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Top 20 Ethical Hacking Interview Questions and Answers


Ethical hacking involves legally breaking into computers and devices to test an organization’s defenses. It's a crucial aspect of cybersecurity, helping to identify vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can exploit them. By simulating cyberattacks, ethical hackers provide insights into security weaknesses and recommend improvements. This proactive approach protects sensitive data and ensures the integrity of systems.

For beginners, knowledge of ethical hacking can be a significant advantage in job interviews. It demonstrates a deep understanding of cybersecurity principles and hands-on experience with tools and techniques. Employers value candidates who can think like hackers to better defend against threats, making ethical hacking skills highly sought after in the industry.

Q1: What is Hacking?

A: Hacking is simply finding an alternative or unintended use of computer hardware or software to enhance their applications and solve problems. Hacking is using the technology available in new and counterintuitive ways to solve problems that conventional techniques cannot. It is only in our current digital age that hacking has become synonymous with bypassing security, illegally accessing another person’s computer, and wreaking havoc.

Q2: What Is The Difference Between A Virus And A Worm?

A: Virus: A type of malware that attaches itself to programs. It spreads when these programs or documents are shared via networks, file sharing, disks, or infected email attachments.

Worm: Similar to viruses, but can spread independently without a host program or human help. Worms can use encryption, ransomware, and wipers to cause harm.

Q3: Why Is Python Used For Hacking?

A: Python is the most popular scripting language for hackers because it has many useful features. It includes built-in libraries with powerful functions, making it especially handy for hacking.

Q4: What Is Cowpatty?

A: Cowpatty is a tool for performing offline dictionary attacks on WPA/WPA2 networks that use PSK-based authentication (like WPA-Personal). It can execute attacks more efficiently with a precomputed PMK (Pairwise Master Key) file for the network's SSID.

Q5: What Is MAC Flooding?

A: MAC Flooding is a technique that compromises the security of a network switch. The hacker sends a large number of frames to overwhelm the switch. When overloaded, the switch sends packets to all ports like a hub. The attacker can then try to capture packets to steal sensitive information from the network

Q6: What Tools Are Used For Ethical Hacking?

A: The most popular tools for ethical hacking are:

  • John the Ripper

  • Metasploit

  • Nmap

  • Acunetix

  • Wireshark

  • SQLMap

  • OpenVAS

  • IronWASP

  • Nikto

  • Netsparker

Q7: What Are The Stages Of Hacking?

A: Hacking has five main stages:

  1. Reconnaissance: This is also called footprinting or information gathering. The hacker collects as much information as possible about the target, including details about the host, network, and DNS records.

  2. Scanning: Using the data from survey to examine the network.

  3. Gaining access: Hackers use various tools and techniques to enter the system or network.

  4. Maintaining access: Once inside, hackers keep their access for future use. They use tools like trojans and rootkits to stay hidden.

  5. Covering tracks: Hackers hide their activities to avoid detection. They might change or delete logs, uninstall applications, and remove any traces of their work.

Q8: What Is Keylogging?

A: A malicious hacker may use simple software, known as a keylogger, to record every keystroke that is typed on a computer keyboard. The software then stores the information in a log file on your computer, allowing the hacker to retrieve it later. The log file may contain passwords to various accounts as well as personal email IDs.

Q9: Explain Denial Of Service (DoS) Attack.

A: This is a form of attack where a hacker floods a server or website with the tone of traffic requests to bring down the server. The target server or site will be unable to handle the large volume of requests in real-time, resulting in a crash. Hackers can perform this kind of attack by deploying zombie computers or botnets whose sole job is to send constant request packets to targeted systems.

A hacker may also launch a DoS attack on an individual instant messenger user. The user’s system will be flooded with messages from multiple user accounts, all created by the hacker, thus causing the system to become unstable and hang.

Q10: Explain Reconnaissance.

A: Reconnaissance is collecting information about the person or organization you want to target. It is a passive approach that mainly involves using publicly available resources to find information. There is a lot of information on the Internet, so you will have to be patient and diligent.

Hackers are able to target individuals in an organization, specific departments, or the entire company. Once you have settled on a specific target, you can browse for information about your target by using any search engine available. The aim is to learn as much as possible.

