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16 Top Ethical Hacking Books in 2023 [Beginners to Expert]

With our world becoming increasingly digital, there is an ever-increasing demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals. With this blog, we will learn more about ethical hacking, guiding professionals on their path to mastering this critical cybersecurity domain via a carefully curated list of ethical hacking books to help you pick up the required skills and competencies. 

Table of Contents

Understanding Ethical Hacking

Ethical hacking, commonly known as penetration testing or white-hat hacking, involves the same tools, techniques, and procedures hackers employ but with one major difference— ethical hackers have permission to breach systems they test. Their primary goal? To discover vulnerabilities from a malicious hacker’s perspective to better enhance security.

Selecting the Ideal Ethical Hacking Course Book

Choosing the right ethical hacking books, beginner to advanced, is a step that aligns with your current knowledge level and your aspirations. Here are some points to consider:

  • Experience Level: Ensure the book aligns with whether you’re a beginner or an expert.
  • Comprehensive Content: It should cover various hacking tools, techniques, and the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape.
  • Hands-on Examples: It should have practical examples that aid understanding and application.
  • Up-to-date Information: The cyber world changes rapidly. A book from five years ago might be outdated in today’s scenario.
  • Reviews and Recommendations: Peer reviews can provide insights into the book’s usefulness.

Top Beginner-Friendly Ethical Hacking Books

Following is a list of books on ethical hacking primarily for beginners:

1. Hacking: The Art of Exploitation by Jon Erickson 

Recognised as the gold standard, Erickson’s book is more than just a guide—it’s a deep dive into the foundations of hacking. This comprehensive manual offers readers a holistic understanding, covering various topics from network security and cryptography to exploit development. 

It’s included in our list of hacking books for beginners because it thoroughly integrates diverse areas of ethical hacking into one cohesive narrative.

2. The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing by Patrick Engebretson 

Engebretson’s work emerges as a beacon for those just beginning their journey in a field riddled with complexities. An articulate breakdown of intricate subjects simplifies hacking elements, from scanning and enumeration to vulnerability assessment. 

Its brilliance lies in its ability to offer an unadulterated introduction while ensuring the in-depth coverage that forms the crux of our selection criteria for this list.

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3. The Hacker Playbook 2 by Peter Kim 

This sequel stands out in our selection for its sheer applicability. 

The world of ethical hacking demands more than just theoretical knowledge, and this is where Kim’s book thrives. Crafting meticulous step-by-step instructions on executing common hacking techniques, this is one of the top hacking books for beginners that acts as an invaluable asset, making it a practical compass in the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.

4. Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to Hacking by Georgia Weidman 

Weidman’s approach is distinctive—her book emphasises active learning. By integrating practical exercises and projects, this book ensures that readers not only absorb the theoretical nuances but also grapple with tangible hacking challenges, making it one of the best ethical hacking books

Its pragmatic methodology, combined with a comprehensive subject range, cements its position on our list.

5. The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook by Dafydd Stuttard and Marcus Pinto 

With the rapid growth of web applications, their unique vulnerabilities cannot be ignored. This book earns its spot by addressing these security challenges head-on. 

Stuttard and Pinto dive deep into threats like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and session management, sculpting a narrative essential for anyone vested in web security.

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6. Hacking: A Beginners’ Guide to Computer Hacking, Basic Security, and Penetration Testing by John Slavio 

Every expert was once a beginner; this book is the bridge to advanced knowledge. Slavio’s guide ensures a smooth transition, efficiently elucidating topics from network security and social engineering to the art of password cracking. 

Its strength lies in its ability to lay a robust foundational stone for ethical hacking, thus earning its inclusion in our list.

7. Computer Hacking Beginners Guide by James M. Brennan 

As part of the best hacking books for beginners, Brennan’s guide stands out for its exhaustive scope. It provides a panoramic view, delving into areas like networking, security frameworks, and even the basics of programming. 

Its comprehensive nature ensures that readers receive a well-rounded initiation, making it an irreplaceable resource for those seeking a sturdy foundation.

8. Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham 

Graham’s work is unique in our selection—it’s not just a hacking guide. Instead, it’s a thought leadership piece that offers readers a profound philosophical and historical insight into the hacker ethos and culture. 

By exploring the intersection between technology and its societal implications, this collection of essays propels readers to rethink hacking’s nature, validating its place in our compilation of ethical hacking books for beginners.

Book Name Author(s) Short Description
Hacking: The Art of Exploitation Jon Erickson A comprehensive delve into hacking establishes a foundational understanding, from network security to exploit development.
The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing Patrick Engebretson An introductory guide to ethical hacking, breaking down complex topics for easier comprehension.
The Hacker Playbook 2 Peter Kim A practical sequel to penetration testing, detailing hacking techniques for various skill levels.
Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to Hacking Georgia Weidman A blend of theoretical and hands-on hacking techniques, encouraging active engagement.
The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook Dafydd Stuttard and Marcus Pinto An in-depth analysis of web application vulnerabilities, from SQL injection to session management.
Hacking: A Beginners’ Guide to Computer Hacking, Basic Security, and Penetration Testing John Slavio A foundational guide for newcomers exploring network security, social engineering, and more.
Computer Hacking Beginners Guide James M. Brennan A holistic introduction to hacking, discussing security, networking, and basic programming.
Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age Paul Graham A thought-provoking essay collection offering philosophical insights into hacker culture and technological impact.

