Ethical Hacking: How to Hack a Web Server


When engaging in ethical hacking, a hacker looks for vulnerabilities. There are many reasons for an ethical hacker to try to gain unauthorized control of a web server, although the main reason is to test a server and its software for vulnerabilities.

Using the same tools and methods that malicious attackers rely on, you can attempt to gain access to a server. If successful, you can identify the necessary fixes and upgrades that need to be done to improve security and to detect and respond to malicious activity.

Gather information

The first phase of any hacking attempt usually involves gathering information about the affected target. This includes identifying the target system and collecting important details about its IP address, operating system, hardware, network configuration and infrastructure, DNS records, etc.

This can be done in a number of ways, but most often it is done using automated tools that scan a server for known vulnerabilities. Information about the physical hardware of a target system can be found by a variety of means, often by carefully examining the responses sent by various software subsystems when initializing (or even sometimes rejecting) incoming connections. This information can then be used to refine the types of software known to commonly run on various hardware configurations.

Hackers use tools that can test a variety of security issues, including misconfiguration of software present on the targeted server, the presence of common or unchanged default passwords, outdated software that needs updating or patching, and similar security concerns.

Recognition tools

  • HTTrack: an open source web crawler that allows users to download entire websites to a local offline computer for forensic analysis
  • Maltego: An open source link analysis and data mining tool
  • Nessus: a vulnerability assessment scanner that checks for conditions such as software misconfiguration or depreciation, insecure or missing passwords, and denials of service (Learn more …)


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