Q11: What Are The Different Types Of Hackers?

A: Today, hackers are generally divided into:

  1. Black hat hackers: These are criminals who intentionally break into systems and steal information or money. They are also known as malicious hackers or crackers, and they usually hack devices for selfish purposes.

  2. White hat hackers: These are also known as ethical hackers. They only hack devices and systems to find potential vulnerabilities and then figure out ways of preventing those weaknesses from being exploited. White hackers ensure that they release updates to the public to patch up system vulnerabilities. They are constantly searching for new vulnerabilities in systems and devices to make them more efficient and secure. This is not an easy task, so ethical hackers form communities to share their knowledge.

  3. Grey hat hackers: These are hackers who are motivated by profit as well as ethical reasons. They tend to use both legal and illegal means to exploit a system. They gain access to a person's systems, inform them of the vulnerability they have found, and then provide suggestions on how to improve their security.

Q12: What Are The Skills Required To Be An Ethical Hacker?

A: There are specific skills and requirements that you must have to become a hacker, such as:

  1. Mid-level computer skills: Your computer skills must involve more than typing and browsing the Internet. You must be able to use the Windows command module effectively or create a network.

  2. Networking skills: Hacking is predominantly online activity, so you need to understand the terms and concepts related to online networks, such as routers, packets, ports, public and private IPs, WEP and WPS passwords, DNS, TCP/IP, subnetting and many others.

  3. Database skills: It is important to learn and master database management systems (e.g., MySQL, and Oracle) to understand the techniques hackers use to penetrate your databases.

  4. Use of Linux OS: Most hackers use the Linux operating system because, unlike Mac and Windows, it allows you to tweak programs. Nearly all the hacking tools you will come across are developed for Linux.

  5. Understand security concepts and technologies: There are many elaborate security concepts and technologies in the field of information technology. As a hacker, you must know the ones that are most important for your use, such as firewalls, Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), among others.

  6. Reverse engineering skills: This involves taking a piece of software or hardware apart to understand how it works and then converting it into a technically advanced tool. One of the things you will realize is that most hackers can make better hacking tools by reverse engineering the malware of other hackers. With such skills, you can be a more effective hacker.

Q13: What Are The Different Forms Of Attacks?

A: There are generally three broad forms of attacks that hackers can launch against a system. These are Physical, Syntactic, and Semantic.

Physical attack: In a physical attack, hackers use traditional weapons like fire or bombs to destroy data. It may also involve breaking into buildings and stealing equipment or even rummaging through garbage cans to find valuable information (passwords, intellectual property, network diagrams, etc.).

Syntactic attack: A syntactic attack is where a virus, worm, Trojan horse, or malware is used to penetrate and disrupt a system. One of the most common ways this attack is carried out is via email.

Semantic attack: A semantic attack is where a hacker subtly approaches a target, gains their confidence, and causes the system to generate errors or erratic results. The hacker can modify information and pass it off as genuine or disseminate inaccurate information

Q14: How Does Clickjacking Work?

A: This technique is also known as user-interface redressing. A hacker hides a piece of malicious coding underneath a genuine button or link on a website. When an unsuspecting user clicks on the button or link, the code is activated. In other words, you click on something that you physically see, but a virtual and unintended result occurs.

For example, a user can go to a website and, once they are done, decide to click the “X” button in the top right corner to close the window. However, they don’t know that a hacker has invisibly placed a button underneath that will trigger the download of a Trojan horse, turn on the computer’s webcam, or delete the firewall rules. The website may be legitimate, but it has been hacked and manipulated. Alternatively, a hacker may replicate a well-known website and post links online or send people emails with the links.

Q15: Explain Social Engineering Hacking.

A: Hacking using social engineering is all about taking advantage of the weakest component of every organization’s security—its people. In other words, social engineering is hacking the people rather than the system itself. The technique used is gaining the trust of people in order to maliciously exploit them and obtain information for profit.

Social engineering can be a very difficult hack to pull off, considering the boldness and skill required to get a total stranger to trust you. However, it is also the hardest hack to prevent because every individual is responsible for his or her own security decisions.

