Hacking Is Problem Solving


People are always asking me “How do I hack?” That’s not an easy question to answer. It becomes a matter of learning. The question then becomes “How do I learn?” Now that is something that can be answered quite easily. Learning comes from an inbound curiosity and dedication to solving problems. A hacker is a problem solver, someone who will find a way around any obstacles to secure a resolution. Take for example my recent foray into lockpicking:

It only took one minute to rake the Masterlock padlock open with my inexpensive toolkit purchased from eBay. But this other one, an ancient and obsolete warded padlock posed a problem beyond my skill level and capabilities. I was officially stuck.

Nevertheless in this proof-of-work demonstrative photograph, you can see that the lock has in fact been opened. As a hacker, I had to solve my problem despite being personally incapable of doing so for myself. What did I do?

I went out for a jog on Monday, after sitting and contemplating all day Sun-Day, and made it down to Don’s Keyway in Fort Collins, my local neighborhood locksmith. I did not have to pay a dime to have the gentleman working there assist me with my problem, I just utilized some simple HUMINT skills to genuinely express interest in the craft and inquire why I had been stumped.

RESULT: Not only did I succeed in solving the original problem of opening the old lock, but I met a professional locksmith who was kind enough to answer questions which explained to me what I had been doing incorrectly and a better way to approach a similar problem in the future. I even got to see the tool used to open the lock and now know that warded padlocks are quite different than modern pinned locks. I was also inspired to jog down there which doubled the function of my sojourn into a chance for healthy exercise, and I was inspired to know that was seemed impossible to me took only thirty seconds for someone with more experience to accomplish.

You might ask yourself  “Why did I just read this article? It’s not even about hacking!” But let me tell you as a security researcher and business owner, and someone who has come into contact with the intelligence apparatus and defense contractors, with deep cover experience and lots of fieldcraft expertise, this is precisely how you learn to hack (even computers!). Sometimes the tool you think you need to do a DDoS can’t put out enough juice, or maybe the script you ran last week for some reason isn’t working this time, maybe that link you clicked was a spear phish and now you’ve got a JAVA rootkit on your box. . .

Trust me the way is straight and narrow is the gate. The obstacles are many and they will increasingly thwart your operational progress. This is when the script kiddie n00bs who ask me on Facebook “How do I hack?” will crumble and falter. If you want to hack, you have to solve your problem and it may or may not have anything to do with the computer, the Kali Linux terminal—you may have to use a trick.