Future (Ethical) Hacker Wants to Understand Computers

Recently, I asked a question about learning ethical hacking. https://discuss.codecademy.com/t/complete-ignoramus-looking-for-advice-on-ethical-hacking-d/417600/9

I also discussed it with my dad, who is not a hacker but pretty good with computers. He said one of the main roadblocks I am up against is that I don’t really understand computers and operating systems.

He’s totally right. If somebody starts talking something like Linux vs. OS X, my eyes glaze over and I go find something else to do before my brain shuts down completely. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

So my question is, where do I start? You can assume I know nothing, because that’s pretty much accurate!

Thanks in advance!


So…why do you want to be a ‘hacker’?
If something like linux or other operating systems doesn’t jump out at you as exciting then why force yourself down a path?? Is there something about computers that DOES interest you?

Not to discourage you from your goal, just food for thought.


Oh…why did you have to ask that question?!

Just kidding! I actually really appreciate somebody who will say, “OK, step back and think about why you want to do this.”, so I’m grateful that you did.

The answer:

Computers in general do interest me. When I say

I just mean that it’s WAAAAY over my head. But I’m eager to learn. I think my problem is just that I need someone to point me in the right direction.

I think I’m fairly adept at using a computer, by the way. I have enough experience at least to like a Mac better than a Windows, and to know that Internet Explorer is probably the worst cybercrime ever committed. :stuck_out_tongue:

Basically, I can use a computer pretty well, but I don’t understand the finer points of how they work.

Thank you!

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Well, it all takes time to learn. You wont know everything in a week :wink: but you can learn a lot within that time (just to compare). All of this takes time. Ethical hacking is something I want to do as well, but my family doesnt know much about coding at all, so I’m pretty much learning everything on my own.

You can learn about computers with your dad since he knows about those types of things, and you can just learn on your own as well (both). You can learn more about an OS by using one and/or just doing some research/reading on it, but you can understand those things best when using it (in my opinion).

Don’t feel discouraged though, it’s good when people make these kinds of points, and it’ll help you figure what direction you should go in.


Thanks for the encouraging advice!

I do like to learn by doing, but the thing is, for me at least, is that then I know what works, but I don’t know why it works. I never grew out of the 5-year-old “Why? Why? Why?” stage—just ask my dad. It drives him crazy. :stuck_out_tongue:

Speaking of whom, I definitely agree, he’d be a great source, but if I ask him, then he’ll know what I’m doing. Ehhh, he probably already knows, since he sees all my internet activity, but I really want to surprise him by knowing some things he didn’t know I knew. I’ll ask him eventually, but first I’d like to try to surprise him! :smiley:

All that to say, do you have any sources you would recommend for me to read the “why it works” about the “what works”?

P.S. I just read your profile—I was homeschooled too! It’s the best!


I think he’ll be fine with it :slight_smile: , I dont find that kind of interest to be a bad thing. These days we need more tech people. Here where I am, I’ve met a few people doing/learning Cybersecurity. It was cool and really encouraging :smile:

I don’t wanna sound like a a total noob or anything because I’m not, but honestly, I learn from the mistakes that I make. I like to get something and take it apart and learn about each piece and get to know it better, like computers and why this and that works.
If the day is peaceful, try to look for an interesting book or a good article on the internet. Start small, and start in a place that will interest you (or where you feel comfortable) and go from there. We all have different ways of learning :slight_smile: .

Someone can jump in on this if they’d like, but I’ve never really found a captivating book or blog on cybersecurity/ethical-hacking that interested me. I just started somewhere and looked for more information on things as I learned. Try to keep a steady path, do what works for you.
I know some of the learning will probably not be fun… or -yawns- boring :stuck_out_tongue: , but in the end you’ll have the facts/information down and that’s important.

it is indeed :wink: . I love it!


Haha, yeah, I’m pretty sure he’ll be fine with it. I didn’t mean that I was trying to hide it from him, because he already knows I’m interested. I just meant I like to see the, “Hey, how did you figure that out on your own?” look on his face. Maybe I’m a little too interested in impressing the teacher, but that was my only reason. Not like I was trying to be sneaky. :smiley:

Just curious, does that mean you’ve taken an actual computer apart? Or was that figurative?


I’d be the same way :stuck_out_tongue:

I have a couple times out of curiosity :wink: , but I mean just learn about the computer OS itself :slight_smile: . You could get a virtualbox and play around with some OSes, and it’s not just about stuff like: “well I know what kind of apps a linux has and etc” , It’s just knowing the basic concepts (as a starting point), knowing terms (small example: what’s the kernal), and etc. It’s also a good idea to get a feel for the Command Line/Terminal in the near future. (Codecademy has a course for that, to help you get started whenever you’re ready).

I think just starting with learning about OSes and a simple programming language is good (in my opinion). Once you start using a certain OS for a while/decent amount in different ways than just using the browser, you will learn much more about it :slight_smile:


Perfect! My dad said literally four days ago that he wanted me to master Command Line/Terminal for using at work. (I work for him.)

Yep, I’m now going to go look up “kernal”. :smile:


Thanks for your help.


You’re welcome :smile:. Good luck to you on your journey of learning! :smiley:


Thank you very much.


You know, there’s a sizeable body of information that you’re going to need to assimilate before even beginning to venture into hacking, ethical or otherwise. And, yes, learning the command line would be a great way to start.

From your other post:

I can stumble around in HTML and CSS a little bit, and I can write and use like 5 basic SQL queries. And I’m supposed to know some basic PHP, although I really don’t.

While mastering the command line, it would be well to go back to those topics and firm up your knowledge to the point where you don’t have to apologize with phrases like "stumble around, " and “… although I really don’t.” (You might want to consider either adding Python to the mix or substituting for PHP.)

By the time you have done that, I’d guess in about three months if you are an assiduous worker, you’ll have amassed enough knowledge and experience to have some inkling of what you don’t know, and to begin to map a path to where you’d like to be.


I was just going to ask if I ought to do that! I’d seen someone else mention it as a good thing to know for this kind of work.

Excellent! I’ll work hard to get to that point, then. :slight_smile:

Thank you!


How important is it for someone in cybersecurity/hacking to know HTML and CSS? I mean, I know the “black hats” will mimic other websites to trick people and so I guess they would need to know it for that, but beyond that, is there much purpose it will serve?

Also are “black hat” and “white hat” actually terms in this realm, or are those pop culture terms that should be avoided at all costs if you want to be taken seriously?

@codinghawk , have you got anything in answer to this as well?


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Right-click on this page, select “view page source.” Unless you can make some sense of what you see there, I don’t think you’ll be doing much hacking.

Really, if this is what you want, stop spending time on this thread and begin to learn to some coding in depth. Your questions will be answered in time via side-trips to StackOverflow and elsewhere on the web, but right now, they are only delaying your progress.


If you’re gonna be pentesting for a company, or anything like that, you should definitely know these things. It’s a bad idea to know stuff like networking and some languages like Python and not know HTML/CSS at all. I believe it’s a necessity for anyone in any category of technology/coding/etc to know these things.

I use those terms to categorize hackers. But I wouldn’t worry about these things. :slight_smile:

True. It’s great asking questions, but best to dive into learning :slight_smile: . I never really asked questions on my journey… don’t think you shouldn’t though :frowning: . I just focused on a lot of learning and then when I had questions, I went to go find the answers to them


Both are hackers, but the former is less concerned with ethical practices and legality.


Well, I’m good on that one. :slight_smile: I’ve done that plenty of times at work.

I’ll take the advice; thanks!


Thanks for your help! I’ll set to work now. :smiley: