Why I started hacking

I thought I’d write this because of the number of questions I get about how I got started hacking, so here’s the story:

*Note: infosec and cybersecurity are used interchangeably.

I started ‘hacking’ when I was 12 years old. I got an Xbox 360 the year before, and loved playing Call of Duty. After about a year, it started getting a little boring, but one day I joined a random game, which happened to be a ‘10th prestige lobby’, or a hacked lobby. I remember being so amazed as everyone flew through the air with infinite health and ammo, doing all kinds of things I’d never thought about, like shooting jet airplanes into the ground. It only lasted about 5 minutes, but I got to see hacking for the first time. I decided I wanted to make my own hacked lobby so I could do it whenever I wanted.

There were a few challenges to overcome in the beginning. When I was 12 years old, I was actually behind on technology. I read a lot of books, but didn’t use computers very much, and didn’t know basics like what a web browser actually was. The only thing I knew about computers was I could google questions, and Wikipedia knew everything. These are still my primary tools, which I try to emphasize to people when they ask about how hacking actually works.

So for the first few months, I got caught up in technology. I entered the rabbit hole, starting with the question ‘how to hack Call of Duty’. I learned what the internet was in practical terms, learned about electricity and programming and what a computer was doing when you go online. But most importantly, I learned how to google. I learned how to find information quickly, and this is by far the most important skill I believe everyone should have, but very few actually do. There’s an art to knowing how to word questions, scan fast, and find information quickly. Considering the tens to hundreds of questions I google everyday, finding information quickly is essential. If your starting in any field, learn how to find information quickly first.

Trouble

About a year after endeavoring into making a hacked lobby, I finally did so, only to get banned a week later for hacking. Go figure. At the time, I thought I was going to get in trouble with the police, so I actually stopped for awhile. When you’re 13, you don’t want to get in trouble whatsoever, and I was scared. Some time later, probably only a few months, Anonymous started getting in the news as they hacked several institutions. One report in particular grabbed my attention, about the tool they used called the Low Orbit Ion Cannon. The LOIC is a ddos tool they used to take down some major websites. Just the name sounded so cool, I wanted an ion cannon too, so I jumped on google and downloaded the first app I could find. As it turned out, it was a Trojan, and I started getting ads everywhere. Go figure. But from there I knew I had to learn more. Everything involving computers was on the internet. I could do everything the professionals do right from my desk. All the information about hacking, the internet, malware, programming, it was all there. The rest is history, and 8 years later I’m going strong. What I really love about cybersecurity is the accessibility of everything. You can be at the level of the best professionals with enough time and practice, enough researching. I don’t believe cybersecurity, or any field for that matter, depends on talent. I firmly believe interest and hard work are what makes someone an expert in what they do. People think I’m naturally good with computers, but they don’t see the years of work I’ve put in to get to where I am. If you work on something multiple hours a day for years, it’s nearly impossible you won’t be at least decent at it.

I got my first internship when I was 16 as a programmer in VB.NET, which was my best language considering 90% of the malware on hackforums is VB.NET, which is where I learned both about malware and programming from. I always joke about it because I didn’t have my driver’s license so my parents had to drive me to the interview.

So if this story has inspired you to pick up a book start googling, the next post will have some tips and resources that helped me to get from 0 to where I am now, an 1337 über hax0r ready to hack all things. Or just someone who loves tech, that’s cool too.

Thanks for reading.