Footprinting in ethical hacking is an art of gathering minute details of the target like IP, OS, Software installed, Security Systems, Location, Owners, Emails, Personal data etc. That is how it is said to be an underlying form of ethical hacking.
A hacker gathers all the details needed to break into the system. There are numerous ways to do this and also various tools and tricks available for this.
Let’s discuss some of them so that we can have some idea of what footprinting is. Before that, read my previous article to get an basic introduction to ethical hacking.
Footprinting can be categorized into two types on the basis of access mode.
a) Active Mode – Footprinting
b) Passive Mode – Footprinting
a) In Active Mode, the attacker makes actual contact with the target system. The active method includes process such as email tracking, website mirror, and server confirmation.
Email Track: Examine email path from where is email coming, the IP, the path it took. Tools like Email Tracker Pro (Link at bottom) provide such details. These details are used to trace the fake mail’s source IP’s, location and path.
For this tracking, the email header must be known. There are numerous tutorials on you tube on how to get email headers from email and it is straightforward.
Website Mirror: The content of a website are downloaded into local system for offline usage and analysis. In this way, the attacker doesn’t necessarily need to be online to be accessing the site. This is kind of safe method for footprinting.
Online tools like HTTracker Website Copier (Link at bottom) can perform these tasks.
Server Confirmation: Confirmation regarding the reachability of servers. Inquiry of the path from attacker to target, time to reach target and performance of link when on load etc are the test that has to be made for footprinting.
Terminal commands such as ping, tracert etc are useful for such operations.
b) In Passive Mode, the attacker doesn’t makes actual/direct contact with the system of target, rather it gains valuable information from external resources such as Google, social networking sites, who is, DNS lookup etc.
For this an attacker can either use web app or some kind of software tools.
- Web App
Google Hacking Database: hackersforcharity.org, exploit-db.com is websites where vulnerabilities of various websites are presented in a structured way under categories of vulnerabilities.
Hackers use these websites to know the weakness of various targets.
Individual Searching: Sites like https://www.spokeo.com/ take data from many social networking sites and other part of internet for personal info such as cell number, email, residence, age etc.
Website Informer: website.informer.com is a website that provides details of a website such as IP, location, owner of website, domain, associated emails, DNS, creation date and expiry date of domain, associated phone numbers and much more. This kind of information can be very valuable for a hacker.
- Software Tools: Tools such as Google Hack can be very helpful to a hacker. This tool allows optimized search in Google and provide very precise result for what we look for.
We can search for specific contents such as books, music, videos, torrents, cache, applications etc. This tool presents the result which would otherwise be nearly impossible to achieve with normal Google search.
So, today we learned some basic concepts of Footprinting and saw some tools and tricks to gather information from. This is an important step for an ethical hacker.
I strongly recommend all too once go through the software’s and tools above listed in italics, to be familiar with general practice of footprinting. In next chapter, we will discuss about Proxy.
Some useful links are provided below.
HTTracker Website Copier: http://www.httrack.com/
Email tracker pro: http://www.emailtrackerpro.com/
Google hack: https://google-hacks.soft112.com/download.html
Website Informer: http://website.informer.com/
Disclaimer: By publishing this article and this series of complete ethical hacking, I, by no means encourage any of malicious hacking attempt and am myself against such attempts.