What Is Footprinting In Ethical Hacking? Everything You Need To Know

Over the years, this technique has helped cyber security professionals in recognizing vulnerabilities in the systems. Also, most hackers consider Footprinting as their favorite tool while collecting information about the security configurations of the targeted systems. Let’s go ahead and learn more about Footprinting in ethical hacking.

What is Footprinting?

The act of collecting information about a targeted system and making a network and systems map of an organization is called Footprinting. It falls in the preliminary pre-attack phase, where all the details considering an organization’s network architecture, application types, and physical situation of the target system are assembled.

Post Footprinting, the hacker grasps a better understanding and picture of the location, where the preferable information is saved, and how it can be accessed.

What is Footprinting in Ethical Hacking?

Footprinting in Ethical Hacking is essentially the ethical and legitimate use of Footprinting to protect the systems from hacking or any cyberattacks (read more about the biggest cyberattacks in history).

You can gain unauthorized access to the system to recognize the vulnerabilities, open ports of the system, and many more. Knowing these decreases the risks of an attack, even though the menaces always exist.

Types of Footprinting

There are 2 types of Footprinting:

  1. Active Footprinting – When the hacker attempts to conduct footprinting by getting directly connected with the targeted system, it is referred to as Active Footprinting.
  2. Passive Footprinting – On the other hand, when the attacker collects information about the target system through openly accessible sources, it is called Passive Footprinting. There are many such sources accessible on the internet from where hackers can gather vital information about organizations or individuals.

How to perform Footprinting?

Footprinting is the first step, during which the hacker collects as much information as possible to find ways to gain access to a target system.

For successful Footprinting, it is necessary for the attacker to first check the visibility of the target and see how to collect relevant information on the internet through open sources. Through precise analysis, the attacker can decide the scope of potential entry points. The following information can be gathered:

  • Company names
  • Domain names
  • Business subsidiaries 
  • IP Addresses
  • Business emails 
  • Network phone numbers 
  • Key employees
  • and so on.

The first step of footprinting in ethical hacking is to find out what to attack to gain the “footprint” of the target network which includes, but is not restricted to the following:

  • Hostnames
  • Network address ranges
  • Exposed hosts 
  • Exposed applications 
  • OS and its versions
  • Application and its versions
  • and many more.

Aside from this, the attackers have to determine the scope of the target regarding the whole organization or specific subsidiaries or locations.

Based on the scope, they launch to find information like company web pages, related organizations, employee details, contacts, e-mail addresses, current events, locations, news, policies, dissatisfied employees, mergers, acquisitions, or events to gather some clues, opportunities, and contacts for attackers.

Methods of footprinting

Port Scanning

Port scanners are employed to determine live hosts on the internet and understand which Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) ports are listening on each system. To recognize the relationship of each host and potential security mechanisms between the attacker and targets, they utilize traceroutes.

Tools:

  • NSLookup – to conduct DNS queries and zone transfers
  • Tracert – to make network maps of the target.

Once port scanning and trace routing are performed, attackers will make a network map that displays the target’s internet footprinting.

Google hacking

In spite of what you may understand from the name, this method does not consist of hacking Google! This is a tool by which you can gather information from the Google search engine in a smart way.

Search engines have many characteristics employing which you can get unconventionally, but very specific search results from the internet. Utilizing these techniques, hackers and attackers conduct a search using advanced operators.

Ping sweep

If the attacker wants to understand which machines on your network are presently live, they can do a ping sweep. Ping adopts ICMP packets to submit echo requests to the target system, and waits for an echo response.

If the device is not accessible, it will indicate a “request time out”; but if the device is online and not limited from responding, it will send an echo reply back. Here are some tools used to conduct ping sweeps through a range of devices that find out the active devices on the target network.

  • Nmap
  • Angry IP scanner
  • Super Scan 
  • Pinger etc.

Who is lookup

This method can be used to gather essential database queries such as domain name, IP Address block, location, and much more information about the organization.

How to prevent Footprinting?

Your every move, each activity, or data reachable on the internet is a potential footprint that can make layers of information accessible for attackers.

Delete or deactivate old accounts

Once your account is registered online, it can be accessed anywhere with your full name, email address, pictures, location, and other information. Official email accounts given to the employees are also reachable online. Once the employee has left the organization, the email account must be removed to keep away from illegal transactions using the same. 

Unsubscribe from unwanted mails

All of us keep receiving newsletters, event registrations, offers, and many other mail lists. While some of these lists may be helpful, most of them lead to unessential clutter in our mailbox. Unsubscribe to all unneeded emails so that you can decrease your digital footprinting on the internet. 

Use stealth mode

Many browsers assist you to surf stealthily. This is how you can search online easily and keep away websites from tracking your interests, location, etc.

Use a VPN

There are many VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, accessible that you can use for privacy.  A VPN offers you an excessive layer of security to safeguard your privacy over the internet. This will stop others from tracking your web activity and being able to gather data by monitoring your surfing patterns.

SEO

Stop search engines from crawling through your cached webpages and user anonymous registration details, and decrease unwanted footprints.

Conclusion:

Footprinting in ethical hacking is a technique employed to collect as much information as possible about a particular targeted computer system, infrastructure, and network to recognize opportunities to gain access to them. It is one of the best methods of discovering vulnerabilities.

The process of cybersecurity footprinting consists of profiling organizations and gathering information about the network, host, employees, and third-party partners.

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