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Essential Reads for Ethical Hacking Professionals

Since professional white-hat hackers already have a basic understanding of the hacking world, the recommended books vary slightly from those recommended to beginners. Here is a specially curated list of the best ethical hacking books for professionals:

1. Gray Hat Hacking: The Ethical Hacker’s Handbook, Fifth Edition by Michael Gregg and David Kennedy 

A definitive exploration into the grey areas of ethical hacking, this is one of the best books to learn ethical hacking that stands out for its balanced perspective between white hat and black hat hacking. It extensively covers penetration testing, social engineering, and malware analysis, offering readers a comprehensive understanding. The authors, renowned experts in their field, underscore the relevance of ethical hacking in modern security challenges.

2. The Hacker’s Playbook 3: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing by Peter Kim 

As a sequel to its revered predecessors, this volume is tailored for experts aiming to sharpen their skills. Written by a seasoned professional, the book is a repository of step-by-step instructions on intricate hacking techniques, reflecting the latest advancements in the security landscape.

3. Practical Malware Analysis: The Hands-On Guide to Dissecting Malicious Software by Michael Sikorski and Andrew Honig

Prioritising hands-on experience, this guide equips readers to dissect and understand malware intricacies. Authored by two industry stalwarts, it presents detailed malware analysis, hands-on projects, and insights into evolving threats, ensuring a holistic approach to cybersecurity and becoming a part of our list of best books to learn hacking.

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4. Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking by Christopher Hadnagy 

Delving deep into the psychological facets of social engineering, Hadnagy’s work stands out for its emphasis on the human element of cybersecurity. A must-read for experts, this book offers comprehensive insights into persuasion, manipulation, and deception techniques, drawing from the author’s vast professional experiences.

5. Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C by Bruce Schneier 

A cornerstone in cryptography, Schneier’s magnum opus is an indispensable guide for any security professional. Covering everything from encryption and hashing to digital signatures, it highlights real-world applications, making complex cryptographic concepts accessible and practical.

6. Black Hat Python: Python Programming for Hackers and Pentesters by Justin Seitz 

Highlighting Python’s versatility in hacking, Seitz’s guide demonstrates its utility in advanced penetration tests. This practical narrative integrates Python-centric exercises, automation in hacking, and expert insights, making it a unique amalgamation of theory and practice.

7. The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security by Kevin Mitnick

Authored by a legendary hacker, this book offers a deep dive into the human-centric side of security. It presents an in-depth analysis of persuasion, manipulation, and real-world deception techniques, making it a seminal work on social engineering and a prominent ethical hacking course book.

8. The Shellcoder’s Handbook: Discovering and Exploiting Security Holes by Chris Sulloway 

Tailored for experts wishing to master exploits, Sulloway’s guide is an essential manual. With comprehensive coverage of topics like buffer overflows, code injection, and insights from experienced professionals, it provides depth and breadth on shellcoding.

Book Name Author(s) Short Description
Gray Hat Hacking: The Ethical Hacker’s Handbook, Fifth Edition Michael Gregg and David Kennedy A balanced exploration into ethical hacking, covering penetration testing, social engineering, and malware.
The Hacker’s Playbook 3: Practical Guide to Penetration Testing Peter Kim An advanced guide with step-by-step instructions on intricate hacking techniques.
Practical Malware Analysis: The Hands-On Guide to Dissecting Malicious Software Michael Sikorski and Andrew Honig Hands-on manual for malware analysis, with projects for dissecting and understanding malware.
Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking Christopher Hadnagy Delving into the psychological aspects of social engineering with a focus on manipulation and deception.
Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C Bruce Schneier Comprehensive coverage of cryptography, from encryption to digital signatures, with practical applications.
Black Hat Python: Python Programming for Hackers and Pentesters Justin Seitz A unique guide showcasing Python’s potential in advanced penetration testing.
The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security Kevin Mitnick A deep dive into the human-centric side of security, exploring the intricacies of social engineering.
The Shellcoder’s Handbook: Discovering and Exploiting Security Holes Chris Sulloway Expert guide to exploits, covering complex topics like buffer overflows and code injection.

Advantages of Acquiring Ethical Hacking Skills

With the escalating cyber threats, mastering ethical hacking has several benefits:

  • Enhanced Security Skills: Understand vulnerabilities and safeguard your organisation.
  • High Demand and Salary: Ethical hackers are sought-after with lucrative pay.
  • Certification Opportunities: Ethical hacking skills open doors to certifications like CEH, which are highly regarded in the industry.
  • Contribution to Cyber Safety: Play a role in safeguarding the digital ecosystem.

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Conclusion

Cybersecurity is not just about tools or technologies; it’s about understanding the hacker mindset. This curated list provides the best resources to bolster your cybersecurity skills. Dive into these books and emerge with enhanced knowledge, ready to tackle the challenges of the digital world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I learn hacking from books?

Books provide comprehensive insights, in-depth examples, and curated knowledge. Combining ethical hacking books with platforms like upGrad can be especially beneficial.

Which book is best for ethical hacking for beginners?

Hacking: The Art of Exploitation by Jon Erickson and The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing by Patrick Engebretson are two recommended choices for the best ethical hacking books for beginners.

Why learn hacking?

Learning hacking, especially ethical hacking, allows you to identify and rectify vulnerabilities, ensuring robust cybersecurity.

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