Q16: What Is The Use Of Spyware?

A: Spyware is computer software that a hacker installs on a victim’s computer to collect sensitive information without their knowledge. The software can be installed remotely without the hacker gaining physical contact with the victim's computer. Unlike worms and viruses, spyware is not meant to transmit to other devices.

Hackers know that a user will never download spyware willingly, so they usually piggyback it onto legitimate software such as popular web utility tools or even anti-spyware that they are being spied on. Some spyware is even bundled with music CDs or shareware. 

A user can also be tricked into clicking a button or link that, on the surface, appears to protect them from unwanted downloads. For example, a dialog box may pop up with an ad about the free optimization of a computer system. The user is requested to click the Yes or No button, but spyware is still downloaded regardless of the button clicked.

Q17: What Are The Main Things To Consider When Formulating A Hacking Plan?

A: It is important to first get the required approval for security testing. Ensure that the people responsible for giving authorization know what you are doing and keep them in the loop. Once your project has obtained sponsorship, you must define your testing objectives. Sponsorship simply refers to finding someone to back you up and sign off on the plan, for example, a client or maybe even yourself, in case you are testing your system.

It is possible that the system could crash during testing, so a detailed plan is necessary. It doesn’t have to be very complicated, but it must have a clearly defined scope. The following information should be a part of your plan:

  1. Determine the most critical and vulnerable systems that must be tested first. These can include server passwords or email phishing. Once the core areas have been tested, you can cascade down to all the other systems.

  2. Assess the risks involved. It is important to always have a contingency plan in case a hacking process goes wrong. Determine how people and systems will be affected beforehand.

  3. Define the actions to be taken in case major vulnerabilities are found. There’s always a weakness somewhere, so the excuse that you can’t find any simply won’t cut it. If you discover a few security weaknesses, let the key players know about them ASAP so they can be plugged in immediately.

Q18: Give Some Examples Of Social Engineering.

A: Some examples of social engineering include:

Support personnel– Hackers claim they require a user to install a software patch or update. They convince the victim to download the software, and the hackers can access the victim’s system remotely.

Product vendors—Hackers pose as vendors of a particular product that the organization relies on, such as the phone system or accounting software. They claim they need to update the existing systems and request the administrator password.

Employees—Some Employees may pretend that they have misplaced their access badges for the organization’s data center. They inform the security department, which hands them keys, only for them to gain unauthorized entry to digital and physical records.

Phishing—Criminal hackers send malicious emails with links that trigger malware and viruses to be downloaded onto the victim’s computer. Thus, they can gain control of the system and steal data.

Q19: Explain Salting.

A: Salting is the process of adding pieces of information (the “salt”) to a password before hashing it. This makes the password harder to guess using a basic cracking algorithm since the password is no longer in plain, simple words. For example, a user may create a password out of the hundreds of thousands of thousands of English words in a dictionary. After encryption, a random 32-bit salt is added to the original password. 

This makes a hacker’s pre-calculated hashes useless. A hacker must now calculate the hash for every word and calculate the correct salt from 4,294,967,296 possibilities. A hacker must now contend with possible inputs of about 800 trillion hashes! Yes, the password the user created may be simple, but adding salt can make hacking it way more difficult. It must still be noted that salting only hinders cracking utilities that rely on hashes if a cracking program relies on rapid input. Salting won't be as effective, such as brute-force or a dictionary attack.

Q20: How Do Rainbow Tables Work? And What Are Some Of Its Downsides?

A: This mode of attack is pre-computed, unlike dictionary and brute force methods, where a hacker has to enter a password into the user’s system and then compare it to the original password. When using rainbow tables, hashes are first computed for every word in a dictionary and stored in a hash table. The rainbow tables then retrieve the user’s hashed password from the system and compare it to the list of passwords in the hash table.

The downside with this method is that the tables require a huge storage space on your hard drive. Different plaintext passwords will result in different hashed passwords containing different salts. This means that every salt would need its table. If a DES crypt () function is being used, the number of salt values would be 4,096, thus making rainbow tables not feasible even with a 4-character password. This is no longer a big problem since memory is much cheaper nowadays, but the need for large storage space tends to discourage this cracking method.

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