my mate’s FB?”


“Need hacking tool for this online game asap. Plz help.”


“Fake instructions…doesn’t even work.”


These are classic examples of what NOT to say! No one will want to help you if you come at them like this. Don’t be a noob.


When you ask for help on an online forum or community board, it’s essential you do so in a way that’s mindful and respectful of the other people’s time and attention. Not only will this help ensure that you receive a helpful, practical and useful reply, but it also becomes helpful for future beginners who might have similar questions and find your query in the future.


Here are a few key tips when asking a question online:


Google your question before asking – for many beginner questions, it’s super likely that it’s already been asked and answered by someone else already! Definitely worth doing a Google search to check for answers before asking. It’s also a lot faster than waiting for somebody to reply to your request. It’s also frustrating for others to see the same questions being asked time and time again. Don’t be annoying, and do some brief research first.


Use proper spelling and grammar – you’d be surprised at the difference it makes when you use good quality English when posting your question or message! On one hand, if your post is littered with slang, abbreviations and poor spelling it suggests you’re not putting very much effort in. On the other hand, it also may be indecipherable to some other readers, who won’t bother considering your question in the first place if it’s not easily understandable.


Be clear and concise – get straight to the point with your question or enquiry. Mention exactly what you’re trying to do, what you’ve already tried, and the problem you’re currently stuck on. It’s important to include that you’ve attempted already, because it also shows that you’re making the effort to figure things out yourself. That’s a positive attitude to have! Also outline specs of your system if relevant – including operating system, software versions, etc.


As long as you’re polite and genuine, people will be attracted to that and want to help out!


3 red flags to watch out for when asking for help


Here are some common red flags that are essentially warning signs to others that you’re just asking for selfish reasons rather than seeking knowledge or legitimate advice. As a beginner, stay far away from asking these types of questions because they’re sure to get you quickly shunned from the hacking community!


  1. Asking basic questions with an easily found answer on Google


I know we already mentioned this earlier, but it’s definitely worth bringing up again.


When you’re facing a challenge or problem as you embark on your journey to learn about ethical hacking, remember you’re not the first one to go down this path. In fact, many thousands of others have likely gone through the exact same process, and come across the same roadblocks and issues. Meaning it’s very likely that they’ve also asked their questions online!


Chances are the answers to your questions are already out their on the internet, ready and waiting to be discovered. So before coming across as someone who didn’t even try to find the answer, go out there and Google your question first. If you don’t easily find an appropriate response, then go ahead and post your problem on their forums or online communities. Feel free to mention you Googled similar issues but didn’t find useful information.


  1. Having expectations that are too high


Do you consider hacking to just be witchcraft or magic? Think hacking is only what you see in the movies – bringing down governments and corporations with some rapid tapping away on a keyboard? Want to steal billions of dollars with some well-place keystrokes and a powerful supercomputer?


No. Get it straight now – this isn’t what hacking is about, and learning hacking will not enable you to do this! Set aside the glamorized versions of hacking you’ve seen in film and the media, and realize what it’s actually about. There’s no top-secret program that will turn you into a mega-hacker overnight, and it’s not just a matter of learning some codes to get you into other networks and systems.


It takes effort, persistence and a whole heap of dedication to become a successful and effective hacker. So when you ask a question online, make sure you don’t come at it with the expectations that a good answer will set you out from the crowd and turn you into an overnight success. Nobody will write you a spoon-fed, custom tutorial to cater for your exact needs and questions, but take responses and answers with a grain of salt and apply them to your particular circumstances.


Be grateful and thankful for any answers you do receive, because it’s someone from somewhere around the world who spared a bit of their time to respond to you. They didn’t have to do this, yet they choose to do so. Don’t be needy or ungrateful, or nobody will both answering you or getting in touch with you again in the future. You’ll shoot yourself straight to the top of people’s “ignore” lists with a negative attitude.


  1. Asking unethical questions


This is a particularly major issue in the hacking community. There’s a distinct line between ethical hackers and black hat hackers, and you don’t want to go crossing that in online forums because it’s probable that you’ll be quickly shunned if posting in the wrong place, at the wrong time.


Is your only goal to hack your ex’s Facebook or Snapchat? Or do you only want to learn how to hack so you can get into your neighbour’s WiFi rather than having to use and pay for your own?


If you don’t have any inclination towards educating yourself and learning beyond the basic script kiddie styles, then don’t bother continuing. The ethical hacking community is not going to help you. To the pros and expert hackers out there, it’s easy to spot a totally noob question or a message from someone who wants to do something unethical. Intentions quickly become very evident, and nobody is fooled.


Don’t expect strangers across the internet to help bring to life your petty ambitions. Take your morality in your own hands and use it for good, then people will be willing to help you.


Get started with your learning journey now!


The world around us is changing at an ever-increasing pace, and it’s up to us as individuals to keep up with the tides and trends. From the revolutionising online world to the technological innovations bursting into the scene by the day, it takes time, effort and dedication to stay in the loop and to stay ahead.


This is why it’s so fundamentally important that you, as an aspiring hacker, learns how to learn. Because our collective intelligence and collaboration as a hacking community is what sets as apart. The effective exchange of information, data, tips, tricks, strategies and advice is crucial to maintaining a strong community of hackers who will continue to rise up and be successful in what we strive to achieve.


Join us, and get ready to get into hacking!

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